Most of us want to live happier, healthier, and more meaningful lives. In this pursuit, we often look at what we should do to be happy, which can seem pretty obvious: do more things you like, and less things that you don't like.
But we often look for happiness in all the wrong places. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress, and suffering—and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress-free and happy—we cling to them. The Buddha called this habit, "mistaking suffering for happiness," like a moth flying into the flame. This means we confuse our temporary sense of relief or pleasure for happiness, rather than seeing how it creates long-term suffering.
Here's is a list of 10 things to give up that will make your life a lot easier and much happier.
1. Give up your need for control.
Be willing to give up your need to try to control everything that happens to you. We often don't realize that getting caught up in trying to stick to schedules, trying to modify the behavior of others, or trying to create predictability in our surroundings, only creates anxiety and chaos within us. Allow everyone and everything to be just as they are.
2. Give up your need to be right.
So many of us get so caught in the web of wanting to be right, we don't even realize how much suffering it's causing us. Ask yourself: Would I rather be right? Or would I rather have peace?
3. Give up your criticism (of yourself and others).
This often begins with loving intentions: we want to motivate, inspire or help ourselves (or others) to be better, do better, or have better. But this quickly goes sideways and ends up deteriorating our wellbeing. Instead of focusing on what's wrong, move toward what's going well, what's working, and what kind thing you might be able to say.
4. Give up your need for people to understand you.
This one's a doozy. We can spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to get someone to understand things from our perspective—for them to see things from our point of view. But this one is similar to wanting to be right because in the end, peace is found within your own business: knowing that only you need to understand you.
5. Give up your desire to be liked.
Stop trying so hard to shapeshift yourself into something that you believe other people will like. Most people are more intelligent than you give them credit for, they like authenticity, they like the real deal. As Joseph Campbell said, "The privilege of a lifetime is being yourself." The moment you stop trying so hard—the moment you take off all your masks and accept and embrace the real you—is the moment people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
6. Give up your resistance to change.
Not only is change good, it's inevitable. Resisting change only creates suffering. Change will help you make improvements in your life and to the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss and embrace change—don’t resist it.
7. Give up trying to please others.
So many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They are living the life that their parents think is best for them, or that their friends, their competitors, their teachers, or their children think is best for them. They've stopped listening to their inner voices. They are so busy pleasing everybody that they've completely lost themselves in the wreckage. Make it a practice to check in with yourself first. Don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.
8. Give up your attachment to the past.
This one can be hard when your past looks much better than your present moment. And I know it's frightening, but the present moment is all that we really have. To let go of the past, you must stop deluding yourself and stop telling the stories of how life used to be. Require yourself to boldly step into this moment, right now. If you don't like the present moment, change it—and start to create a future that you love.
9. Give up your need for acknowledgment.
Byron Katie said, "If I had a prayer, it would be: 'God spare me from the desire for love, approval, and appreciation. Amen.'" I couldn't agree more. We chase after love, approval, and appreciation because we think that this acknowledgment will help us feel happier, loved, and more at peace. But the pursuit of these things causes immense stress and suffering. To live a happier life, give up your need to be special, acknowledged, and appreciated. The moment you do this, you can relax and tap into your own inner well of joy.
10. Give up your distractions.
We distract ourselves constantly. Whether we're binge-watching Netflix, munching through a bag of Doritos, crackin' open a beer, or browsing through the digital aisles of Amazon.com. We distract ourselves because it offers us temporary relief. But when we refuse to distract ourselves, we come face to face with what's really going on within us. And yes, it is temporarily more painful. But in the long run, it's the only way that we'll understand where our hidden pain is coming from. It's the only way that we'll be able to make smart decisions for lasting change.
Photo by Ali Kaukas