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Everyone wants to live a good life and be happy. But so many of us struggle. We wrestle with depression, anxiety, and relationship problems, just to name a few. What are some of the key principles to keep in mind when trying to craft the life you really want? Here are three keys for a good life:

Key #1: Focus

The first key area is your focus. We have an unlimited number of things that happen to us in our day-to-day lives, and we can’t focus on everything. Our brain tends to focus on some things and not on other things. We usually do this automatically, but it is possible to direct your focus consciously. People who are happy usually make two key distinctions when focusing their attention and energy. First, they focus on the positive. Instead of complaining about what is going wrong, they focus on what is going well. They keep bring their focus back to gratitude and appreciation. Second, they focus on the things they can control. They stay in their own business—they focus on things they have power to change. They don’t spend a lot of time focusing on other people’s actions or behaviors, or things that are completely outside their control (e.g., the path of the hurricane). Where is your focus?

Key #2: Story

The second key area is the story you make up about the various events in your life. The important thing in life isn’t so much our circumstances—what happens to us—but how we interpret our circumstances. Human beings are meaning makers—we tell ourselves a story about what is going on in the world and our place in it. The key distinction here is that you can tell yourself an empowering story or a disempowering story. You want to get in the habit of interpreting everything that happens to you as helping you grow, develop, and move forward. Even “bad” things that happen to you have the potential to move you forward if you are open to it. Try to think about everything that happens to you as happening “for you” rather than “to you.” What is your story?

Key #3: Action

The third key area is your actions and behaviors. In other words, what do you do on a regular basis? How do you spend your time? What does your calendar look like? Happy people tend to focus their actions in two key areas: growth and giving back. First, they are obsessed with growth. They are constantly learning about themselves and others. They are curious and view everyone as their teacher. They gather information about how to live their lives in a more productive and effective manner. Second, they give back. They don’t just want to accumulate money and possessions, but they want to help other people who are less fortunate than themselves. They want to contribute to society in a meaningful way. They long to provide value to others. They are other-focused. What are your actions?

Discussion

What do you think about the three keys for a good life? How are you doing in each area? Where is your focus? What stories do you tell yourself? What actions do you fill your schedule with? What is one area where you could improve?