How do I achieve happiness?

Ryan Holiday gave some great advice on how to achieve happiness when he was interviewed in episode 222 of James Altucher’s podcast:

Imagine an ideal day and what that looks like. Then, take steps to move your life closer to that ideal day.

This will involve saying no to many things that make you unhappy. Most people understand this, but don’t know how to apply it.

Ryan said it’s not enough to have the power to say no (which everyone has). You must create an environment which makes it easy to say no.

For him, that meant relocating. Ryan went from living in big cities like New York and LA to a farm outside Austin, Texas.

In doing this, he was able to eliminate many of the day-to-day annoyances that made him unhappy, like traffic and stressful business encounters while emphasizing the areas of life that are important to him like family and writing.

This visualization of your perfect day exercise isn’t a new concept. But most people don’t do it well or don’t do it at all.

Ryan mentioned that if you ask someone what their ideal day looks like, they’ll either say they don’t know, or something like “I want to be drinking on a beach all day.”

Neither of these are very useful. It just shows they haven’t put a lot of thought into it.

I suggest doing an enhanced version of this exercise:

Step 1:

Think about every detail from the hour you wake up to the hour you go to bed. Include your work life (most of us still need to make money). What does your work setup look like? Do you have a commute or work from home? Who are you spending time with? What are you eating?

Step 2:

Write it all down.

Step 3:

Think about one step you can take today to get you closer to that life. Even if that life seems 1,000 miles away, think about something you can do today that will get you an inch closer to that life. Then, repeat that process each day.

For example, if you want to write for a living, write 200 words for your next book. Think up a system that gets your work in front of more people. Work on one part of that system.

These small action steps compounded over time can be very powerful. 200 words per day over 1,000 days is 200,000 words which is enough content for 10–15 nonfiction books in less than 3 years.

At one point, James asked Ryan how he was able to create this life full of happiness at such a young age.

Ryan said, “I think about it a lot.”

It all starts with a vision. Think about what makes you happy. If you’re not sure, think about what makes you unhappy and eliminate those things.

I don’t believe happiness occurs by accident. To me, it’s a skill that is acquired with deliberate practice. Most people just aren’t practicing the skill.


Featured image by Lydia Harper.

First published on Quora.

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