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Tie's 8 Rules for Happiness


I am an engineer, not a psychologist. However, anyone can observe what improves his life and what worsens it. By observing my own life for decades, and also by thinking about and applying observations made by other knowledgeable sources, I have come up with a few general rules for increasing happiness. Some of these rules may at first seem at odds with each other, but if you understand them correctly, you will see they are not.

  1. Remember that happiness is all in your mind. It's a totally subjective, mental experience. It's not about what is going on outside you; it's about what is going on inside you. This may be what Jesus Christ meant when he is reported to have said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you." As a mental experience, you have more control over happiness than you may think. This control is a mental skill (like learning to read or to play a musical instrument) that you can improve with practice.

  2. Do not accept the misconception that what makes others happy will also make you happy. Your mental experience of happiness is unique to you. It does not apply to anyone else. This means you should feel free to tailor this list of general rules if necessary to meet your own needs.

  3. Be grateful when possible. Gratitude is a large component of happiness. If you focus on the good things in your life, your perspective on your life will be more positive. If you pray, spend a significant amount of your prayer time thanking God for the good things in your life. If you meditate, and your meditation is the type that allows you to spend time meditating on the positive things in your life, do so. What you are not trying to do is convince yourself through mental effort that you are happy. Your goal should be only to spend some time every day thinking about the things that are good in your life, and allow your mental attitude to be whatever it naturally is.

  4. Do not chase happiness. Chasing happiness makes you unhappy. I discovered this rule decades ago. Many people have difficulty accepting the veracity of this insight, but I recently found a source with more authority to back me up. In 2016, at a meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Maya Tamir and Iris Mauss presented the paper, "Come On, Get Happy: The Ironic Effects of the Pursuit of Happiness." They found that people who feel pressure to be happy are actually less happy. "We found that when we prime people to value happiness more, they become more unhappy and depressed," Mauss stated. "Our findings offer an intriguing explanation for the vexing paradox that even in the face of objectively positive life circumstances, nations generally do not become happier." I think the solution to this apparent paradox is to develop practices in your life that are conducive to happiness without allowing yourself to have an expectation of achieving happiness. In other words, learn the mental practices that lead to happiness and perform them while accepting your current level of happiness, even if that level is unhappiness.

  5. Stop trying so hard to control yourself and others. This is akin to trying to be happy. Trying to control others rarely works. What it does do is cause you endless frustration. Exert a reasonable, sustainable level of self control when it improves the quality of your life, but do not exert so much that it makes you miserable.

  6. Accept yourself and others as they are. Drop your expectations of yourself and others, and you will not be disappointed when you and they do not live up to your expectations. But, you will often be pleasantly surprised when you and others exceed your mental pictures of them.

  7. Develop achievable goals for your life, but do not make your happiness dependent on reaching them. Do not feel that you must accomplish them. Goals bring meaning into all of our lives. They are necessary for happiness. But if you fixate on them to the exclusion of all else, you may experience misery, instead of happiness. The one exception to this rule is fixating on something you love doing (not someone) that is also helping you to meet your goal. With this in mind, learn to value the journey more than reaching the end of the journey.

  8. Spend a significant amount of time doing things that you want to do. You will have to be the judge of what "significant" means. For example, if you have a job that brings you no happiness, either quit as soon as you can and find another job, or change your attitude about your current job by seeing the positive aspects of it and/or by changing your job to meet your need for meaning. Do the same with other activities in your life.



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