The Secret to Happiness

Hey everyone, I’m having a hard time adjusting back to the routine after spending 6 weeks in Thailand. I just don’t feel like writing anything about finance at all. So today, I’ll just write a short post about happiness. That’s one of the three most important pillars in life – health, wealth, and happiness. We need a good balance of all three to have a prosperous life. Ignore one at your peril.

My secret to happiness

For me, the secret to happiness is to forget the bad things that happened. I learned this from my dad. Good and bad things happen in life. Everyone has a stretch of bad luck sometimes. My dad had a difficult childhood and failed at many businesses. He never looked back or lamented anything. He always pushes on and tries again. Failures and setbacks never discourage him. I didn’t understand this when I was young, but now I get it.

Forgetting bad things lets you focus on the good things in life. You’ll have a lot of good memories and they give you hope for the future. In Thailand, my cousin asked if I ever ran into a stretch of bad breaks in the past and I answered not really. Life has been very good for me. But if I think hard about it, I had plenty of problems too. The last few years of my engineering career were very difficult. My productivity dropped and my health suffered due to stress and a bad attitude. I had to grind it out. But I forgot all about it after I got through it. Today, I barely remember all the problems I had back then.

Focusing on the positive things in life made me a happier person. I have good memories and I expect good things to happen in the future. I act happy and I am happy. Even if something bad happens, I know I can push through it.

Act happy, be happy

Here is a relevant article about acting happy. They say if you smile and act like a happy person, you’ll prime yourself to be happy. I agree. Face the world with a smile and people will react positively to you. It’s a positive feedback loop. Nobody wants to talk to a frown. Fake it ‘till you make it. It works.

*Of course, this probably won’t work if you have some underlying problems. You need to fix those problems first. Once the problems are mostly gone, then you can forget them and be happy.

Ok, that’s all I got today. Hopefully, I’ll get back into the groove soon. It’s hard to write when you have writer’s block. Maybe I need another vacation. Hahaha.

Are you a happy person? What’s your secret to happiness?

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Image credit: Lidya Nada

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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26 thoughts on “The Secret to Happiness”

  1. My wife and I just watched Ted Lasso. My new goal in life is to be like Ted Lasso. You are spot on about acting happy and bringing that happiness to the world. I try to do it every day, but sometimes you can get stuck in ruts, especially with the ongoing pandemic. So be more like Ted Lasso. Forget the bad and embrace the good.

    Reply
  2. Haha, understand completely. This is like those times when you come back from leave and feel like you need to drag yourself into the office. Just kidding, you’re FIRE, so you can write whenever you want to!

    I’m sure it was a great break, and spending lots of time with family after not seeing them for a while is a wonderful thing.

    Reply
  3. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to everybody. Love the perspective. Happiness is a choice sometimes. You can’t necessarily force yourself to be happy–sometimes it just ain’t in the cards–but you can make sure you don’t go out of your way to be unhappy.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this inspirational story of you. I wish I can do that also. Whenever I’m alone, loneliness engulfs me. I can’t hide my sadness that I don’t know where it’s coming from. I think I just miss my dad who passed early into this world.

    Reply
  5. I believe in the same philosophy as you and your dad. I remember my first big mistake screwing up at work once and being told to shake it off and move forward. The mistake was a very expensive one, I placed a concrete column in the wrong location. Lots of chipping out concrete and conferring with engineers and architects–not to mention cost, to fix the problem that could have been solved if I had just paid more attention to my tape measure. Dwelling on mistakes only makes their pain greater and really gains you nothing.

    Yeah that’s weird how you forget tough situations over time. I know I hated being in the Navy while I was in it, but as time passes I look back fondly on it…almost miss it. Crazy! Great post.

    Reply
    • Thanks. We all learn from our mistakes.
      The funny thing is that Mrs. RB40 said you might not remember, but your wife remembers everything. Those were hard years. 🙂
      My wife has a great memory.

      Reply
  6. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy, if you smile and aim to be happy, more often than not, that’s what will happen. And if we choose to wear a frown or be grumpy, then most likely we won’t feel so good.

    Reply
  7. Great post! I have two suggestions:
    – Meditation has had a HUGE impact on my happiness. This past year of pandemic, I made it a top priority and hard-wired this into my morning routine. It is dedicated time each day to notice what mental patterns come up and to practice letting go over and over. It has made me more centered and is a joyful start to my day.
    – Journaling. I started this 20+ years ago and I think is the single biggest factor in my happiness level. Gratitude journaling was not a term back then but I fell into it naturally. It is a chance to reflect on the small positives in my day and process any difficult emotions before bed. I write pretty much every day and it drastically rewired my mind to a default state of happiness.
    Hope to see more posts on this topic! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you for your input.
      I tried meditation for a while and it was quite useful. Now, it’s hard to find time for meditation. Everyone is home all the time. There is no quiet time.
      Journaling sounds like a great idea.

      Reply
  8. I’ve always been a happy person who felt that life had turned out far better than I ever expected. But then again who wouldn’t be happy if they felt that way? The problem is there are a lot of people who feel like life has turned out worse than they expected, worse than they deserved. And they have a rational reason to feel that way. They were deserted by a spouse, they have a debilitating mental or physical health problem or maybe they are just in poverty and do not see a path out of it. I think it is kind of like how financially independent people think about broke people, “If they would just live below their means and save and invest they could be like me!” I think as happy people we do not fully grasp what it is like to feel miserable most of the time. But that is a reality to many people. Its very easy for me to act happy and be happy, I’ve been consulting on a fun project all week and in an hour I’m headed out to play tennis with my buddy, while everyone else is stuck at work all afternoon. I can do anything I want and have the money to do it. I have a loving wife and three great, self supporting adult kids. I have friends who would do anything for me and me for them. I’m just saying while I agree happiness is a choice, its a very tough choice for some people and a very easy one for us.

    Reply
    • You’re right. Life is more difficult for some people. This works when you don’t have a lot of baggage and the future is relatively clear. If you have a lot of ongoing problems, then you need to solve those first.

      Reply
  9. I have always said that the happiest people on the planet are those that can let things go. They let the bad things in their past go (IE. it doesn’t consume them years later, constantly bringing it up, etc.) You never forget it as you learn from your mistakes but it is not brought up in every conversation you have years later, etc.

    I know someone who within 5 minutes of talking to them, blames everything bad that has happened on them for their entire life on an ex husband, who is currently in jail. They have been divorced for almost 7 years. Okay – but they are re-married, and they are still have financial issues, but again – it is all the ex-husbands fault. They are miserable.

    You need to move on and figure out how to fix your situation, and make the best of it. Living in the past is the issue.

    Reply
  10. That’s a good secret to happiness, Joe. I know some people who are never happy because they focus on the bad things that have happened in life. They expect bad things to continue to happen and I think that it starts to self-perpetuate because of that outlook.

    In my life, I try to focus on the here and now – step back and enjoy the moment. I think that’s been a lot easier in retirement, but it’s something I’ve always tried to do regardless. And when there are bad or stressful times (we’ve all been there!), I try to think about how a year from now, it’ll be just a faded memory.

    Reply
  11. Hi, Joe, yeah, dealing with change is hard to me as well. Regarding happiness, people say: fake it till you make it. It makes sense. To me, it’s always working in progress. I know I should focus on my half glass full, but sometimes the half glass empty just bothers me.

    Reply
    • It’s hard to fake it if there is a problem hanging over your head. When I was working, the stress made it difficult to act happy. But once that’s gone, it was easy to be happy. Take care!

      Reply
  12. I always need another vacation after a vacation. It’s just too hard to transition back into work mode for me. After as long as a break as you have had, it makes sense that it would be difficult.

    This is the type of article that I need to read once a week. I find it difficult to focus on the broad good things and ignore the day-to-day noise.

    Reply
      • Hey Joe
        Nice and concise points to happiness. Being happy is contagious and makes people you interact with more cheery. It’s the ones with a black cloud over them all the time that you want to avoid communicating too much with. They will rain on your parade.

        Write about your wonderful trip. You must have saw many people there and how their lives are. Or give some details on some side adventures you did there. You were there for over 1 month and must have some stories to tell.

        Reply
        • I spent a lot of time with families. My parent needed help and it felt really good to be there.
          I urged my dad to hire someone to help out after I left. It’s too hard to do everything by yourself.
          I also met up with cousins and aunts. It was nice to catch up. Nothing too exciting, just spending time with families.

          Reply

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