Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where everyone around you is happy?
Yes. In theory. And you’re much better off forgetting about theory and ideas here. You want to be as pragmatic as possible.
You came to this page because you’ve noticed you are constantly trying to make everyone happy. And you’d like to stop.
The good news: once you understand the basics of happiness and how each person is responsible for their own, it’s easy to stop.
I used to struggle with this. I used to be a perfectionist, and I used to think others’ happiness was my responsibility.
Perfectionism made me chase unrealistic ideals — most importantly, an unrealistic idea of the world and how people should think and feel.
False responsibility made me exhausted. Not only that, I would always feel I wasn’t doing enough. For myself and others.
What does happiness depend on?
Provided all basic needs are met (I’m referring to actual basic needs, not wishes or desires), then happiness is mostly a state of mind.
Say someone is “happy” because they’ve just purchased a new car. That happiness is mostly the result of their own thoughts, not the car itself.
What created that sense of happiness was the anticipation, the thought that the new car may be beautiful, or useful, or that it may improve the person’s life in some way.
Or, it could be that purchasing a car was a goal, and that the purchase meant the goal was achieved. And so on.
All that was created in the mind. All that was the result of thoughts.
Now, material items are a bit of an obvious example. But this concept usually applies to any other experience or thing that we think makes us happy.
For example, if someone has low self-esteem and is told they look amazing, that compliment may make that person happy.
However, that happiness could always be there if that person did not depend on other people’s opinions, if their sense of self-worth was healthier.
So again, it all starts with the mind — our thoughts, how we perceive ourselves, and ultimately, the decision to be happy.
As the quote says: if you want to be happy, be. Most of us have been conditioned to think that happiness is something that can only be “achieved”, or “won”.
Most of us think happiness is external and therefore that it can be exchanged, bought, given, taken, reached, etc.
What if happiness was as simple as a decision? Again: I’m not referring to basic needs. You wouldn’t tell a starving person to go meditate and think positive.
Trying to make everyone happy doesn’t work
One more thing: if you’re trying to make everyone happy, please save yourself time because it just doesn’t work.
You can give someone a present. You can make them smile or laugh. You can tell them they’re beautiful. You can give them advice and support.
And all these things certainly feel great. It’s great to give, to inspire, to try and make the world a better place.
But here’s the thing — and this is the fundamental take-home message: if your goal is to make everyone happy, you will never succeed.
Why? Because happiness is far more complex than having people who care about you. Or having enough money. Or being appreciated.
If that was the case, then being happy would be as simple as going through a checklist and then once you’re done, you’re happy forever.
I’ll repeat: happiness is mostly a state of mind. Which then translates to a certain type of thoughts, which then translates to a certain type of feelings, action, and decisions in life.
If you think you have the power to make everyone happy, you’re delusional. You? Really? How could you ever have the power to control others’ thoughts and feelings?
You can be kind to others. You can inspire them to be the greatest they can be. You can live a life where all forms of unnecessary suffering are reduced.
And so on. And that’s awesome. But unfortunately, it will never guarantee those around you will be happy, because happiness is almost always their responsibility.
How to stop trying to make everyone happy
If you haven’t skipped the first part of the article, then you might already have an idea.
Anyway, here are eight tips to stop trying to make everyone happy…
1. Realize it’s an impossible task
Imagine you’re trying to reach an impossible goal. That’s only going to make you miserable. That’s only going to cause frustration.
There is a lot we can do to make ourselves happy. But our ability to make others happy is very limited (for all the reasons mentioned already).
2. Prioritize your own happiness
To give love, you first need to love yourself. To make others happier, you first need to be in a positive state of mind. And so on.
Have you ever thought about putting yourself first, about prioritizing your own happiness? A bright enough light illuminates everything around it, not through an effort, but naturally.
3. Realize happiness cannot be given
I’ll repeat: You can give someone a present, advice, support, a smile, etc. and that’s great. But happiness itself isn’t an item. It has no price tag. It cannot be measured by any number.
And it cannot be given. Pleasure can be given — hence the term people-pleaser — but happiness is a much bigger, much more profound and complete feeling.
4. Realize happiness is a choice
If your thoughts are something you have control over, then the same applies to happiness. People can consciously choose to think a certain way.
Therefore, they can choose to be happy (or happier). You can inspire others to make that decision. But the decision itself is their responsibility.
5. Normalize unhappiness
We tend to avoid emotions like sadness, grief, boredom, frustration, anything that makes us uncomfortable. It’s human nature.
And we’re also bombarded with pictures and videos of happy people — people who often fake happiness. But what if a constant state of bliss and happiness wasn’t normal at all? It’s not.
6. Know your (real) purpose
As I mentioned earlier, I used to try to make everyone happy as well and that led to being exhausted all the time.
I thought making others happy was my purpose, so I was filling my time with it. Find and know your real purpose — that’s what truly matters.
7. Know you’re not responsible
You are responsible for your own happiness. This doesn’t mean you are also responsible for everyone else’s happiness.
You can consciously choose to be kind, to help others, to brighten their day. That’s different. That’s a choice, not a responsibility.
8. Know you know nothing
Lastly, the idea of making everyone happy is toxic in the sense that, really, you have no idea what others need to experience in their life.
We all go through phases. We all need to learn lessons. This is why feelings of disappointment, anger, resentment etc. aren’t just helpful, but necessary.
The person you’re so desperately trying to make happy may be going through a difficult but necessary phase, and although it can only be a good thing to try and help them, you can’t magically change their emotions.