A hiker staring off into the distance.

3 Things I Stole From People Happier Than Me

Feel free to steal them too if you’d like.

There’s a feeling I crave. It’s the feeling of learning something. Something insightful. Something life-altering. I love it. I search it out. In conversations with others, in the books I read, in the podcasts I listen to, I’m constantly searching for more. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding. I can almost feel my brain lighting up in response. I’m not working towards any endpoint in particular. Rather, learning is both a means and an end for me. Like someone who runs because they enjoy running.

But consuming only goes so far. You must be able to apply those lessons in the real world.

There are three ideas in particular that have allowed me to be more intentional with my time. That have allowed me to overcome frustration, improve my mood, and much more. They are lessons that have enhanced my happiness and, in turn, my life fulfillment. I’ve stolen these ideas and have implemented them into my own life. You may just find you want to do the same.

 

1) Take my money

Giving and receiving are related. When I’ve been selfish, nothing comes into my life. When I hoard what I have, the world is a dark, closed place. However, when I’m giving and abundant, an endless supply of good news seems to come my way. Money comes to me from all over the place. New friendships spring up at random.

I’d love to attribute this lesson to one person in particular, but I can’t. Seemingly every spiritual teacher promotes this very thing. Because it works. Here are just a small handful of books that all praise the act of giving:

  • The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Carlton Abrams
  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra M.D.
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

In any interaction, then, be giving. Materially you can give: money, a gift, or a handwritten note. Non-physically you can give: love, attention, or a wish for their happiness. Whatever you give, know it is to both of your benefit. Giving brightens someone else’s life and opens the door to brighten yours as well.

 

2) Love you for you

I am a judgmental person. I’m the guy that makes fun of people who run weird (knowing full-well that I run weird myself). That said, I’m aware of this flaw. And I’m doing something about it. In Loving What Is by Byron Katie, the author provides a playbook for acceptance.

Her method is simple – she gives a basic worksheet to complete – but the realizations you gain from it are immense. Through her work, you begin to understand and put into practice what the Dalai Lama and so many others advocate: acceptance of everyone and everything. She helps you see that there is no good or bad, there is just the reality of a situation.

It’s an invaluable concept.

Imagine you walk past someone in the office. They just came from a meeting with the CEO. They mention that your branch isn’t performing as it should. You get back to your desk in a panic. Am I going to lose my job? Should I update my resume? What am I going to do? This is terrible. You are judging the situation. The reality though is that you are a person sitting at a desk. That’s all. No decision has to be made. There is nothing good or bad, right or wrong. You are spiraling over a hypothetical disaster that likely won’t ever happen.

Katie’s book teaches you how to work through this panic and learn to see what the truth is. It’s a process that halts anger and frustration at its source.

 

3) This goose is cooked

I’m prone to overeating. Especially if there are sweets involved. You don’t need to look far to find me writing about my attempts to kick the habit. Often to no avail. Lately though it’s gotten a lot more manageable. It’s still something I struggle with, but it’s getting better. And it’s made me happier in the process.

It’s all thanks to three little words: Hara Hachi Bu.

Okinawa, Japan is a blue zone – a region of the world “where a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average.” In the book, Ikigai, by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, the authors set out to explain what it is about this area that makes it so special. They suggest that more than anything else, it’s that the people have a strong sense of ikigai.

Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly translates to, “the happiness of always being busy.” Though what it really means is having a purpose in your life. Something that you spend time on each day because you want to. It can be one thing or many things. It is both about fulfillment and spending your time each day cultivating that fulfillment. Not sitting idly, but intentionally spending your time on fulfilling acts.

Ikigai is about being busy with things that fill you up.

In their book, the authors note that this intentionality has roots in all areas of the Okinawan lifestyle. From the exercises they do to the amount of food they ingest. That’s where Hara Hachi Bu comes in. Before meals, many Okinawans will say this phrase prior to eating. Translated, it roughly means fill your stomach to 80% and it serves as a reminder not to overconsume. Apparently, it is what the Okiniwan’s do to remain healthy into old age. I don’t know about that, but since I’ve started saying it before each meal, I’ve become more aware of the amount of food I’m eating. And I’ve felt a lot better physically and mentally because of it.

 

Final thoughts

If these lessons resonate with you, steal them from me as I stole them from others. Let them improve your happiness and thus create a more intentional life for yourself.

To repeat them once more, three things I stole from people happier than me are:

  1. Give to others.
  2. Practice acceptance.
  3. Be mindful of how much you eat.