One Question That Will Let You Enjoy Life More Today

Stephen Hussey

The future’s bright.

That’s what the technology ads and glossy keynote conferences keep promising me anyway.

But I don’t know. It seems like a big gamble.

I prefer to know how I can make today a place where I want to live.

The best question I’ve found in accomplishing this task is not in asking “What will make me happy today?” (generally a losing question), but “What will make me like myself more today?”

For those in the unconditional self-love crowd, that will seem like a road to dissatisfaction. What if you don’t accomplish the tasks you set yourself? Will you now be filled with self-admonishment and feel like a failure?

I think of self-love as more of a background necessity. It’s what my brother Matt might refer to as “core confidence” – you always need to mentally be fighting in your own corner and treat yourself like a best friend.

But your day-to-day happiness is more about the practical question of asking: “What do I have to do to treat myself like a best friend right now?”

My 7 Criteria For Daily Happiness

I’m not a big “life-plan” kind of person.

I have general instincts for where I want to be in the next six months, but I tend to direct 95% of my efforts to what’s happening in the next 24 hours. Sometimes the next 20 minutes.

I prefer to have a daily focus to keep my sights locked in on what matters.

And once I ask the question: “What will make me like myself more today?” or even “What will make me feel good about what I did today?” it clicks all my current priorities into place.

I remind myself of the true essentials:

  • I need to be around people who I connect with emotionally/intellectually
  • I need to show generosity, kindness, or make a contribution
  • I need to stretch my physical capacities and take care of my health
  • I need to work out my mind – read a book, learn one extra chapter, master one new concept, memorise one new poem, write one more page, look up words in the dictionary.
  • I need to feel grateful and present – meditating, walking in nature, trying something new, tweeting a compliment on someone else’s work, giving a gift, sending my cousin a piece of music they’ll love or a great article that will help them with their work.
  • I need to manage my environment – respond to emails, handle bills, do laundry, whatever is necessary to have a modicum of order and control (without getting lost in pointless distraction tasks).
  • I need to take chances – meet new people, pitch an idea, take a creative risk in my work, seize a career opportunity, not shy away from approaching someone for advice.

One advantage of just having a daily focus for your fulfilment is that is cures you of the disease most people suffer from, namely the future expectation of happiness, or the “someday when I have x” image of fulfilment, where x is more income, property, career success, fame, or a false illusion of universal approval and respect from one’s peers.

Instead you just focus on the virtues you want to build. Greek philosophers like Aristotle thought that a good life consisted in cultivating the ideal set of virtues and expressing them through our everyday actions. This always made more sense to me as a map of living  a good life than a strictly goal-oriented mentality of constant achievement and acquisition of material possessions.

Once you start knowing what you need to do and who you need to be every day to flourish and be happy, you become gratified by what you can do this second, rather than the promise what you might have in some far-flung future.

Let’s face facts: the future is always a gamble. And its ability to disappoint is palpable and all too real.

The world today tends to live for tomorrow’s hope of joy and success. But who’s to say it will turn out that way?

Tomorrow’s technology might promise us everything. But it also might destroy us. Worst of all, it could bore us. The Apple Watch might die a death in less than a year. Maybe Elon Musk won’t ever send us all to Mars. Although we all hope the Occulus Rift will be a portal into a cyber-space wonderland of fantasy and magic and unmatched in its delights by anything in the mundane realm of human meatspace…it could just turn out to be a crappy kids Christmas toy.

Maybe we should be more grateful for the gifts we have to play with now.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

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(Photo:Chris Ford)

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18 Responses to One Question That Will Let You Enjoy Life More Today

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  1. Tamara says:

    I looooove this! Of course I have a general idea of the direction I want to go in life, but I hate making lofty specific goals… Living in the now and really trying to make the best of each day has brought me so much more happiness in life… Carpe diem, anyone?

  2. Julie MacKenzie says:

    Awesome as usual…;) Couldn’t agree with you more…. :)

  3. Ally says:

    spot on! I couldn’t agree more. It’s something I have been guilty of doing but working hard to change this programmed thinking. Great post Stephen.

  4. Syd says:

    This is so good, Stephen!

  5. Lindsey says:

    I was JUST talking about this to my life planner *therapist* today – the struggle to be happy in the moment. I’ve heard Matt talk so much about being happy where you are because once you have the next thing, you’ll need the next (etc.) and it’ll never be enough. I found this article incredibly interesting because I was literally JUST reading about strategic planning for school, and I looked up and saw the article pop up and it seemed to fit. Once you know your overarching goals, Matt’s talked about this too, you can work everyday towards those goals. But you are describing virtues of happiness and basic skills which we need to be healthy and thrive, so if we can meet these criteria every day with our overarching goals in mind then we can feel successful on a daily basis. And, we can have a lot more creativity and playfulness and how we are achieving our goals with your list in mind- there is creativity in this structure. I really like and appreciate this. Thanks, Stephen! Sending tons of love and admiration from Iowa! :)

    And P.S. I’m pretty much focused on getting through the next 20 minutes too lol. One thing at a time! Idk how many times ppl have asked me what’s going on the next day, and it’s like – trying to get through the next hour. It was refreshing to hear this from you!

  6. Haiho says:

    Very good post! I might steal some of those and add to the criterias for everyday fulfillment I learned on the Retreat, besides the ones I added;)

    I love to learn how to keep a bit of an overview, plan, focus and having to do lists, maybe even know where I’m going – I’m not the ‘just be present’ kind of person (been there, yikes).

    But we still need to be present in a good way, like: Take time to relax; do that one little thing out of many that brings us closer to our goals and accomplishments – might be doing the dishes or take a little step/experiment in our career action plan, think of new ideas, or flirt for fun – to name a few.

    I’ve learned once 4 questions which can be helpful when working on the present state, and can be implemented at any given moment in our daily lives:

    1: What, in this very moment, makes me HAPPY?
    2: What, in this very moment, makes me SUCCESSFUL?
    3: What, in this very moment, makes me PROUD?
    4: What am I GRATEFUL for in this moment?

    I’m not for painting it all pink or just being contented with how things are, for we don’t improve like that.
    It’s lazy and cheating on our frustrations.
    There’s almost nothing better than solving problems, which come out of discontent.
    We solve them by asking the right questions.

    But we also have to acknowledge whatever we do that moves us in the right direction, instead of just dissing ourselves.
    Our brain automatically looks for finding an answer to our questions.
    Instead of ‘Why don’t I ever get it right?’ (= not helpful), we can go to ‘How could I get this right?’

    By asking better questions we might get answers which make us actually like ourselves more.

  7. Olivia says:

    Maaaan, I like your writing style. You always have great endings. Love it. I find it so true what you say. With this question: What makes you like yourself more today, our focus is on the right place and it includes our to does as well. That’s the beauty! With this one the power is on us. I have this little book, where I keep a daily list on my experiences and stuff that made today worth. On bad days I can take a look but mostly it gives me perspective on what counts, what I need to include more in my days. Take care. Olivia

  8. Diana says:

    This was helpful for me now. I’m going through the teething process and at times, I feel worn out. Thank you Stephen! Would’ve been a pleasure to talk to you or meeting you for this month’s retreat.

  9. Laetitia says:

    Amen. I’m a newcomer to the whole live in the moment thing – after an epiphany that suddenly made me get this approach doesn’t necessarily mean a hedonistic lifestyle. And I can do with all the support I can get on this new path. So thanks! :)

  10. Anita says:

    Just brilliant!! Thank you, Steve!

  11. Erin says:

    Oh my goodness, I have so so much love for everything about this post. And really I love all of your articles. I always find myself thinking that they are so beautiful in their simplicity, and yet still packed with so much deep meaning that really touches my head and heart and helps me look at life in a new way. I particularly connected with “you always need to mentally be fighting in your own corner and treat yourself like a best friend”. That’s so important but very easy to forget when you get swept up in the minute frustrations and distractions of everyday life. Thank you for that reminder :). I also LOVE this list of true essentials, I think I’m going to write it down and keep it with me. I usually am a lurker who just reads and enjoys but never comments, but in the interests of true essential #5… I figured I should change it up ;). Thank you so much for the thought and heart you put into these articles and share with us every week!

    Cheers,
    Erin

    • Olivia says:

      That’s such a sweet post! And already managed to adapt the points of the article in your every day life. Pay attention to this one! Take care. -Olivia

  12. Victoria says:

    Thank you, Steve, for an excellent guide for the daily focus. It´s worth repeating your list of the true essentials:
    – I need to be around people who I connect with emotionally/intellectually
    – I need to show generosity, kindness, or make a contribution
    – I need to stretch my physical capacities and take care of my health
    – I need to work out my mind
    – I need to feel grateful and present
    – I need to manage my environment
    – I need to take chances

    I would like to add that for enhancing happiness it´s also important at the end of each day to remind yourself of all the good things that you have done and that have happened to you. These good things are manifestations of the true essentials, and the reminders serve to cement the day´s happiness and to prompt one to focus on the essentials in the future.

    Victoria

  13. Lisa Young says:

    Love It Steve,I Actually Started This Last Month I Believe Before Reading This Article (“No, I Don’t Want To Because I’ll Like Myself More If I Used My Money On Floss Instead of The Dessert I Don’t Need” I Said This To My Chili’s Waitress And She Really Loved It!!)

    Your Last Closing Line Was Beautiful. I’m Going TO Save It For Tomorrow!

    The Visual You Chose To Accompany This Article Was Perfect Too, I Like How You Always Use Simple Photographs That Represent A Strong Feeling Tied To The Theme Your’re Trying To Communicate (Coziness, Joy, Connectedness,Self-Liberation In Today’s Case)

    You Are Super Bright and Well-Rounded, It’s Impressive That You Give Gifts and Send Articles To Help Your Cousins To Stay Present (I Just Do It To Renew My Energy, But No One’s Really Responsive with the Latter So I Stopped Doing It)

    I Like How You Emphasized Taking Creating Risks and Pitching New Ideas Too, This Is Good Positive Reinforcement Food For Me

    Hey What Jobs Have You Had Besides Writing for Matt Here On This Blog? What Do You Do For a Living?

  14. Tamara says:

    Oowh Stephen!

    Thank you for your blog! Life is tough right now. My love is moving to the other side of the ocean and I need to pull myself together. I need to figure out what I want for me. Doing another study, getting back in my a game with running and climbing. I need to do this one for me..

    Because I need to decorate my life, no-one else should have to do that for me. Fill it with love and loved ones around me. Excitement and fun this summer! Because I deserve to have a good life.

    Just what I needed, Stephen! Thanks again!

    Love,
    Tamara

  15. Tamara says:

    Oowh Stephen!

    Thank you for your blog! Life is tough right now. My love is moving to the other side of the ocean and I need to pull myself together. I need to figure out what I want for me. Doing another study, getting back in my a game with running and climbing. I need to do this one for me..

    Because I need to decorate my life, no-one else should have to do that for me. Fill it with love and loved ones around me. Excitement and fun this summer!
    Because I deserve to have a good life.

    Just what I needed, Stephen! Thanks again for writing!

    Love,
    Tamara

  16. Sarah Jones says:

    Thank you Stephen!

    As an undergrad who is stressing out about getting into a prestigious grad school, I really needed this. I have gotten into this mindset that almost everything in life is a competition, whether it is chasing your dream career or your dream man! I do not feel fulfilled presently. Right now I am at Texas Tech University studying Art History, but I really want to study in New York! I wish to spread my wings and fly!! I have often gotten myself overwhelmed building my resume, studying for the GRE, overloading myself with tasks, and just worried in general about what is to come! But you are right! I must take some time to breathe and enjoy the present. I’m only 20! I should enjoy that while I can! I think I will treat myself tomorrow by setting aside some time to draw and paint.

    Love,
    Sarah

  17. Arianna says:

    Hi Steve!

    I am loving this post. It is solid gold! This is exactly what I am teaching in my psychoeducational group right now. The similarities are amazing!
    It is so important to have a focus, and yet, as humans, we have tendencies toward living in the past and future as opposed to living in the moment. Making goals more objective and measurable helps us to achieve them, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

    I am impressed by your examples and “true essentials”. I can tell, just by reading those, that you are such a great and well-rounded guy, and that you are constantly working toward improving yourself.

    I have worked with a lot of people who do not even know where to start in regards to their essentials/priorities, let alone come up with a detailed and comprehensive list like the one you have written. You are truly amazing. :)

    Thank you for your thoughts!

    Warmly,
    Arianna

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