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Live Life Fully: What would you give up for a happier life?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We all get taken in by the headlines: "Seven Steps to Happiness," "Ten Tips for a Happier Life," "Five Minutes to Bliss." You name it.

With all the focus on things we can bring into our lives to make us happier, I started wondering about things we could eliminate to achieve the same result.

As a society, we tend to hold on to so many things that cause us pain. And, instead of letting them go, we cling to them. Maybe it's just human nature. Or a deep down feeling that we don't really deserve to be happy without a certain amount of suffering.

As I write this column, I'm reflecting on my day. There were a number of stressful situations, and I found myself getting caught up in the drama. Then, when I got into my car, I saw a blind man at a crosswalk with a guide dog, and I just melted. Talk about putting things into perspective!

So, as I was researching my topic, I ran across some interesting insights. The blog "Waking Times" confirmed my hypothesis. Take a look and see if any of these resonate. If you've been getting in your own way, you might want to keep this list around and tackle one or two categories throughout the year.

Things to give up to be happier

Give up your need to always be right. Can't stand the idea of being wrong? Do you always have to be right -- even at the risk of a great deal of stress? It's just not worth it. Whenever you feel the "urgent" need to jump into a fight over who's right and who's wrong, ask yourself, "Would I rather be right or happy?"

Give up your need for control. Did I press any buttons here? If you're willing to give up your need to control everything that happens around you -- situations, events and people -- you may be in for a pleasant surprise. If you allow everyone and everything to be just as they are, you may find out how much better you can feel. As philosopher Lao Tzu said, "By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning." Such a foreign concept to our Western world, I'll admit!

Give up on blame. Do you blame others for what you have or don't have? Stop giving your power away. And start taking responsibility for your life.

Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Are you hurting yourself because of your negative and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don't believe everything you think!

Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can and cannot do. Do you set artificial limits on yourself about what's possible? Expand your horizons.

Give up complaining. You know you do it -- complain about people, situations and events that make you unhappy. The truth is, nobody can make you unhappy, and no situation can make you sad or miserable, unless you allow for it.

Give up the luxury of criticism. Just because people, events and things are different from you doesn't mean you have the market cornered. We all just want to be loved, accepted and understood. Try giving the benefit of the doubt a little more often.

Give up your resistance to change. We've all heard the expression "Change is good." Change gets you from Point A to Point B. Change helps you make improvements if you just don't resist it. Easier said than done though.

Give up labels. Stop labeling those people, things or events you don't understand as being weird or different. Try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open.

Give up on your fears. Whew -- this is likely the biggest challenge of all. Fears reside in our minds. We create them, and only we can change them. Correct the inside, and the outside will fall into place.

Give up your excuses. Busted! Instead of growing and working to improve your life, do you limit yourself with lots of excuses that most of the time aren't even real? Try catching yourself the next time you weasel out on yourself or someone else. Notice how many times you use what seem to be such noble excuses. Face it -- they're excuses, all the same. And they hold you back.

Give up the past. I know -- it's hard. Especially when we're so comfortable with the past, and the future can be so uncertain. We all need to realize that the present moment is all we have. The past you're now longing for was ignored by you when you were present. Stop deluding yourself. Have a clear vision for the future and prepare yourself. Just be present in the now -- so you don't miss it.

Give up attachment. This is a tough concept to grasp. Attachment comes from a place of fear; and when you can detach from that thing that has such a hold on you, you become more peaceful. It takes practice though. Baby steps.

Give up living your life to other people's expectations. Are you living your life according to what others -- parents, friends, teachers, the media -- think is best for you? You ignore your inner voice because you're too busy trying to please everybody else. As a result, you lose control over your life. You may have even forgotten what you want, what you need and what makes you happy. Eventually, you lose yourself. Talk about identity theft!

Remember this: You have one life -- this one right now. Live it. Own it.

Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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