Happy People: 23 Characteristics

People are often on a quest to be happier but don’t have a plan for how to get there. I know there are some of you with introspective time on your hands these days might be interested in this list. In the work I do coaching people in the application of Choice Theory, happiness is often the result. Here are some characteristics of happy people I’ve discovered through coaching:

  1. Know their own value and worth. When people know what they’re worth, they do not settle for less than what they deserve.
  2. Engage in self-care. Happy people know they need to prioritize themselves and do what nurtures them: exercise, meditation, massage, healthy eating, vacations—whatever works for them.
  3. Are perpetual students. Happy people realize they are either growing or dying and they choose growth every time. Anyone or anything can be their teacher when they adopt the role of a learner.
  4. Tune in to their own inner voice rather than trying to do what others want or expect. Unhappy people tend to respond to what others want and expect them to do. Happy people may listen to the opinions of people who are important to them, but they listen to their own heart when making decisive opinions.
  5. Take Radical Responsibility for everything they do and the things they choose not to do. Happy people do not look for a scapegoat for their own actions. They recognize they are responsible for all the choices they make in their life, as well as the intentional and unintentional consequences of those choices.
  6. Swiftly address the things that bother them and set necessary boundaries. Happy people don’t allow things to build up. When something bothers them, they address it quickly. When it is necessary to set boundaries, they do so rather than cause inconvenience and pain for themselves.
  7. Don’t waste time on activities with no real payoff. Happy people work hard and play hard. They don’t have time to spend on activities that don’t add value to their lives.
  8. Accept change. Happy people recognize change is the only constant in life and to resist it only creates frustration. Change can be wonderful when you are open to the possibilities.
  9. View problems as challenges to overcome and “failures” as learning opportunities. Happy people recognize that things not working out is not the end; it’s the beginning of a journey toward figuring out what would work better.
  10. Manage their expectations. Happy people know that unmet expectations can be the root of a lot of frustration and disappointment. It’s okay to have expectations for yourself but having them for others is unfair and often unmet.
  11. Practice Awesome Appreciation and find the GLOW (gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom) in painful and traumatic experiences. Every painful experience provides equal amounts of positivity when they are ready to find it.
  12. Compare themselves to their ideal of themselves rather than others. Happy people work to be better today than they were yesterday. They know anyone else’s goals are none of their business.
  13. Have healthy relationships and love unconditionally. Happy people understand the value of healthy relationships in their lives. They treat people well and love without conditions. People love them and they have strong and happy relationships with family and friends, and also with their significant other.
  14. Balance the fulfillment of their needs. Happy people know they have five basic needs to fulfill: Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom and Joy. They listen to their heart to decide if there is a deficit in any area; if there is, they choose a satisfying, responsible way to mend the deficit.
  15. Honor their past, live in the present and plan for the future. Happy people recognize the importance their past has in molding them into the person they are, so they have no regrets. They live solidly in the present but plan for the future without worrying about it.
  16. Evaluate themselves instead of others. William Glasser said, “Happy people evaluate themselves; unhappy people evaluate others.” Happy people look at their own behavior in relationship to their goals, and they understand that other people’s behavior is none of their business.
  17. Know how to transmute painful emotions. Happy people realize they can’t directly control their feelings, but they can indirectly by deliberately changing what they’re doing and thinking.
  18. Surround themselves with other happy people. Happy people know they become like the five people they spend the most time with. They are vibrating at a higher energy level and therefore attract other happy people.
  19. Accept people for who they are rather than trying to change them. Happy people know they can’t change anyone but themselves, so they don’t even try. They accept people as they are and then decide how, and if, they want to be in a relationship with them. They support and encourage those in their lives.
  20. Forgive themselves and others easily. Happy people have no time for grudges. They recognize grudges hurt them more than the person they are mad at. They also realize the forgiving themselves needs to be at the top of the list.
  21. Practice gratitude daily. Happy people spend most of their time grateful for all they have and can do instead of lamenting what they don’t have and are unable to do. This is a key recipe for happiness.
  22. Prioritize contribution to others, either with their time, talents or finances. Happy people know they were endowed with gifts that set them apart from others. These gifts were not intended to be enjoyed in isolation; they are intended to be used for the betterment of others. They contribute to enhancing others’ lives regularly and sometimes engage in random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
  23. Connect with the Divine. Happy people recognize and tap into a power bigger than themselves. They generally meditate and are connected with their higher power.

These are not innate characteristics; they are behavior practices. If you are not as happy as you want to be, choose one and develop it into a new behavior with practice and repetition. Let me know how it’s going.

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