When you’re a kid, it’s pretty difficult not to be happy.


Photo Credit: Michael Afonso on Unsplash

But as you grow older, the weight of the world begins to press down upon you: physical health; social and societal pressure; and repeated beatdowns, setbacks, and let-downs all compile to create an almost irresistible pull to cynicism, frustration, and self-doubt.

The problem is that the constructs created from these difficult experiences are difficult to notice because they’re mostly subconscious. What once was effortless in childhood now becomes a frustrating puzzle in adulthood.

But the first step to creating change is knowing what is holding you back. What is causing your own “happiness block”? It’s probably not so simple as a single solitary issue and likely more a tangled cluster of factors. However, by unraveling those factors you can gain clarity and start making real progress.

I’m never, like I say, I’m never happy, I’m never satisfied, it’s never good enough.

– R. Lee Ermey

Here are three mindsets that make it impossible to be happy.

1. “I don’t deserve _____.” (Low self-worth)

Low self-worth is a universal mindset that plagues everyone at one point or another.

Certain mindsets will keep you from happiness and positivity differently. Low self-worth works much like a repellent that rejects any and all opportunities for happiness by using some flavor of the same one idea: “I don’t deserve X.”

When you’re given a professional opportunity, instead of moving forward to accept it with courage you retract back and tell yourself that you’ll just screw it up eventually and you might as well save yourself the shame. As a result, your actions reflect these ideas.

Or when someone tries to love you, you push them away because you tell yourself that you’re not good enough for them, that you’re “dirty” or “damaged” because of your past.

I’ve seen this get so bad that people won’t even allow themselves to stop during their day to take a rest because they believe they don’t deserve to rest as they haven’t accomplished enough today, this week, or this year (their life…). It’s an endless cycle that must be dealt with to find any margin of happiness.

You can deal with low self-worth directly through affirmation, positive association, and encouragement. However, the source of your low self-worth could be one of several things and finding that source is important if you want to completely free yourself of it. Meditation, therapy, or writing are all good introspective practices for doing that.

2. “I need more.” (The cycle of disatisfaction)

One of the most common mindsets we get locked into is the hamster-wheel of “I need more.”

You think you need to change your hair to be happy, get a new car, buy that house, get a new job, etc. But you get those things and quickly they become old and not enough just like what you had before.

This goes on and on for years, nothing ever being enough, until you start to grow grey and old and lose things at an accelerated rate. You begin to grasp on more firmly as if life has turned to Jello and nothing you do ever suffices you for more than a flicker of a moment.

Eventually, it either hits you that you’re on a hamster wheel or you die running on it. Better to notice this pattern of disatisfaction now than let it rule over the rest of your life.

Gratitude is the best fix possible here as it is the polar opposite of this mindset. The more grateful you are for what you have now the less this mindset holds sway over you.

3. “Things are good now, but something bad is bound to happen.” (Anticipating bad after good)

Sometimes, we even condition ourselves to look down upon the positive.

We look back on our life and start thinking, “every time something good happened, something bad eventually followed it.”

This is technically true, life is very much like a wave with its alternating ebbs and flows, but it’s a bit pessimistic. If you work hard and put the right systems in place, life will tend to get progressively better, not simply bad->good->bad.

You’ve heard this a million times but every experience brings with it the opportunity to learn. It’s a mistake to assume that learning is automatic, however.

You have to do real work to extract the meaning and the wisdom from life’s experiences. But if you do, you can come away with things that can and often will permanently change the course of your life, however small.

And each time you do this you become wiser, stronger, a little bit nimbler and able to navigate life’s challenges with grace and grit.

It’s not what happens to you, it’s the meaning you place on those experiences. Bad then good then bad again will happen, but do you see bad as bad or bad as an opportunity to grow? It’s much harder to do in practice but countless examples of such an accomplishment abound.