I’m not sure if it was the scowl on her face or the glare in her eye that gave it away, but this 14-year-old-girl was definitely NOT happy.
She went on, and on, and on about how her parents just didn’t understand, how life was so unfair, and how all of her friends were doing it. Knowing that she came from a good home, with good health, a great family, and a lot of really nice things, made the empathy factor while listening to her story even harder.
But as I listened to her gripe about her life, I was challenged, because often, the voice of that 14-year-old comes out in me, too. It might not be about petty house rules, but the attitude behind my griping can be just as harmful, if not recognized.
While it’s true that life comes with it’s up and downs, in my career as a Professional Counselor, I’ve observed a few things about happy people. No matter what life may bring- there are a few things that people who are the MOST content with life don’t ever do:
1. They don’t compare: Looking at what others have is a recipe for disaster. Because no matter what, someone will always be smarter, better-looking, richer, more successful, or better-liked than you. Living your life always looking out will prevent you from seeing what God is doing in your life. Don’t allow things like Facebook and social media to impact how you see yourself. Give yourself daily grace, and remember that your value, worth, and purpose in life aren’t contingent on anyone…but Christ. So zoom in on that.
2. They don’t complain: No matter what is going on in their lives, happy people don’t complain. They have a realistic awareness of hardships, but they never, EVER fixate on those things. Whether it be as insignificant as the weather, they don’t allow their mouth to utter words of negativity about the world around them, because they know that what comes out of their mouth is typically a reflection of what is going on inside of their hearts. Your mouth is a powerful instrument, be sure to use it to speak good things. When the enemy tempts you to dwell on all that you don’t have…defeat him, by praising God for all that He’s given.
3. They don’t compete: Happy people don’t live their life with others as their measuring stick. They don’t compete in an effort to get ahead, or be the best, because their value is not rooted in how others are doing, but rather, on what God says. They can easily offer compliments and encouragement to those around them because they are secure in who they are. But those who are in constant competition with others find themselves on an emotional roller-coaster, sometimes getting ahead, sometimes falling behind. Happy people don’t look at where others are going, but rather, they focus on where God has called them to be…because that is always the best place.
4. They don’t try to control everything: Because of my “control-freak” tendencies, I used to have a prayer hanging above my sink that read: “Lord, grant me the peace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Happy people understand that some things in life cannot be controlled, and they learn to let go of those things. But here’s the thing about letting go, it only becomes a reality when we grasp the truth that the moment we let go, Someone greater takes control.
5. They don’t criticize: We all know there is such thing as “constructive criticism”, but we also know that most people haven’t quite refined that skill. God calls us to speak the truth, but to speak it in love. And the truth is, it’s usually the people who put others down the most who are the ones struggling the most within themselves. Happy people can easily find the good in others, and can just as easily find it in themselves. They call out the goodness in people around them, instead of simply focusing on the bad. They use their words with intent and wisdom, breathing life into the people around them. People that are able to speak the most life, are the ones who have the most life inside of them.
Whether 14 or 104…it’s never too late to start transforming the way we think, the things we speak, and the way we interact with the world around us. No matter where you’re at in life, happiness is always just around the corner.
*This post was revised and republished from a version in 2014.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the books True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and 21 Days to JumpStart Your Love Life. She writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at places like Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!