“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy”- Guillaume Apollinaire

During the pursuit of happiness, we often see the road ahead of us and wonder not how to proceed from where we are. Instead we turn and continue looking at the past. We never move forward because we’re too busy looking backward.

To be happy, we must muster strength to turn back around and look forward. Being truly free means leaving behind the shackles of the past and living in the present.

Everyone’s past has a hold on them. It’s where we all first experience joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The past is what made us who we are today but it isn’t who we are becoming.

Moving forward can be scary as the future holds unknown obstacles and the potential for failure. How resilient we are to these inevitable challenges and how well we handle them is what determines our happiness. The future is scary, but every obstacle can be turned into an opportunity.

By not letting the past or our problems shape us, we can find our strength. Strength is built from surrender. Surrender to right now.

Start by believing everything is already good versus thinking it is not. Stop fighting, stop resisting change, stop swimming upstream against the current. Every experience in life, even the ones you don’t want, is an opportunity to move forward.

Go with the flow is a phrase for a reason. It literally means to champion forward. Once you surrender, develop resiliency, live in the present, stop “shoulding” yourself and reset your happiness set point, you can begin living life to its fullest.

Start by pondering where you could be and how much worse things could be for you. Understanding how much worse life could be enables you to appreciate the choices you’ve already made and recognize how many good decisions you’ve made in comparison to the bad.

This is a trick we can use to train our minds to adjust attitude. Once you’ve seen and understand how far you’ve come, you can visualize what is left to do to get you where you want to be.

If you spend five minutes a day imagining where you want to be eventually your brain will start acting on your behalf to get you there. Knowing what you want is half the battle and having a clear goal is like having a lantern guide you through the fog of life.

Knowing how to get what we want is the other half of that battle.

We often look at what we want as unattainable. We think- I’ll never get that dream job, I’ll never own my own home, I’ll never write that book.

Happiness is not about having it all. Success comes in appreciating the little things. When you have perspective, you live with purpose and gratitude is gives you great perspective.

But first, you have to be honest with yourself. What is holding you back? Why can’t I believe in myself?

When you pinpoint the problem, you can produce so much more.

Happy people don’t think like everyone else. They don’t need all of their problems to be solved.

They don’t need fame, fortune or excessive living.

They know what matters, they know what keeps them grounded. They have strong roots keeping them anchored to the real world and realistic goals.

The simple things in life are what matter. Not that you’ve achieved, for example, being at the top of your class but rather your family looking at you from the crowd with admiration and love.

People who love us make our lives worthwhile. Spending the time to love them back gives us purpose. Our lives do not have to be perfect to be worthy of happiness.

Oftentimes, we are waiting to be happy and forgetting to be happy

The devil is in the details, as they say. You will find your happiness not because you stumble on it but because you look at things from different angles and realize it was always there for you.

Dreaming of the life you want is the first step to finding it. Visualize it. Set an object beside you that reminds you of that dream and watch it actualize.

Happiness is not coming from the results of your actions or the circumstances around you. It is attitude.

Happiness takes strength.

It takes building one’s dreams and developing patience for life’s timing and wisdom to witness its unfoldings. To just be happy right now, no matter what is happening, is one of the hardest choices you can make.

Happiness seems like it’s often a calculated effort, striving for things that lead to happiness, when in actuality it should just flow. We forget how to be happy like we were as carefree children. Our natures change.

We define success as happiness. We think it is wealth or fame, societal success, the outside of ourselves. Being unhappy starts in our very definition of happiness.

We live in a time of constant stress where the neglect of self is normalized and as a consequence, happiness often eludes us. Yet, each of us strives to become happier in comparison to what we were before. This presents the happiness dilemma.


As human beings, we’ve developed into mask-wearing marketers and consumers. We constantly market our own well-being on social media platforms and rarely do we share our stories or struggles. We consume the same type of content from others.

When neglect of self is normalized, empowerment of self is denied. We literally forget to be happy. So how do we move past this?

Some scientists believe we have a “happiness set point.” Whether we experience highs or lows, we always return to this set point. For example, you may get a promotion and feel like you’ve been boosted to your best possible mood or outcome, but eventually you will return to your set point.

The key to being happy is to adjust your set point to your circumstances. This is difficult and takes time, but if you keep at it long enough eventually it becomes effortless.

We must stop judging ourselves and start refocusing and regrouping. That is how we build resilience. Be the hero of your own tale.

It’s okay to struggle; surviving and thriving are a part of life. Use that struggle as an opportunity to learn and grow. You make the decision over whether hardship will build you up or break you down.

When I left student teaching and a graduate program, I used what I learned during the program to start my young adult novel. Working with youth, even for a short time, taught me what teens were looking for in young adult novels. I used the hardship of leaving the program to build myself up.

Having worked within the confines of the education system made me feel like there was so much more I wanted to do. After teaching, I began to work with youth in other ways such as motivational speaking and nonprofit work.

This passion developed into my own self-help philosophies. I started to write them.

I learned that surrendering was how to achieve success. When I realized life was already great as it stood versus waiting for it to become so, it changed me for the better.

It wasn’t an overnight change but slowly it was giving birth to a new vision I had about myself. I would create and innovate and grow free from the chains of choices being made for me. I realized a purpose beyond the elitism and unhealthy attitudes toward success.

Happiness is not free from obstacles. It is an attitude that turns obstacles into opportunities. We are all a work in progress but it is walking in purpose that gets you somewhere.

For me, happiness came with humility. It was when I simplified my life, not when I stressed over it. I surrendered.

However, problem solving does not need to cease in order to surrender.

The power of letting problems go and being present is that you are acknowledging a trust between yourself and the universe,that the right things will come along. Work through the problems you can and accept the ones you can’t.

The best part of life is appreciation of the simple things. Giving up is usually due to beating ourselves up and focusing on failures rather than what is right in front of us.

When you can appreciate the simple things, a bed to sleep in, a good meal on your plate, you gain the perspective to realize that you are not failing.

When you were a child, happiness was simple; it was selectivity in focus. For me, it was my grandpa letting me paint his creations in his woodshop. Being happy as an adult is the same principle.

Learn to forget about the big picture sometimes and focus on what’s right in front you. You move forward one step at a time, not by taking the entire staircase at once.

Focus on the present, each person and problem in front of you. Those are the necessary tools to building your life.

In our fast paced culture, worth is often attributed to achievement and activity. Advertisements in the media often correlate success with not just financial freedom but with excessiveness. We are supposed to be excessive in our careers, our commitments, our “close” friends and our already crowded agenda books.

With these messages in mind, many people find themselves answering the demands of life but in doing so, ignore their own limitations. Fear of failure plagues the mind and to not live up to these expectations is perceived as a reflection of worth.

There is an illogical correlation between the expectations placed on us by ourselves and others and our worth. When we fail to live up to impossible standards, when we fault ourselves for it, it diminishes our sense of worth and our happiness.

We must learn to let it go.

The majority of our successes and struggles come not from self worth but from perception of what it means to succeed and struggle in itself.

Trust that everything in your life can serve you if you let it. Trust that every aspect of your story can have a meaning.

That trust does not come naturally. We usually expect things to go our way and in that mindset discount how the dark times can serve us too.

It’s not the circumstance that counts; it’s your character. That’s how we grow as human beings. You do not have to wait until it is all over to begin to appreciate your life.

It’s there inside you. It’s been there all along.

Originally published at medium.com