We all do some things that make it hard to be as happy as we can be.

I try to identify these, because once I spot them, it’s much easier to avoid them.

I’ve made all these mistakes. How about you?

  1. To delay to do something important until you have some “free time” — you may never have any free time
  2. To retreat into isolation when you’re unhappy — a period of restorative solitude is one thing; lying on the couch alone for days is another
  3. To neglect to make a small change because you think a big change is necessary
  4. To refuse to consider a big change because you assume you can only make a small change — weirdly, sometimes it’s easier to make a huge change
  5. To “treat” yourself to something you wouldn’t ordinarily permit yourself, because you’re feeling blue — the things we do to make ourselves feel better often make us feel worse
  6. To postpone something important until you’re feeling healthier, or get promoted, or lose weight, or whatever
  7. To think that you can “make” someone else be happy
  8. To imagine that what’s true for other people is true for you — we’re more alike, and less alike, than we think; and the differences are very important — this is a huge theme in my book about habit formation, Better Than Before
  9. To spend too much time, or not enough time, thinking about the past, present, or future
  10. To ignore the truth about your own temperament, interests, and aptitudes — we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature

What have I overlooked? Wait! I just thought of another. “To think about everything you don’t have, instead of everything you do have.” What else?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.


Image courtesy of Brooke Cagle.