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Boundaries Aren't Just for the Bad Stuff

boundaries engagement goals gratitude happiness life practices mindset personal responsibility positive psychology relationships thriving May 13, 2024

We all want to be happy, but sometimes happiness can feel elusive - like a mirage that recedes no matter how far we walk towards the horizon. We may think if we just get that new job, buy that house, or find that perfect relationship, then we'll finally be happy. But the truth is, happiness isn't something that just lands on us one day. It's the result of living life in a certain way.

The field of positive psychology has revealed some important truths about happiness. Only about 10% of our happiness comes from our circumstances. The rest is determined by our inborn temperament and, most importantly, by our life practices. In other words, happiness isn't something we find, it's something we create through the way we live each day.

The good news is, we can all learn the life practices that lead to greater happiness and thriving. It starts with taking responsibility for our own happiness. Happy people don't wait around for happiness to find them - they proactively create the conditions for happiness in their lives.

One key practice is setting boundaries. Happy people know what matters most to them, what aligns with their values, and they set clear boundaries to protect those priorities. That means saying no to things that don't serve them so they can say yes to the things that do. It means not allowing other people's dysfunction or negativity to invade their lives. Boundaries create the space for happiness to grow.

Setting good boundaries is part of a bigger orientation happy people have - an orientation toward thriving rather than just surviving. When we're in survival mode, we're just trying to get through each day and make it to the next one. But when we shift our focus to thriving, a whole new world opens up. We start pursuing growth, meaning, and joy.

Another important practice of happy people is engagement. They pursue goals and activities that light them up inside. They invest in their relationships. They cultivate hobbies and interests that make them lose track of time. When we're deeply engaged in something, we enter a state called "flow" where we're firing on all cylinders and feel intensely alive. That's happiness.

Of course, all the positive practices in the world won't help if our thinking is creating misery. That's why happy people also work on developing a positive mindset. They view challenges as opportunities to grow. They practice gratitude. They don't compare themselves to others. They focus on what they can control and let go of what they can't. Over time, this creates an upward spiral of positive emotions.

So if you want more happiness in your life, don't wait for it to happen to you. Start creating it, one life practice at a time. Set boundaries to protect what matters most. Shift your focus from surviving to thriving. Pursue meaningful goals and relationships. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Work on your thought life.

Start small and pick one thing to focus on at a time. For your first exercise, take an inventory of your boundaries. Where do you need to set a limit or say no in order to create more space for thriving? Commit to one boundary you'll set this week to invest in your own happiness. Remember, you're not being selfish. You're creating the conditions to be your best self so you can give your best to the world. That's a happiness strategy we can all get behind.

Get Dr. Cloud's free guide on how to deal with the toxic people in your life. 

Dr. Cloud can help you live the life you were meant to live!