Whether you’re focused on dating or relationships, your career or business, or most any other part of your life, one of the most common mistakes people make is thinking “I’ll be happy when ____.”

Focusing on a person (or a relationship in general) as the key to your happiness is doomed to utterly fail or end up as a toxic relationship. First of all, if you need someone to be happy (that’s called codependence), you’ll push healthy women away.

If you do find someone while you’re coming from that place, it’s doomed to fail in ugly fashion or be a codependent relationship where you both are relying on each other to keep the other happy. Cue drama, covert contracts, jealousy, neediness, lack of boundaries, seeing your friends a LOT less without your partner, turning sex and affection into a transaction that has to be earned and is withheld  over petty disputes…should we go on?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with promiscuity (practice safe sex, be smart, and always pay attention to where women are at emotionally and psychologically in terms of consent and comfort level) and being sexually adventurous, but if your happiness is reliant on sleeping with X number of women or anything along those lines, that’s again likely to make it much harder to get good with women.

And if you do succeed…you probably won’t be happy. In the “pickup” community, they talk a lot about “lay counts.” Besides language like that objectifying women, many of these “pickup artists” and men who are just good with women end up feeling empty, unfulfilled, and depressed. Because all the sex still didn’t give them sustained happiness or self-love.

The same thing is true of success in your career. How I Met Your Mother star, Josh Radnor (who played “Ted Mosby” in the show) once talked about his own struggle with happiness as the show became more and more popular:

“When How I Met Your Mother first went on the air, I ran into an actress that I knew and she said ‘Are you just, like, so happy all the time?

I had bought into the not uncommon notion that when I taste success…when I get ‘over there,’ then I’ll be happy. But the strangest thing happened: As the show got more successful, I got more depressed.”

The bigger his expectations were about how more success would equal happiness, the bigger the disappointment was. Happiness isn’t something you get at Destination X. It’s a state of living along your journeys.

And again, coming from a place of needing whatever outcome you’re after to be happy usually pushes it away and makes it harder to achieve. Because at some level, your mind is focused on lack when you’re coming from a place of not being happy already. As Brian teaches here at FEARLESS, whatever you focus on expands. Your mind – often subconsciously – will be attuned to pick out data that supports the lacking beliefs and emotions out of all the endless stimuli coming at your brain all day.

When you come from a place of happiness (or, as we teach, Courage, Acceptance, Love, and Peace – CALP – on the emotional scare) first, you move through your life much easier, you progress and succeed much easier, and you find more fulfillment in both your achievements and the process.

But saying “just be happy” is kind of like saying “just be confident.” That IS what you want to do, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re not there. And it can also lead to faking happiness, suppression, repression, and denial.

So what can you do to work on being happier, more fulfilled, and succeeding with more ease?

The New York Times created a whole “How to be Happy” guide, and their writer, Tim Herrera published a cheat sheet today called “4 Easy(ish) Steps Toward Happiness You Can Take Today.” Let’s briefly discuss the four steps they cover:

Conquer your negative thinking

This one, in our own experience at FEARLESS, often leads to or is misapplied as forced positive thinking, which isn’t great either. The key, as the Times piece touches on, is acknowledging and owning negative thoughts and beliefs – NOT denying them – and then challenging the thoughts and beliefs. We also highly recommend practicing meditative methods of letting go.

Forgive yourself

This is something most of us need to do more of. The Times‘ suggestion:
“Write yourself a letter of compassion just as you would to a neighbor or friend who had experienced a hardship. The concept is the same, only the recipient is you.”

Money helps, but only to a point

Different studies have come up with different numbers for “the amount of money at which happiness peaks,” but really the more effective focus is to find purpose and meaning in your work. This could well mean a hard look at your current job or career, but Herrera’s cheat sheet points out that studies have shown finding purpose and meaning is something you can do in any type of job. Taking that a step further, Brian teaches our clients to try to find genuine appreciation in even mundane tasks like washing the dishes. It’s possible when you slow down and get present.

Buy more time

You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. The cheat sheet argues for spending on things that save you time over material purchases, and their researchers claim that “people who spent money on conveniences like ordering takeout for dinner or getting a cab were happier than those who didn’t.” The caveat we see here is that you can end up avoiding too much healthy tension in your life if you outsource or have someone else take care of everything, but many people are far too penny-pinching when it comes to getting help with things that would free them up to work on more important tasks that would actually make them more money or give them more time for life.