Here's where happiness REALLY comes from

Soulmates. Finding the one. Our other half.

The media, Hollywood, and even certain people we know peddle this notion that unless we're partnered up, we're not truly happy with our lives -- even if we don't realize it yet. They insist that unless we're in a relationship, we're just not whole.

That's just total malarkey.

They'd be surprised to learn that there are many people in the world who prefer being by themselves.

Whether they've been burned in the past by an ex or merely relish living on their own, these individuals are single by choice -- not necessarily because they can't find any worthwhile suitors.

Furthermore, regardless of whether they're single, in a relationship, or married, many people believe that a partner has a responsibility to "complete" them.

This is totally false as well.

A partner should be seen as a welcome enhancement, but not as a missing piece to complete your life puzzle.

The fact that someone would look to a partner to complete them implies there's something missing to begin with.

Unfortunately, a person sets themselves up for real heartache by making their happiness dependent on others' behavior, which will not always be to their liking.

As I've emphasized in other posts, happiness stems from within us. This means that external things like material objects, jobs, and even relationships can enrich our lives, but they can't fulfill us entirely.

Happiness is what we make of it. It can be as simple as a cup of hot coffee on a cold day. It can be seeing a needy person's face light up after giving them money. It can be learning something new from a YouTube video you watched.

But when you assert that you won't be happy unless you have (fill in the blank), you're making your happiness contingent upon an external source.

And what happens if and once things don't work out with said source?

That shiny car you love could very well be totaled in an accident someday. Your company might lay you off at a moment's notice and eliminate what you considered to be a dream job. And your partner, to your dismay, can break up with or cheat on you.

Mental and emotional self-reliance is the surest path to achieving happiness. 

It doesn't mean you hate others or care only about yourself. It just means that even if these external forces don't come through for you in some way (which is likely to happen sooner or later), you'll still be pleasantly content with your life.

The key, then, is to explore ways to arrive at a happy place in your life without becoming dependent on any one thing or person.

People will judge you no matter what

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), the longest-serving First Lady in U.S. history, astutely advised people to do as follows:

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right -- for you'll be criticized anyway."

Essentially, she's saying that no matter what course of action you take, someone will take issue with it. So why not follow your heart and do what makes you happy?

Roosevelt would be disheartened to learn that in 2018, over 5 decades after her death, people still get sucked into the "herd mentality" that drives them to seek others' validation. They believe and perpetuate the notion that true happiness lies with others rather than with and inside themselves.

She'd quickly realize that social media has a lot to do with it, seeing as how people will post just about anything to amass as many likes and followers as they can.

Whether you like football, abstain from drinking, are in a long-distance relationship, have only one child, enjoy traveling to Europe, or work in finance, someone -- somewhere -- is bound to challenge the choices you've made in your life.

It's plain to see why people have a habit of doing this. If your decisions and preferences don't mirror theirs, it may make them feel insecure about the paths they've taken in their lives. This is especially true when your choice may not have been a common one.

So how do they reduce such feelings of cognitive dissonance, you ask? Easy -- they pass judgment on your actions and regard theirs as superior. Chances are, they realize they didn't go with their gut, acting on their friend or coworker's advice rather than doing what felt right -- what they wanted to do deep down.

Rather than owning up to the fact that they hold others' opinions in higher regard than their own, they take the easy out and cast your decisions in a negative light.

People who succumb to social pressure want others to do the same thing, but never should you grant them that satisfaction.

In a world that wants everyone to be alike, you should strive to stand apart. You should embrace wholeheartedly all that makes you unique -- not apologize for it.

If people are dissatisfied with the way you are, so be it. It's better to be disliked for your genuine self than it is to be loved for a fake version of yourself that you trot out just to secure people's validation.

The only one who has a right to judge you is you, because no one else has stepped in your very shoes.

Do what makes you happy and never let the pressure to fit in prompt you to compromise your values and integrity.

When things don't turn out as planned...

As we get older, we realize that things don't always turn out the way we planned, or the way we think they should.

For example, there may come a point where you concede that your bad back precludes you from becoming the rich professional basketball player you aspire to be.

Or, it becomes clear that you won't be going on a date with the new office secretary you've been ogling for months after realizing she has a boyfriend.

Additionally, we come to terms with the sobering reality that troublesome relationships cannot always be fixed. As much as we may try, they may never go back to being the way they were in the beginning.

Our relationships with certain people may become frayed or fall apart completely. Sometimes it's one person's fault, or it may very well be that both people are to blame.

Nonetheless, it can be difficult to see a relationship we envisioned lasting a lifetime go down the tubes.

But we must all accept that people and circumstances change.

Maybe you couldn't get a degree because you had to work full-time upon graduating from high school to help your parents. Perhaps your relationship landed in choppy waters once you landed a job that requires overseas travel.

As I've said in earlier posts, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. All we can do in such situations is decide how to react to them.

We can let these events tear us apart, or we can use them as valuable tools to help us grow and move on with our lives.

Just because things don't go exactly as planned doesn't mean you still can't reach your goals. It's like driving -- when a road is closed off, you may be forced to take a slightly longer route, but you're sure to get to your destination in due time.

Life is about remaining flexible, adapting, evolving. If things always remained the same, we'd never grow.

You should never lament a relationship or job gone bad because, in the end, such circumstances have helped mold you into the person you are today. Hopefully, they made you stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

Just because things don't turn out favorably doesn't mean we screwed up. It just means that, for better or worse, what we anticipate happening doesn't always align with reality.

Down the road, we may look back on that relationship or job that didn't work out for us and smile -- because it led us to an even better one!

When things don't go as planned, it probably means there are even better things in the works. Don't lose hope. This storm, too, shall pass.

Refuse to be anyone's backup plan

Whether it's a love interest who's made you their "plan B" in case it doesn't work out with their first choice, or a friend who only calls you when plans with other people fall through, never allow yourself to be someone's backup.

What a lousy position to be in!  The other person is essentially saying that you're not good enough to be their top pick.

Well, here's the good news: You will always be good enough for someone else out there. You will be someone's first choice. And that's why it's imperative that you not rest on your laurels when someone places you on the back burner.

By doing so, you risk missing out on opportunities to meet or be with people who genuinely value your time and the ways you enhance their lives.

Rather than pine for someone who doesn't want to give you the time of day, you should gravitate toward people who feel that investing time in you is well worth it.

If people don't choose you, tough luck. You're not just some prop that people can avail of at their convenience.

Don't let anyone think you'd be fine settling for second choice. It's not as if you're a job applicant vying for a highly competitive position. You have other options!

By agreeing to remain on stand-by, all you're doing is stroking his or her ego and allowing them to toy with your emotions. People need to realize that they can't have their cake and eat it too.

It takes a selfish, arrogant individual to assume that others will simply sit around and wait for them. A decent human being will be upfront about his or her true feelings and intentions so that the person can move on should they desire to.

It's true that we may be someone's backup plan without even knowing it, but chances are it will come clear once you observe certain behaviors. For example, she might only show interest in you after posting on Facebook that her boyfriend is away on business, or that she got into a big fight with another friend. In other words, they have you on reserve for whenever something out of the norm takes place with their go-to person.

It's especially hurtful when the person giving you short shrift is someone you were once very close to. Sadly, people change, and just because we have a long history with them doesn't mean we should let such behavior slide.

Don't make anyone your priority if they only see you as an option. You deserve better!

Here's why looking on the bright side is crucial

Whether you're nervous about a presentation you're slated to make before investors, worried about lab results following a doctor's visit, or freaking out about a blind date you have coming up, does it benefit you in any way to think the very worst?

Absolutely not!

As soon as a situation presents itself that forces us out of our comfort zone, for many of us a sense of pessimism kicks in immediately.

We assume we're going to bomb the presentation. We convince ourselves the lab results will reveal something serious. We anticipate the date will be a total disaster.

Seeing the glass as half empty erodes our confidence and can even do a number on our self-esteem.

It's normal to feel a little anxiety in such situations, but getting extremely worked up won't help matters at all.

Instead, we need to force ourselves to consider alternative -- and decidedly positive -- scenarios.

Who says things can't things go smoothly?

Chances are you've been in similar situations and came out okay, so why can't the same happen this time around?

Maybe you feel getting a promotion hinges on knocking that presentation out of the park, or that you might never get the opportunity to go out on a date with someone so attractive ever again.

Again, it's all speculative. You don't know any of that for sure because you can't see into the future.

What if things really don't go as well as you'd hoped?

Well, you can cross that bridge once you arrive at that point. But until then, it's counterproductive to dream up scenarios in your mind that may never come to pass.

That's not to say that you should always assume you'll get exactly what you want in every given situation.

You can't control everything that happens to you. You can only control your reaction to circumstances. Whether you react positively and charge ahead, or negatively and assume the worst, is up to you.

That being said, having a negative mindset does absolutely nothing to better our cause. In the worst cases, it can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and other adverse outcomes.

Even though we all encounter our fair share of bumps in the road -- sometimes at the worst possible times -- we should try our best to relax and tell ourselves that it will all work out.

Don't allow your brain to trap you in a negative mental loop. Remember, your thoughts wield tremendous power over your emotions.

By thinking positively, you can regain control of your life. Rather than allowing your negative thoughts to keep you in a state of angst and hopelessness, break that pattern by telling yourself that things can -- and will -- turn out well.