You Can Be Happy Too, But You Have to Do the Work

Happiness is a personal thing; there is no universal guide. But one thing’s for sure…no matter how low you’ve been, or how hopeless life has seemed, you can be happy. You just have to be willing to work your ass off.

My story is proof.

I was clinically depressed for five interminable years. (Long story short: don’t get into relationships before you’re living out your purpose!)

I thought for sure that I’d die lonely, broke and sad—pretty sure my family did too—and I actually wished for a, ahem, more permanent solution to my problems. But today I’m one of the most joyful and positive people you’ll ever meet. In fact, I make my living in part by teaching others how to be happy. And it’s all because I took the time to intimately know my wants and needs, and to experiment with different lifestyles and habits that could make me happy. I made happiness my main study in life.

After a couple years of dedicated reflection and lifestyle experimentation, I came up with my personal happiness manifesto: 

Happiness is giving more than I take, limiting my distractions, exercising vigorously and frequently, and challenging myself.
It’s pursuing my passions, making a difference in others’ lives, and connecting often with my friends and family.
It’s forgiving instead of holding grudges, accepting myself, and keeping my word.
It’s taking excellent care of my body, surrounding myself with positive influences, and doing my absolute best.

I worked my ass off to come up with this list. And if I do these things consistently, there’s no external influence that can rob me of happiness—not even the poverty or hunger that predominated the early stages of my career. So I plan each of these happiness factors into my daily, weekly, and monthly planners. And voila…I’m happy! But it’s only because I work my ass to be consistent.

Now, I bet you’re curious about the “work your ass off” part of personal happiness. Turns, out that’s what happiness is: work.

How to be happy

Happiness is work.

It’s spending ten minutes every night reflecting on your day: what you did, how you felt about what you did, what made you happy, what made you unhappy, and what would probably make you happier if you did (or didn’t) do it tomorrow.

It’s taking notes on your daily life: your breakthroughs, the subtle shifts that make you happier, the habits that lift you up, and the insights and ideas that would lead to a happier you.

It’s planning every day for the things that make you happy—exercise, career goals, meditation, fun, etc.; and it’s planning against all the things that detract from your life—like unlimited email and text checks, social media time, and TV.

It’s dedicating yourself to an uplifting and inspiring morning routine: five minutes of gratitude, five minutes of affirmations, five minutes of visualization, five minutes of prayer, and 25 minutes of exercise.

It’s saying no to things you don’t want to do and people you don’t want to be around so that you have time and energy to live your own life.

It’s rejecting negative thoughts and flooding yourself with self encouragement all day instead. (You can plan on this too!)

It’s work.

Happiness is work. And if the failure-to-launch, couch-surfing millennial kid could become an expert at this work, so can you. So get to work!


If you feel like you’re floating, like you’re a ghost, and not actually experiencing the richness of life, I’m advising you to journal every day, to start a “happiness” notes tab in your phone and computer, to start planning out your happiest days every day, to knocking out an uplifting morning routine each day that inspires you and pumps you up, to set stronger personal boundaries and say no more frequently, and to constantly encourage yourself throughout the day.

It’s work. But who said being happy was easy? If you need the accountability and expert guidance, my coaching services are available to you.





Written by Daniel Dowling
As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success. Thanks for spending your valuable time here with us!!