Your First Step Toward Happiness

“We alone are responsible for our own happiness and success — or lack of it. It is up to us to design a life that works.”
Cynthia Good, founding editor of “Pink” magazine


HappinessRight on, Cynthia. I couldn’t agree more. Each of us is responsible for our own happiness and success. And yet, so many people are painfully ignorant of that reality.

 1. You are responsible for YOU.

In fact, I comment on that very point in my new book, “The Payoff Principle: Discover The 3 Secrets For Getting What You Want Out of Life And Work.” To quote myself:

“That became very clear to me on a recent TV news program where people were being interviewed about company downsizings and possible company lay-offs. One employee said, ‘I want to know what my union is going to do to save my job.’ Another individual asked, ‘How is the government going to make sure I don’t lose my job?’ And so went the interview.

“No one asked the employees the KEY question, “What are you going to do?” Everyone shifted the responsibility for job preservation or career enhancement to somebody else.

“And that, my friends, is a dangerous position to take. As Bettye Jean Triplett, the mother of entrepreneur Chris Gardner, notes, ‘You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.’ You’ve got to stop blaming external people and forces in your life and start choosing more self-empowering responses.”

(Click here for  more information on “The Payoff Principle”)

And one of best ways to start taking more responsibility for your own happiness and success, and creating more of both at the same time, is to …


2. Change the way you think.


Indeed, all change starts inside your head. If you think like a victim, you will be a victim of the worst life and work have to offer. But if you think like a champion who overcomes difficulties, you will be an over comer.

Wayne Dyer, one of the most prominent success coaches of the last 50 years, says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

That being the case, you need to…


3. Stop dwelling on negative thoughts.


The research is clear. If you spend too much time on negative thoughts, you will become sad, sick, and sapped.

As Lorenzo Cohen, the director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, points out, “There is ample evidence that negative thoughts and feelings can be harmful to the body.”

So dump those negative thoughts out, just like you would dump out the contents of a teacup. It’s what one student learned to do when he sought out the help of a Zen master.

On their first visit, the student told the master about all his other studies and how he had struggled to achieve the “enlightenment” he so desired, sharing one negative thought after another. The Zen master listened and replied, “Please pour me a cup of tea. I will tell you when to stop.”

The student eagerly seized the teapot and began to pour the tea into the master’s cup. As the cup began to fill, the student slowed his pouring. “Keep pouring,” the master instructed, as the tea spilled over the side of the cup and onto the floor.

“But the cup is full,” the student objected, as he drained the pot.

“You have a lot in common with this cup,” said the master. “You are so full of struggle, defeat, and negativity that there is no room for more. Don’t despair. There is still hope,” suggested the master. “An empty cup can hold more than one that is already full.”

In other words, to get better at taking responsibility for your own happiness and success, you must first pour out … or stop dwelling on … all your past failures, regrets, negative thoughts, and assignment of blame.

And then fill your cup or your mind with thoughts that will make you happy, healthy, and hopeful.


4. Deliberately insert positive thoughts into your mind.


Don’t wait for good things to happen before you think positive thoughts. That puts you back in the position of being a victim. Instead, take charge and take time to actually focus on some positive thoughts. It is tremendously effective.

In medicine, for example, it has been demonstrated that when a patient believes something will relieve pain, the body actually releases endorphins that do exactly that. As Robert Moss reports in “Parade” magazine in his article entitled “Thoughts Can Heal Your Body,” (March 9, 2008), “Medical research has suggested that 30% to 70% of successful treatments may be the result of the patient’s belief that the treatments will work.”

Quite simply, the more you insert positive thoughts into your mind, the bigger impact they will have on you, your health, your life, your career, your relationships … in short, your happiness and success.

And so, it’s critically important that you…


5. Apply the power of repetition to your positive thoughts.


Psychologists tell us that if we hear something or tell ourselves something 7 to 21 times, it sticks with us.

To show my audiences how powerful repetition can be, I’ll often tell them the first part of a commercial and ask them to shout out the end of the commercial. For example, I might say, “You’re in good hands with _____” and they’ll shout out “Allstate.” They usually get that one. That slogan has been used a lot lately on TV.

But then I’ll make it more difficult. I’ll give them some slogans that haven’t been used for 20 to 60 years, and depending on the ages of the audience members, they’ll be able to tell me the name of the company. I might say “finger licking good,” and they’ll say “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” I might say, “You deserve a break today,” and they’ll tell me “McDonalds.” I’ll ask, “Where’s the beef?” and someone will respond “Wendy’s.” Or if I’m really tapping into the memory banks of the older audience members, I might say “a little dab will do you,” and inevitably someone shouts “Brylcream.”

If you can remember a slogan from two years ago or even 30 or 50 years ago, you can and you will remember the positive things you tell yourself over and over again. And so, in the process of taking charge of your life, tell yourself such things as “I am happy … I am making choices that move me toward success … I can handle any challenge that comes my way … or ..
. Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” They will work to accomplish the exact things that you are affirming.

The only way to ensure your happiness and success is to take responsibility for those payoffs. And you’ll get those payoffs when you follow these five strategies.


Write out three positive affirmations you will tell yourself over and over again until they become a part of you.