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8 Chances Unhappy People Never Take

by Joel

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”
?Chuck Palahniuk

For some reason the register at our local quickie mart would not accept my credit card this morning, which was the only form of payment I had on me.  It didn’t report my card was declined, but the transaction process just seemed to cycle in an infinite loop.  After trying twice, the cashier smiled, took a $10 bill out of her own pocket, used it to ring up the milk and eggs I was trying to buy, and handed me the change and receipt.  She said, “Honey, I’m not sure what’s wrong with the credit card machine at the moment, but I see you in here all the time.  Pay me back when you get the chance.”

I was blown away!  I couldn’t stop smiling, and neither could she.  Her gesture of kindness honestly made both of our mornings.

This afternoon when I sat down to write, I immediately thought about my joyful encounter this morning, and the first thing that came to mind was, “That wonderful lady really took a chance on me.”  Which got me thinking about all the chances we have to make our lives a little brighter and happier, and how many of these chances we never take.

So if you’ve been feeling a bit unhappy lately, it might be time to…

1.  Take a chance on others by giving them a hand.

The happiest and most successful people are always looking for ways to help others.  The unhappiest and most unsuccessful people are still asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Ultimately, your greatest successes in life will not be measured by how high you have climbed, but by how many people you have helped up with you.  This is how success leads to happiness.  What goes around comes around.  It’s impossible to not feel good when you are doing good for others.

Today, help those around you and celebrate their strengths.  Lift them up and help them thrive.  When you choose to see and support the best in others, you end up finding the best in yourself.

2.  Take a chance on your dignity and self-worth.

Be strong enough to let go and wise enough to fight for what you deserve.  Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been to stand up taller than you ever were before.  Sometimes your eyes need to be washed by your tears so you can see the possibilities in front of you with a clearer vision again.  Don’t settle.

Keep up your dignity and always be true to yourself.  Truly loving yourself involves faith and trust and belief in who you are, and a willingness to act upon it.  So stop daydreaming and start DOING.  Develop a backbone, not a wishbone.  Take full responsibility for your life – take control.  You are important and you are needed.  It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday.  Someday is now, and the somebody the world needs is YOU.  (Angel and I cover this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  Take a chance on imperfection.

If you always look for perfection, you’ll always look unhappy.  When you stop expecting people and situations to be perfect, you can start to appreciate them for who and what they are.  Imperfections are important, and so are mistakes.  We get to be good by learning from our mistakes and we get to be real by being imperfect.

Today, be tolerant of people’s mistakes.  Sometimes good people make bad choices.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad; it simply means they’re human.

Likewise, learn to walk in your own shoes imperfectly.  If you want to truly grow into your best self, let go of the notion of perfection and replace it with the notion of endless playful exploration.  It is better to live your own destiny honestly, joyfully and imperfectly, than to live up to one of society’s contrived expectations with perfection.

4.  Take a chance on the present moment.

Endless worry and rumination are the enemies to living in the present moment.  The search for happiness is sometimes the main reason for unhappiness.  Enjoy your life today; don’t wish it away by waiting for better days ahead.  Accept and appreciate things now, and you’ll find more happiness in every moment you live.

If you are feeling down right now, each second that passes is another moment to turn it all around.  Feelings, good and bad, always come and go.  The trick is to be grateful when your mood is high and graceful when it is low.  Every day may not be good, but there’s something good about every day.  Appreciating these good things is what makes a good life in the end.  (Read The Power of Now.)

5.  Take a chance on your heart and intuition.

Happiness comes more easily when you feel good about yourself without feeling the need for anyone else’s approval.  As long as you are worried about what others think of you, in a way, you are owned by them.  Only when you require no approval can you truly own yourself.

Listen to your soul.  Trust your intuition; it will rarely lead you astray.  If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, then it probably isn’t.  So stop worrying about what you’re supposed to do and start doing what you know is right.  No matter how you live, someone will be disappointed.  Just live your truth and be sure YOU aren’t the one who is disappointed in the end.

6.  Take a chance on doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.

Most of the good things you do will go unnoticed by others.  Do them anyway, because you will notice.  Many of the contributions you make will not be fully realized by others.  Make them anyway, because you realize they are the right things to do.

It’s great when you receive recognition for the things you do, yet even when there is no possibility of recognition, YOU still recognize the reasons you are putting forth the effort.  Your honest, authentic view of yourself influences all that you do.  And that view is formed mainly during times when no one is watching.  Your life is a living expression of who you know yourself to be, regardless of what others think or see.

7.  Take a chance on feeling vulnerable.

We often keep our hearts and minds closed, not because we don’t trust others not to hurt us, leave us, or let us down, but because we don’t trust ourselves to survive the pain if they do.  How ironic, considering that only by opening up and suffering through this type of discomfort, do we come to realize our true strength and potential for peace of mind.

Take any emotional feeling – love for a significant other, or grief over a lost family member, or fear and pain from a deadly illness.  If you hold back on your emotions and you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them, you can never get to the point of being detached from them.  In other words, if you spend all your energy being afraid of feeling your true emotions – the vulnerability that love, sincerity and acceptance entails – you will be forever stuck.

But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to fully embrace them to the point where you’re effectively in over your head, you leave no emotion abandoned or question lingering in your mind.  You know what love is.  You know what grief is.  You know what fear is.  And only when you know these things can you say, “I’m OK.”  (Read Daring Greatly.)

8.  Take a second chance whenever possible.

We all need second chances.  This isn’t a perfect world.  We’re not perfect people.  I’m probably on my 1,000th second chance right now and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Because even though I’ve failed a lot, it means I’ve tried a lot too.

Most of the time the only difference between winning and losing is not quitting.  We rarely get things right the first time.  Almost every major accomplishment in a person’s life starts with the decision to try again and again – to get up after every failed attempt and give it another shot.

Live, learn, and let go.  Don’t hold yourself down with the things you can’t control.  Don’t carry your mistakes around with you.  Instead, place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones.  If you take another step, and another, you’ll be surprised to know how far you can go from the point you thought was the end.  Every moment gives you a new beginning and a new ending.  You get a second chance, every second.  Just because something doesn’t go as planned, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.  Sometimes you have to fail forward, by learning what doesn’t work to discover what does.

Afterthoughts and next steps…

Life is a journey that’s only traveled once; don’t waste it.  Today’s moments quickly become tomorrow’s memories.  Appreciate today for what it is and make your time count.  Make it memorable.  Don’t let your coulda’s and shoulda’s of yesterday determine your can’s and will’s of today.  Live your life so that you never have to regret the chances you never took, the love you never let in, and the gifts you never gave out.

Your turn…

What would you add to this post?  What chances do you need to start taking for your happiness and well-being?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Stephen Poff

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