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The Seven Habits of Highly Joyful People

One of the most popular self-help books ever written, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, came out when I was a child. But what is an effective person? Most of the books of this type would define effectiveness by achievement, as in how well are you at setting out to do something and then doing it. But where does all this achievement get us? Some would say it leads to happiness, but that’s backwards. We’re taught to study hard, and then work hard, and then we wonder why life is so hard. If we teach our children to study joyfully and then work joyfully, we’ve already in a sense achieved what everyone is hoping to find at the other side of their achievements. And the irony is, when you are joyful, you work at your best and are far more likely to be successful in a traditional sense than when straining and stressed.

So here are seven habits I’ve observed in people I know whose baseline state is one of joy.

1. Don’t take anything too seriously

Maharishi has a great quote which is, “We have an infinite number of reasons to be happy, and a serious responsibility not to be serious.” Happy people don’t put all their eggs in the basket of things going a certain way. They look for the humor in everything and see most situations, even those that don’t go well, as an opportunity for laughter.

2. Give the mic to your inner cheerleader, not your inner critic

We all have voices in our heads we’ve internalized that make us feel small or unworthy, but there are also those voices that are encouraging and try to help us see things in a positive light. The most joyful people I know lean into the latter ones and don't feed the former with attention.

3. The first act of the day is one of ritual and connecting within

The first thing we do everyday orients us for everything that happens afterwards. Starting the day with our phones is honoring the chaos of work and the news of the world over all else. I’ve noticed people who seem really grounded in life have some kind of ritual in the morning, whether it’s Surya Namaskar (doing a sun salutation) or getting a cup of tea and sitting quietly for a few minutes before launching into the day.

4. Take care of yourself first

You’d think this would be on the Seven Habits of Highly Selfish People list, but people who are generally joyful are taking care of themselves and know it’s the best way to have the stamina to take care of their loved ones. Burning oneself out never makes for a happy disposition.

5. Honor the inner experience over the outer experience

People who are joyful as their norm prioritize their joy and do the things that support that positive inner experience. They will also make changes when their actions are taking away from that positivity, even if those actions seem important by some other metric.

6. Favor rest

Because happy people are not looking for joy from outside achievements, their identities aren’t wrapped around constant productivity leading to burnout. They know when we’re not rested, we’re stressed, and when we’re stressed, we’re miserable.

7. See everything as a gift

This is the magical habit. It’s the real alchemy. Truly joyful people know how to turn everything gold. By seeing everything as “for us” they’re always finding a way to turn every experience positive. There is no fear from this place.



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