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Oftentimes, we place the fate of our happiness in other people’s hands. We expect them to fulfill us and make us whole. But this only sets us up for disappointment and misery. The people in our lives may strive to make us happy, but if we aren’t happy with ourselves the benefits of their attempts will be temporary. The right way to approach happiness is through self-awareness. You must know your whole self to learn what prevents you from being happy, and what will make you happy.

The following five steps will enable you to gain self-awareness, and experience enduring happiness.

1. Know your history

Identify possible traumas from your past to find out what keeps you from being happy. Childhood traumas affect our behavior and emotional well-being as adults. It helps to write down all the high-impact negative events you can remember from your childhood until now. Rate those events from the most painful to the least, and you’ll learn what is at the base of your unhappiness. You will refer to this base as you work your way through the next steps.

2. Evaluate your mental health

The mental health topic carries such a stigma still. We are even afraid to admit to ourselves that we may be struggling with our mental health. So we avoid assessing and addressing it. We tell ourselves “I’m fine” and find external excuses for our inner struggles. But not acknowledging our true thoughts and feelings sinks us deeper into a negative mindset. You want to know how past traumas are affecting you today so you can free yourself from their grip.

This mental health self-assessment screening can offer some guidance.

3. Determine your personal values

Our personal values shape our social relationships and well-being in the long run. Also, personal values have motivational powers and provide direction in life. So when you determine your personal values you learn what makes you happy. Take your values into consideration when you form new relationships. And don’t try to persuade others to follow them because it rarely works. Instead, make sure the people you surround yourself with share the same values. It will allow you to connect with them on a deeper level. Close connections are detrimental to lasting happiness.

4. Focus on your strengths to find purpose in life

I wish finding our strengths was as easy as pointing out our weaknesses. Yet it is crucial to discover your strengths to find purpose in life. So pay close attention to the things you do well, and the things people praise you for. Perhaps you are a very patient person. Or, you’re an empathic listener.

Another way to discover your strengths is to get out of your comfort zone. Do activities that bore you, try the things that scare you. Most importantly, do the things you love even if you don’t believe you’re good at them. You never know where they take you. For instance, I never expected my writing would be appreciated by thousands of people. I always loved writing, yet never believed I could write stories that people will want to read. But when I hit that publish button on my first article, it opened the door to an amazingly rewarding career.

Here is a great collection of questionnaires you can take to figure out your strengths.

5. Forgive yourself and others

A lot of the misery in our lives is caused by the high expectations we have of ourselves, and the grudges we hold against others. We are our own harshest critics and we create an image of self based on our failures and mistakes. But a happy life is not a perfect life with perfect people. We are all flawed, we all make bad choices sometimes, and we all occasionally hurt others.

The ability to forgive yourself and others is a must for greater life satisfaction. If you’ve hurt someone’s feelings today apologize and forgive yourself. If you’ve made bad choices in the past, forgive yourself and reflect on what you’ve learned from them. Or, for instance, if your upbringing left you bruised in any way, forgive the people that caused it. The benefits of forgiveness extend beyond increased happiness. They grant you the opportunity to live a guilt-free life.

Achieving happiness is like putting together a difficult puzzle. There are many different pieces that go into being happy. But as you gather more information, and go through different life experiences you learn where each piece goes.

The secret to being happy lies in the willingness to challenge who you think you are, and allow yourself to try different ways of living. You can always go back to the person you were, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know who else you can be.

Finally, don’t expect to be happy every day of your life. Part of being happy is realizing that it’s OK to feel negative emotions too. Let yourself feel them, and remember, they won’t last forever. Tomorrow can be the best day of your life.

Previously published on and is republished here under permission.



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