Muscle for life

16 Destructive Things You Have to Stop Doing to Be Happy

16 Destructive Things You Have to Stop Doing to Be Happy

There are many ways of sabotaging your happiness, but some are far more effective than others and the worst of all are also the most common.


Like many of life’s great existential problems, how to be happy is a tough nut to crack. Almost inscrutable, some would say.

There are plenty of things we can do to increase our “happiness quotient”–simplify our lives, cultivate mental toughness, create a passion, and help others, to name a few. There are also plenty of things we need to stop doing if we don’t want to spend our lives fighting the undertow instead of riding the wave.

In this article, I want to discuss 16 ways people undermine themselves and their chances at happiness, and what to do instead.

Would you rather listen to this article? Click the play button below!

Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

1. Stop being around shitty people.

Never underestimate someone’s ability to make you feel inadequate, unwanted, and insecure. And never subject yourself to their brand of misery, no matter how much you want them to like you.

Ditch the “friend” that’s always making backhanded digs or one-upping you or pointing out the flies in your soup or making you feel like you have to explain yourself.

You have a right to choose who you share your life with. Exercise it.

2. Stop trying to be perfect.

Perfectionism is a great way to drive yourself–and others–insane. Sometimes you have to learn how to accept “good enough,” even if only temporarily.

There’s a difference between healthy ambition and perfectionism. Healthy ambition involves attention to detail and is focused on how you can improve. Perfectionism is driven by fear and focused on what others will think.

3. Stop being afraid of mistakes.

Failing sucks. It’s indisputable proof that we weren’t good enough. That our idea was crap, our work shoddy, our will delicate.

But here’s the truth: everyone fails. Some people more than others, but nobody bats 1000 in life. Failing isn’t what matters–what you do next is what really counts.

And here’s something many people don’t know about mistakes: the faster you’re going, the less they matter. Maintain speed and momentum alone can carry you right on through the rough spots.

4. Stop being a selfish asshole.

A certain measure of selfishness is necessary for success. You only have so much time, attention, and effort to give in your life, and the things you want to achieve most are going to cost more than you probably think.

Take it too far, though, and you’ll wind up a lonely, bitter narcissist who would steal the pennies off a dead man’s eyes.

The sooner you learn that giving pleasure to others is what really keeps us looking forward to tomorrow, the better your life is going to be.

5. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not.

Don’t live life behind a mask coated in bullshit, lest you forget it’s even there.

Let people see the real you, flaws and all. Some people are going to like what they see and some aren’t, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. We can’t please everyone.

6. Stop pretending things are better than they are.

When things aren’t going right, don’t try to believe otherwise. Self-delusion is cowardice.

Just like we all make mistakes, we all have problems. And similarly, having problems doesn’t matter–what we do about them does. No amount of mental gymnastics will make them go away.

7. Stop trying to win the approval of others.

Contrary to their beliefs, most people don’t even know what’s best for themselves, let alone you. Don’t use them as a universal sounding board.

Keep your own counsel, make your own decisions, and seek your own applause.

Oh and when people criticize you, try to remember they’re probably a piece of shit. See #1.

8. Stop criticizing yourself.

Would you berate a close friend for a minor oversight? Would you pick apart their early efforts at something? Would you fake-gag at their ideas?

Probably not. So why would do this to yourself?

Stop being your own worst enemy. Treat yourself like someone you actually like and want to encourage.

9. Stop relying on others to make you happy.

Saddling others with the responsibility of making you happy is foolish.

If you can’t make yourself happy, nobody is going to be able to solve the puzzle for you. Sharing happiness with others is a give and take proposition.

You alone are ultimately responsible for your happiness and anything others can offer you in this regard is going to require your own internal joy as a catalyst.

10. Stop looking for shortcuts.

Don’t be the kind of person that tries to run between the drops. You’re going to have to get a little wet.

Suckers spend their time trying to work smarter, not harder, and wind up going nowhere. Winners face the reality of what it takes to get where they want to go and get the show on the road.

11. Stop comparing yourself to others.

It tastes like bugshit, but let’s get it down in one gulp: there will always be people that are smarter, prettier, happier, and wealthier than you.

Accepting this is one thing, but masochistically shoving your face in it every day is destructive. 

Appreciate what you have, strive to make things better, and don’t worry about how you’re measuring up.

12. Stop complaining.

It makes you weak and ineffectual. And it leads to excuses and commiseration.

Let’s face it: life is fairer than its ever been. We’re probably not going to die of disease or starvation or be shipped off to the meat grinder of war or fall into slavery.

We have it easy.

Also realize that whatever obstacles we do have to face are also opportunities to show what we’re really made of. 

And the more we overcome in our lives, the bigger the obstacles are going to become. Life is an uphill battle. You can accept this now or learn the hard way.

13. Stop making excuses.

If a general marches his army into the jaws of defeat, nobody is interested in his noble intentions or the unpredictable twists of fate. He failed and will be judged accordingly.

Similarly, whatever you say doesn’t matter–only results carry real weight.

As Frank Lloyd Wright put it…

“And now, after billions of years of experience and preconditioning on this earth (from the development of the first one-celled amoeba to our present human complex) we have no valid excuse for not performing superbly.”

14. Stop blaming others.

Want to completely relinquish control over your life? Blame others for your failures and problems.

Want to earn the right to remain at the helm? Always seek to acknowledge your role in causing the circumstances you face in life, both good and bad.

15. Stop worrying so much.

No amount of nail biting will change the truth: much of life is outside of our direct control.

We can keep our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, but we can’t keep everyone else’s eyes and hands where they need to be. And sometimes shit happens.

The simplest advice I’ve been able to find for fretting less is to work for the best but prepare for the worst. Don’t hope things will go right–make them go right.

16. Stop procrastinating.

Stop burdening Future You with all the shit Present You should be doing.

You’re probably not going to have better willpower tomorrow. You probably don’t need to wait. Start now before it’s too late.

What are your thoughts on how to be happy? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.

If you liked this Article,
then You'll love this book...

Awakening your inner genius

If you’d like to know what some of history’s greatest thinkers and achievers can teach you about awakening your inner genius, and how to find, follow, and fulfill your journey to greatness, then you want to read this book today.

(I wrote this book under a pen name simply because I want to keep it, and future books of mine that will have nothing to do with health and fitness, completely separate from my main line of work. But I can still promote it! )

Read this book today and discover what it really takes to find and follow your bliss, and how to use the lessons passed down to us by some of history’s greatest geniuses to systematically rise to the top of your fields, activities, and endeavors.

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • T

    Great article Mike. Love it’s simplicity and straightforwardness. Funny, I saved your book in my Amazon cart just yesterday, think I’ll move it to the shopping cart today. 🙂 I’m trying to just finish one book I’ve started, completed the first draft and now in the rewrite stage, and tugging along very slowly. Would love to know your thoughts on the process of writing your first book. You’re the modern day Renaissance Man, very impressive.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the kind words! Let me know how you like the book.

      I’d be happy to share my thoughts. What specifically would you like to know more about?

      • T

        First off, I just have to mention how awesome you are for responding. Such consideration is so rare these days, this alone says a lot about you. Thank you Mike! As for your writing, I was just curious if you experienced any challenges during the rewrite? Assuming you even had to do a rewrite. I’m finding it an incredibly challenging process. The first draft came along fairly easily, but the rewrite has been quite the struggle.
        Oh, and I whole have to say I just love what Peter commented about this piece. Spot on.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure. 🙂

          You’re right–it is uncommon, which is strange. You’d think that someone taking the time to build a community would WANT to interact with everyone, but what do I know. 😛

          Like any writer I’m definitely a big advocate of rewriting. It tends to go smoothly for me though. What exactly are you running into?

          • T

            You obviously know plenty. it is very strange. Yes, one would think that. Though it’s become obvious another thing not so common these days is common sense. 😉
            I’m certainly not a writer, perhaps a wannabe. 🙂 This whole process is entirely new to me, and I seem to be struggling with balancing the creative while taking into account all the technical matters. I feel “stuck” and a little daunted by when to tackle which. It’s encouraging to know that it can run smoothly for some though. Perhaps I just need more experience at this. I appreciate the lending ear. I’ll keep at it and hopefully get “unstuck” soon.

          • Michael Matthews

            Common sense isn’t all that common and all that. 😉

            I get it. What are you writing? Non-fiction or fiction?

          • T

            Fiction, working on my first novel. The first draft came along relatively smoothly, but this rewrite has me dragging my feet.

          • Michael Matthews


            I’m working on a fiction project myself and my approach has been reading about 30 books on the “how-to’s,” extracting all my notes and thoughts into handy checklists for various aspects of the craft (plotting, characterization, dialogue, scene construction, etc.). These lists are incredibly helpful for keeping me on the rails.

            I’m also a big fan of Dramatica. It’s a bit complex at first but is also the most comprehensive and practical theory of story building that I’ve found (McKee’s STORY would be number two, I think) and has really helped with plot and character arc decisions.

            Basically what I’m getting at is what you might be running into is a lack of knowledge. You know something is wrong with an act, for instance, or a character arc, but don’t know what. It doesn’t feel right, but you can’t put your finger on it.

            Or am I wrong?

          • T

            You really are a many of many talents. I look forward to reading your fiction piece when it comes out.

            I’m taking a few days off to get away and focus only on my writing to hopefully get a better foundation and momentum. The checklist is a great idea. Thank you.

            You are not wrong at all. Exactly why I’m feeling “stuck.” I actually will be utilizing a guide by Alan Watt. I used his book “The 90-Day Novel” for my first draft and it was of tremendous help so I’m going to use his follow-up, “The 90-Day Rewrite” during my getaway to help guide me further. I appreciate the two suggestions, I will add them to my reading. I had heard of McKee’s but not Dramatica.

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha I’m just one of those guys that basically never stops working, that’s all. I plan on releasing the first 1/3 (first act, really) of the book for free to get feedback and such, and I hope to have that out Q1 2015 (wish I didn’t have to sleep so I could work on it more!).

            Cool on your plan. Personally, when I get stuck on something I assume it’s either because I’m lacking motivation/will or know-how. Getting back to the “why” helps with the former and studying the latter.

            You should definitely read STORY and Dramatica is intimidating at first but incredibly rewarding if you stick it out.

  • JJ McClinton

    Hows Bls 2.0 coming? Any date determined yet?

    • Michael Matthews

      It’s coming along nicely, thanks for asking. It’s currently being typeset and the audiobook is wrapping up so I’m looking at starting the launch in about 4 weeks. Shouldn’t be any major delays like with BBLS.

  • It sounds like Muscle For Life includes building a strong mind, heart, and soul. This is my favorite thing you’ve written that I’ve read so far.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks a lot Pete. That means a lot to me.

  • Debbye S. Sparks

    I wish some people would really practice all of these, sometimes you can’t help those who don’t want to be helped, Like Socrates said “I can’t teach you anything, I can only make you think” Thanks for the article Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      I wish I practiced all of them all of the time, haha. We can strive! 🙂

  • Marco

    Don’t these contradict each other?

    14. “Always seek to acknowledge your role in causing the circumstances you face in life, both good and bad.”

    15. “much of life is outside of our control.”

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question.

      In #15 I was referring more to the fact that life is inherently a bit chaotic and trying to be a neurotic control freak doesn’t accomplish anything.

      I think some situations we face can be hazy in that shit can hit us completely out of the blue and trying to figure out how the hell we brought that about can just drive us crazy, but many fall under #14–we do things that cause good or bad things to happen in our lives but prefer to negate our responsibility.

  • Walt

    These are 15 excellent points! What’s not excellent is some of the language you use to describe them!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry to offend!

  • Patrick O’Brien

    This is awesome! Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews


  • Billn

    Like the article and just purchase the “Inner Genius” book.

    One of my favorite quotes from Gregory Flood in his book “The Liars’ Prayer” :
    “Your Present Experience Doesn’t Have Dibs on Your Future Just Because It Got There First”. It’s full of other insightful points. Recommend you pick up a used copy (out of print).

    I really like your writing style and appreciate the research your put into each. The references / citations add a lot of credibility and I’ve come to trust your opinions.

    FWIW, I now own all your Sean Patrick and Mike Matthews books. Additionally, I have 3 of your books on both Kindle and Hardcopy (so I can find topics more quickly). Additionally, I have purchase your supplements.

    And yes, I’m getting great results from BLS workouts and HIIT. I’m “all in”.

    Finally, I’m happy you found a way to turn your passions into a successful (and ethical) business. Best of luck to you on future endeavors.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much Bill, I really appreciate the kind words and support. I’m flattered.

      Great quote and thanks for the book reco. I’ll check it out.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Greg

    I really needed this Mike. I could stand to improve in many of these at the moment. I’m going through a break up and a lot of these points can get away from us fast and bleed into other areas of life if we let them at times like these. I’m gonna be sure to keep these handy for some of the more trying days.

    Thanks for the inspiration fitness-wise and with more human element stuff like this. Keep up the great work.

    • I totally understand. Glad you liked the article. Keep up the good work my man.

  • Sammy Dou

    I really like this article. I have a few questions:

    In ‘1’, what does it mean exactly when someone makes you “feel like you have to explain yourself”? What is an example when someone makes you feel like this?

    With regards to ‘9’, are ‘people pleasers’ a perfect example of someone who relies on others for happiness?

    • Hey Sammy, I’m glad you like it! Regarding number 1, any time a person questions why you’re doing something you want to do, or behaving in a certain way. You don’t have to explain your motives or reasoning for your actions.

      You need to be able to make yourself happy, and not depend on others for that. A people pleaser is someone who never says “no,” often out of fear of rejection. I wouldn’t say they depend on others for happiness so much as they aim to make others happy.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account