1. Follow your Passions. In the words of US business coach, Fabienne Fredrickson: ‘The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling’. Instead of analysing what you ‘should’ be doing, identify what you’d really like to do with your day and see if you can make money out of it. As the saying goes, ‘choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’ (Confucius).
2. Work-Life Balance is Key. Studies show we never regret not having worked harder in our final hours – we regret not having spent enough time with those we loved and not having laughed enough. Insufficient down-time is sustainable in the short-term, but it will end up undermining valuable relationships and sapping your soul. In the words of W.H Davies: ‘What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’
3. Money Won’t Buy Happiness. Two Princeton University researchers (including a Nobel laureate) recently published a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the price of happiness. They concluded that while not having enough money causes emotional pain and unhappiness, surplus levels of wealth don’t make a person happier. Their study also identified a tension between high levels of money and happiness: ‘There are some indications that when you have a lot of money, you will savour each pleasure less’. So if money is your core driver, think about thinking again.
4. Tick the Right Job Boxes. According to a report by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top three skills employers look for in graduates are teamwork skills, the ability to make decisions and the ability to solve problems. But in today’s marketplace, you also need to stand out from the crowd. Application processes can deaden originality so craft a Unique Selling Point and increase your chances of being noticed, whether charity skydiving dressed as a baboon or travelling through India in a rickshaw.
5. Be Prepared for Interviews. No matter how charming or brainy you are, there’s no substitute for interview preparation. Once you’ve got the work experience to show genuine interest, mock-interview your life away until model answers trip off the tongue. Instead of pre-learning a script as long as your arm, identify possible questions you may be asked and learn two bullet points for each answer with an example to back up each one.
6. Live according to your Values. In the words of Roy Disney, ‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are’. To determine these, ask yourself what’s important to you. If in doubt, think about what annoys you and turn this on its head. Whether success, family or health, identifying your core values will help you to make positive decisions which bring you true fulfilment. As Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony’.
7. Love as many things as possible. Life is short. Make it count. Step outside your comfort zone and try as many things as possible, whether taking up a new sport or travelling alone. Opening yourself to new experiences will only bring good things, whether meeting new friends, increasing fitness levels or gaining clarity on who you are and what makes you happy. It takes courage. Be brave.
8. Don’t compare yourself to others. Social media can lead to unhealthy levels of self-branding but others’ lives are rarely what they seem. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that other people are happier than you. Living your life through a computer points to the reverse.
9. Take Control. Your life is the result of choices you make. If you don’t like how things are going, it’s time to start making better choices. If your job makes you feel repeatedly despondent, identify the causes and look into new avenues which play off your strengths. If you are constantly moaning to friends about a boyfriend who makes you feel miserable, maybe it’s time to move on to someone who makes you happy.
10. Practice Mindfulness. Whether mediation, yoga or rock-climbing, taking time-out from the commotion of the mind is essential in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Just ten minutes of ‘mindfulness’ a day can have a huge impact on your sense of balance, even if this is meditating on the bus to work. Mindfulness involves focussing on calming the mind through observing all thoughts and feelings but letting them go so that you can focus on the present moment. The ‘Headspace‘ and ‘Take a Break‘ Apps are top-notch. Try them.
11. Be Yourself. In the wise words of Shakespeare: ‘Love alters not when it alteration finds’. True love will be there through thick and thin. If you’re scared to be yourself, there’s someone better suited to you out there. Conversely, don’t make the mistake of trying to change someone. If you find yourself trying to do so, it may be time to move on to pastures new.
12. Trust your instincts. People can be complex but if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s for a reason. If a love interest comes with a health-warning, you’re right to feel wary – there’s often no smoke without fire. Asking for others’ advice is helpful to a point but you are the one in the relationship. Learn to listen to your inner voice – it’s almost always right. In the words of Mandy Hale: ‘You should never have to look for evidence that someone loves you. True love is crystal clear’.
13. Don’t Let Other People’s Baggage Mess You Up. The way people treat you is a statement about who they are as a human being, not a statement about you. While there is something to learn from every relationship, don’t dwell on the behaviour of people who probably didn’t even love themselves much in the first place. They are the ones with the issues, not you.
14. Beware of Unbridled Passion. Chemistry is essential but lightning-bolt stuff can be dangerous, numbing rational thought. Take note of Shakespeare’s advice: ‘These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume’. Though intense passion doesn’t always end in tears, Erich Segal makes a good point: ‘True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights’.
15. Spend Time with People you Love. In the words of the financial advisor, Hannah Foxley, who lost her battle with cancer this year: ‘Life is about love and connection and not having flashy, overpriced stuff. The latter doesn’t keep you warm at night or provide love and support’. Don’t waste time chasing money and status or hanging out with people who make you feel negative. It won’t bring you true happiness.
16. ‘Adversity is the first path to truth’. As Lord Byron suggested, hardship brings clarity, forging strength of character and leading to a richer life of wisdom. And put another way by the gifted musician, Zelda Marshall: ‘Emotions are fleeting’. Hold on to that when you feel hopeless. And if you’re at an all time low, think of Winston Churchill: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. He led the country through war and came out on top!
17. Don’t over-think. Keep it simple. Life is complicated enough – don’t make it more complex than it needs to be. As the sage Shakespeare wrote: ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – old speak for ‘don’t over-think things too much’.
18. Learn from experience. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t view things that don’t turn out how you imagined as mistakes but experiences from which you can learn and grow. As Pema Chodron says: ‘Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know’. The truth can be painful, but learning from the past helps us avoid future hurt and appreciate things we may otherwise take for granted.
19. ‘Don’t go changing’ – The closing words of a very special man. Tough times may shake your self-belief but never try to be someone that you’re not. Beauty is the opposite of perfection. It’s about confidence, charisma and character. So if you’re ever feeling really lost, hang on to the wisest of words of all: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’.