Happiness is the holy grail of New Age spirituality and self-development gurus.
They promise to help you find it and cut out the “low vibrations” that are holding you back.
But the real causes of unhappiness are rarely what the media or motivational gurus tell you.
The fact is that deep unhappiness is almost always caused by what we do and don’t do in our lives.
Here are the top things we all need to cut out if we want to be truly fulfilled in life.
1) Waiting on the world to change
Many people don’t.
Often they get roped into the dreams or purposes of other people, or get manipulated and exploited.
If you keep waiting for the world to make more sense, you’ll be waiting a long time.
It’s important to start taking action towards goals that are meaningful to you, whether that’s in your career, your health or your personal development.
Even small goals are better than none, and even a small step towards your purpose is better than no step!
2) Procrastinating and feeling like a victim
Procrastination is a bad habit that I’ve been prone to myself in the past.
I fall into it less and less these days, because I realize how much it takes away from the potential to be more fulfilled.
If you start procrastinating too much you end up putting yourself in a passive and disempowered position.
You wait for other people or the world to become more interesting, or at least more interested in you.
You stop realizing that the only big changes in your life are going to have to emanate from you.
3) Trying to buy your way to happiness
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and I know the temptation of trying to buy your way to happiness.
If I just get this amazing watch I’m going to feel like a million bucks and have that confidence I always wanted.
I do think that how you dress and look after yourself matters a lot to your happiness.
But the temporary high you get from a purchase of clothing, shoes, accessories or even things like vehicles, is just that: temporary.
If you keep chasing temporary dopamine hits you’ll never be truly happy, and what’s worse is you’ll become addicted to those short-term temporary hits over longer-term, satisfying pursuits.
4) Seeking happiness in relationships
Romantic relationships and friendships can be a great source of fulfillment and connection.
But they should never be looked to as the source of fulfillment.
Seeking happiness through relationships is the oldest mistake in the book, because it leaves you dependent and vulnerable to extreme disappointment.
If the relationship continues you’re likely to become codependent and lose your sense of self.
If the relationship ends, you’re likely to lose your sense of self and feel unable to go on because you had based so much of yourself on the relationship itself.
5) Repressing your difficult emotions
Emotions like anger, sadness and shame can be difficult and there are many social pressures not to show them.
It’s true that expressing these emotions too recklessly can hurt others and yourself.
But repressing them is also a bad move and leads to dividing yourself into a “good” versus “bad” side.
Instead, consider that your unexpressed and difficult emotions are entirely worthy and are nothing to be ashamed of.
This is part of you, not some alien force invading your life.
It’s OK not to be OK, and you don’t need permission to feel angry or sad sometimes!
6) Undervaluing yourself and taking the bare minimum
A side effect of low self-esteem and not owning your emotions can be undervaluing yourself.
This can manifest as taking jobs which don’t pay you nearly what you’re worth…
It can manifest as being in relationships you really don’t want to be in because you feel sure it’s the best you can do…
When you undervalue yourself you go around life with a “kick me” sign on your back.
Kind people will feel sorry for you and predators will rub their hands.
It’s crucial not to undervalue yourself.
7) Focusing on pleasing other people
A symptom of undervaluing yourself is also people pleasing.
It’s hard to ever end up happy if you make others the center of your world.
When you live your life to make others happy, you end up devaluing yourself and downplaying your own wants and needs.
You become the “nice guy” or the “chill girl” who stays alone, on the sidelines, ignored and invisible while others go for what they want and get it.
At the same time, there needs to be a balance.
You shouldn’t only be trying to please other people, but a big block to happiness is selfishness.
8) Only thinking of yourself and your needs
When you try to people please and make the happiness of others the center of your world, you eliminate the chance at happiness.
But when you block out others and only care about your own happiness it’s the flip side of the coin.
While it’s true you have zero obligation or need to please others, serving others from a position of stability and strength is entirely different.
Service is being of help and truly making a difference.
You aren’t promising to make anyone happy or please them. You’re doing what you can to improve actual conditions and solve problems, which is much different.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.
If you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
9) Living in daydreams and fantasy
Living in thoughts of the future and how it will be or might be is a recipe for disempowerment.
Many New Age teachers say we can “manifest” or visualize our ideal future into being, but unless it’s very specific and focused, this usually turns into nothing but fantasizing.
There’s a psychological term for this that psychologists call affective forecasting.
Affective forecasting is basically predicting or thinking about how you’ll feel in the future.
This is highly influenced by how you feel right now.
And if you feel confused, lacking energy, depressed or frustrated right now, you’re much more likely to predict (and inhabit) a less fulfilling future.
If you feel great right now, you can also overestimate how well a future you will feel in a certain situation.
Furthermore, when you think of a future action or situation that will bring huge joy, it usually doesn’t pan out!
“People tend to be inaccurate in forecasting how they might feel later.
They also tend to overestimate how positive or negative they would feel about future situations.
An example might be wishing to purchase a luxury car.
You might anticipate immense and extended joy when you finally buy that car, however over time, the joy of owning that car will dissipate.”
The bottom line: don’t spend too much time daydreaming or projecting how you will feel. Focus on actions and on what you’re doing right now.
10) Dismissing religion and spirituality
Billions of people around the world belong to religious faiths and spiritual paths that bring them comfort and meaning.
While I’ve explored many different faiths and was raised in a Christian philosophical community, I don’t currently belong to a religion.
That said, I think that modernity is too dismissive of the importance of the spiritual and religious aspect of life and too focused on the manipulative, group-think aspects.
At their best, religion and spirituality are a structure and guiding lights for your own journey, not the content of that journey.
It’s important to keep an open mind to wisdom and truth that came before you and could help sustain you through the storms of life.
What does it mean to be truly happy?
In my view, being truly happy means you are living for a purpose, caring for yourself and others and guided by core values or spiritual or religious truth.
You won’t be emotionally euphoric all the time, none of us will.
We’re all living in the mortal world and even the best times will one day be gone.
The truth is we’re all going to feel unhappy at times and have big ups and downs in life.
But it is possible to find a place inside where the external situation no longer has the same power to control your well-being.
It is within our power to begin moving away from as we become more empowered and proactive in life.