Ten Rules for a Happy Life
By Dave Willis
We all want to be happy, but for most of us, happiness is just this elusive “feeling” we’re trying to catch or create but we don’t know how to keep it. What if there was a proven path to true and sustained joy? What if happiness is something much more than fleeting feeling that comes and goes and it’s really a sustained joy could be present through even the most difficult parts of life?
I have good news (and no, I’m not trying to sell you anything here)! There really are some “rules” that can create true happiness. I’ve paid close attention to the lives of the happiest people I know and I’ve measured their lifestyles against the timeless truths of Scripture which provides the ultimate roadmap for discovering purpose and joy. There is a roadmap to happiness and I call it The Ten Rules for a Happy Life.
There’s one item that is not on the list of ten below because I feel that it needs to be addressed in a category all by itself. This issue can be the biggest cause of grief in your life or the biggest source of peace. I’m referring to forgiveness. If you truly want to be happy, you must embrace GRACE as a lifestyle. Accept the gift of grace Jesus has made available to us all and then extend that grace to everyone who offends you. Grudges create bitterness. Forgiveness creates freedom (and happiness). Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free!
True happiness and joy are much deeper and richer than a one-size-fits-all, canned approach to reaching them, BUT I’m convinced that if you’ll follow the Ten Rules for a Happy Life it could make all the difference.
If you want to be happier, please do the following ten things (in no particular order)…
1. Think of others more than yourself.
This one goes against our human nature because we’re all more selfish than we’d like to admit. The worldly pursuit of happiness involves loving things and using people, but God’s plan for happiness (modeled perfectly by how Jesus lived) is in serving others. It’s not thinking less of yourself; it’s just thinking of yourself less. Pride and greed and self-centeredness lead to misery but serving others and loving others leads to joy.
2. Smile and laugh as often as you can.
Even in difficult moments, find reasons laugh. Sometimes you have to choose to smile even when your face wants to frown. Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling (even when you don’t feel like it) can actually make you start to feel happier. You have more control over your mood than you might realize. You don’t have to follow your emotions. You can actually lead them most of the time.
#3 reveals an unlikely way that money is related to happiness…
3. Spend less money than you make.
Happiness isn’t the result of how much money you make BUT it could be impacted by how much you spend. In short, debt leads to stress and stress is a killer of happiness. If you live within your means and you choose to be content with what you have, you can be happier with a simpler life than the richest man in town is in his mansion. Don’t expect to buy more things to make you happy. Giving money is actually a better strategy for finding happiness than spending money.
4. Be an encourager; not a critic.
Your words have the power to build up or tear down. Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already. The tone of your words will shape the tone of your life. When you choose to encourage others, they’ll be more likely to encourage you and the happiness you give will come back to you. We usually receive back the very things we give, so give good things in your words and your actions.
#5 might change your perspective on how you see yourself…
5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself. Don’t try to be impressive; just be real! There’s nothing more impressive than authenticity. Remember that God never told you to impress people; only to love them. Loving others is much easier when we’re not always trying to appear a certain way.
6. Don’t take your mission too lightly.
While we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously we should take our mission very seriously. Our “missions” have to do with the jobs we do that are bigger than ourselves (like raising kids, sharing our faith, working to provide for a family, etc.). Those tasks can and should still be fun as much as possible, but we can’t take those responsibilities lightly. Working hard at the right things leads to happiness and a legacy reflecting a life well-lived.
#7 reveals one of the most important decisions you’ll EVER make…
7. Choose a positive attitude even in negative circumstances.
You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can always control your attitude. Choose to have a good one. Choose to see the best in every situation. In Philippians 4:8, the Bible commands us to focus our thoughts on the positive. This isn’t just blindly choosing optimism or the “power of positive thinking,” but it’s a conscious choice to let the change start within us that we hope to see around us.
8. Pray when you feel like worrying.
Prayer doesn’t have to be a cold, mindless ritual. God invites us into a life-giving, life-changing conversation with Himself. Prayer reminds us that God is with us, He is for us and He is bigger than whatever we’re facing. Prayer doesn’t always change our circumstances, but it can always change our perspective!
#9 could bring happiness faster than nearly anything on this list…
9. Give thanks when you feel like complaining.
The act of venting or complaining doesn’t actually make us feel better. It gives us the temporary illusion of feeling better, but then we quickly feel worse than we felt before. Gratitude is God’s remedy for negativity. When you feel like complaining, start thanking Him for all the blessings in your life. You’ll discover that it’s nearly impossible to be thankful and stressed at the same time.
10. Keep going when you feel like quitting.
When you feel like giving up and when things seem “impossible,” KEEP GOING. Perseverance isn’t just on the path to happiness; it IS the path to happiness! Don’t let setbacks derail you. Don’t let discouragement get you sidetracked. Keep going. Stay the course. God is with you and there are great days ahead!