Los Angeles is a town obsessed with success. ‘Success’ comes in different forms. For some, it’s a house in the hills, a luxury car, a development deal, a much-younger trophy wife.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by an abundance of amazing friends – intelligent, talented, creative, ambitious peeps who inspire me every single day – and when I look around at my circle, whether they’re leading enviable lives or coasting a bit still trying to find their way, there’s one common thread among nearly everyone near and dear: they’re not satisfied with where they are.
It’s human nature to always want more, to strive for something bigger and better. But at a certain point, when is it enough? When I watch interviews with larger-than-life celebrities, something that comes up time and time again is that those who have achieved the pinnacle of success – tremendous wealth, fame, influence – don’t seem to be all that happy. They got everything they wanted, and it turned out that it wasn’t what they thought it would be. The empty feeling they thought would go away once they got the TV deal or the $10 million per picture paycheck is somehow, still there. Which begs the question: if, in our great quest for success, we can never truly be satisfied, then how do we get happier?
For as long as I can remember, my friend Kate has had a mantra: choose to be happy. I used to think this was a ridiculous concept, but as I’ve gotten older and (arguably) wiser, I see the value in it. While you can’t control the things that happen to you or the actions of others, you can control how you interpret events in your life and how you choose to react to them. And you can, if you work at it, actively decide whether or not to be happy.
While I’m still a serious work in progress in this department, I have some ideas as to how to get started on your way to a happier life:
1.) Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a waste of time. You’ll always find someone better looking, skinnier, richer, with a cooler job, perfect hair, etc., etc. The comparison game never ends and it will only make you feel bad about yourself. Accept the fact that everyone’s path is different and you’re not meant to live the same life as anyone else. Celebrate your uniqueness. Which leads me to #2 . . .
2.) Stop spending so much time on Facebook. I know, I know, I’m guilty of it too. Yes, it’s a great way to keep in touch, share photos, promote your business, etc. But nothing invites the comparison game like gazing at someone’s ‘fabulous’ life by way of their amazing vacation photos (they’re always having so much fun, don’t they ever work?), the # of ‘cool’ friends they have, their hot boyfriend, etc. Let’s keep this in perspective, O.K.? Facebook is not reality. My acting teacher calls Facebook pages ‘magazine covers,’ and he’s right. When was the last time you saw someone post an unflattering profile picture? So unless you work in social media, do yourself a favor and limit your surfing time to 30 minutes a day.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s NEVER a good idea to stalk ex-boyfriends/girlfriends on Facebook. Especially not at 2 a.m. on a Saturday after you’ve had one too many cocktails and are feeling sad. If this is you, PUT.THE COMPUTER.AWAY.)
3.) Look outside of YOU. Nothing takes the focus off your problems like caring about other people. I’m not saying you have to pull a Mother Teresa. There are a million tiny ways you can make a difference. Counsel a friend through a problem. Help someone move. Offer to help a little old lady carry her groceries. Hold the door for someone. Pick up someone else’s trash and throw it away. Seriously, it may feel like you’re the one doing a favor, but you’ll reap the rewards for your kindness in dividends.
4.) Celebrate the small victories. You got a compliment on a nice outfit you wore, a funny joke you made, a great idea you had? Yay! Traffic was lighter than usual? You had an inexplicably good hair day? Life is a series of moments, so make sure to acknowledge and celebrate the good ones, even if they seem mundane.
5.) Keep a gratitude journal. One way to help you celebrate the small victories is to keep track of all the little things you’re thankful for. Have your health? A roof over your head? People who love you? Plenty of people don’t, so practice being thankful for the things you take for granted.
6.) Vive le difference! You’ve heard a million times that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, it’s cliché because it’s true. If you find yourself having more bad days than good, shake it up! It could be something as simple as trying a new hair color or taking a yoga class, or as major as ditching a toxic friend or quitting your job and starting a new career. Even making small, incremental changes in your everyday life can have a major impact on your overall perspective, and as a result, your overall happiness.