The Key to Happiness: Choosing to Change Your Present Mindset

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Article by Steve Rizzo

Unhappiness is a disease spreading rapidly in the workplace and in our personal lives — but are you aware that the quality of happiness you have at this point in your life is determined by a particular mindset you yourself have created over a period of time?

In other words: Happiness can be a choice. No matter your personal or professional circumstances, you can adjust your attitude and elevate your level of overall happiness by choosing to shift your present mindset. When you fully appreciate how the mood you’re in right this second affects how you’ll deal with what comes next, you will want to make the choices that will help you feel better, not worse.

That, my friend, is a major key to living a successful, happy life. Remember: When shift happens, your life changes.

‘The Process’ Is Your Life

Many of my clients refer to me as “The Attitude Adjuster” because I help people realize how they can acquire the attitudes and mindsets they need to succeed in all levels of life while enjoying the process. That last part is key: “while enjoying the process.”

Unfortunately, in this day and age, many of us have left enjoyment by the wayside, especially when we’re dealing with change. If the pressure is on to reinvent yourself and achieve new goals, or there are tight deadlines to be met and things aren’t going exactly as planned, enjoyment is the furthest thing from your mind.

People are finding it difficult to balance their lives, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. As a result, our stress levels become overwhelming; self-doubt, anger, uncertainty, fear, and a host of other negative emotions start to create a dangerous mindset. Without realizing it, people deny themselves enjoyment. They lose their ability to laugh and have fun exactly when it’s most crucial.

Some people actually believe if you are enjoying yourself and having fun at work, you’re not doing your job properly. That’s BS! The fact is — and you can prove this to yourself at any time — if you’re having fun at work, everyone benefits. This holds true for every aspect of our lives. No matter who you are or what you’re doing, if you are enjoying the process, the odds are you’ll achieve the outcome you desire. It seems obvious to consciously choose happiness, but I would wager any amount of money that when writing out their short-term or long-term goals and plans, most people don’t consider enjoying themselves during the process part of the equation.

Let me quickly define for you what I mean when I refer to “the process.” It’s not just the steps you take in a direct effort to achieve a particular goal. Rather, it is your life in its entirety, including every daily activity that makes up your life, from picking up the dry cleaning and shopping for food to feeding the baby or taking a nap.

‘No Pain, No Gain’?

“If choosing happiness is such an obvious thing to do,” you may ask, “then why is it so darn hard to remember to do it consistently?”

This is a fair question, and here is one answer that may surprise you: The workout crazes of the early ’80s popularized the phrase “No pain, no gain,” and American culture was quick to adopt it in every facet of life.

“‘No pain, no gain’ is an American modern mini-narrative,” David Morris wrote in The Scientist in 2005. “[I]t compresses the story of a protagonist who understands that the road to achievement runs only through hardship.”

The mindset of “No pain, no gain” is that if you’re having fun, you must not be getting anything worthwhile done. I’ll say it again: I call BS!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that everyone sit around all day being content with what they have. I’m suggesting that it’s not only okay to enjoy every step you take toward achieving your goals — it’s your right. If you are consistently making choices to enjoy yourself during the process of whatever it is you are trying to achieve, you will more than likely reach your goal easier and faster.

Therefore, we have to be aware of the mindsets we create that defer happiness in our lives. We must be diligent and remind ourselves that the constant pressure to achieve our professional and personal goals is no reason not to enjoy the steps along the way.

I am constantly amazed by the ways people manage to deny themselves the chance at happiness in the moment. Instead, they fall prey to a dangerous mindset that decreases their potential for happiness. They put their happiness on hold when they repeat and internalize negative statements like, “When I finally buy a house, I’ll be less stressed and I can enjoy myself,” or, “I’ll be happy when I’m able to retire,” or, “I would be happy if I only made more money.”

Trust me when I say there are always more bills to pay and something expensive to repair around the house. Unexpected setbacks will occur and new work projects will quickly replace the ones currently stressing you out. Statements that focus on what you lack in the present or predicate happiness on a future event destroy your chance of enjoying the moment.

Now Is Where the Good Times Happen

There are far too many people holding onto their precious tickets to Happy Land, waiting for the Good-Time Express to arrive. Give me a break!

Better yet, give yourself a break. Why wait for good times? Why not have them now? In fact, now is the only place where good times can happen. They can’t happen in the past, nor can they happen in the future.

The point I’m making is that happiness can only be experienced in the present, in the moment of whatever it is you are trying to achieve right now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t plan for the future, set goals, undertake your daily routine, deal with the unexpected, and still make conscious choices to enjoy yourself while doing so. People who consistently enjoy the process not only reap the benefits of achieving their goals, but they also have a fond appreciation of the ways in which they earned those goals. In my view, that is the ultimate success.

You might be thinking, “So what if I have to wait to get what I want to be happy? Aren’t some things worth waiting for?”

It’s true that some things are worth waiting for. The caramel at the bottom of an ice cream sundae comes to mind, but certainly not your happiness. You can’t wait for happiness. Of course you feel happy once you get what you want. You’ve completed the task and received your due reward. Life is good again. You can relax and enjoy yourself for the rest of time, right?

Sorry to break it to you, but happiness doesn’t work that way. What you’re really experiencing in such moments is not happiness, but temporary relief. Relief is fine. It’s certainly a byproduct of happiness, but it doesn’t last long and it’s not true happiness. In a short time, you will notice the return of that same needful, longing mindset. The elation brought on by attaining your heart’s desire will start to recede. At this point, the old mindset returns and the cycle begins again. Your attainment of happiness becomes a carrot to trudge after. You’ll find yourself thinking, “Okay, that was nice. I achieved that goal and I have all the money I want. But for some reason, the thrill is gone. What else do I have to achieve so that I can be happy once again?”

When you convince yourself that your happiness is dependent upon something that has to take place in the future, it is difficult to enjoy the present. Let me blow your mind for a moment: The present is a gift. Unwrap it.

Happiness Is Your Right — So Stop Impeding Your Own Enjoyment

Whether you’re at home cleaning out the garage, making cold calls, comparing the prices of peanut butter brands, or preparing a pitch to win more business for your company, it is your right to enjoy yourself.

One of the keys to attaining happiness is understanding that happiness is your personal right, just like freedom of speech and being able to vote. It’s curious to me that we have laws in place to make sure no one infringes upon our right to happiness, yet we are so often willing to impede our own enjoyment of life.

It’s time to shift to a happier mindset! That’s your choice and your responsibility. It’s time to focus on what’s working in your life, rather than fixating on what isn’t. Be eternally grateful for what you have. Every day, throughout the day, bless the things life has given you rather than cursing what life hasn’t.

Treat life as a game. Unleash the child within and have fun. Know that your sense of humor is your sense of perspective; it’s a choice you can make about how to deal with the stuff that life throws at you every day. Find the laughter within and around yourself. When you are able to do that, you don’t simply attract happiness, you become happiness, and happiness becomes you, and you take it with you everywhere you go.

The Declaration of Independence states that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” are unalienable rights. Maybe it should read instead, “Life, Liberty, and the Happiness of the pursuit.” Now that’s a mindset to adhere to.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Steve Rizzo is “The Attitude Adjuster.” You can’t attend one of his keynote speeches and leave with the same attitude. He’s a personal development expert, comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. It’s no surprise he’s been inducted into the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon on fewer than 250 speakers worldwide since 1977. You can find out more at

By SUCCESS Magazine