The Key to Happiness: Choosing to Shift Your Present Mindset

UPDATED: May 10, 2023
PUBLISHED: June 26, 2019
Mindset and the Happiness Factor

Did you know that unhappiness is a disease that is growing rapidly in the workplace and in our personal lives? Are you aware that the quality of happiness you have at this point in your life is determined by a particular mindset that you have created over a period of time?

Related: 9 Bad Habits That Can Lead to Unhappiness

Making happiness a choice is what it’s all about. No matter what your personal or professional circumstances, you can adjust your attitude and elevate your “degree of overall happiness” by choosing to shift your present mindset. When you fully appreciate that the mood you’re in right this second affects how you’ll deal with what’s coming next, you will want to make the choices that will help you to feel better, not worse. That, my friend, is a major key to living a successful, happy life. Remember: When shift happens, your life changes.

Many of my clients refer to me as “The Attitude Adjuster” because I help people realize how they can acquire the attitude and mindset they need to succeed in all levels of life while enjoying the process.  Therein lays the key: “while enjoying the process.” Unfortunately, in this day and age, enjoyment seems to be something that many people leave by the wayside, especially when change is taking place and the pressure is on to reinvent yourself and achieve new goals, or when there are tight deadlines to be met and things aren’t going exactly as planned. Now more than ever, people are having difficulty balancing their lives, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. This is when stress levels become overwhelming and self-doubt, anger, uncertainty, fear and a host of other negative emotions can create a dangerous mindset. Without realizing it, people deny themselves enjoyment and lose their ability to laugh and have fun at the time when it’s most crucial.

What truly amazes me is that there are those who actually believe if you are enjoying yourself and having fun at work, you’re simply not doing your job properly. That’s BS! The fact is, and you can prove this to yourself at any time, if you’re having fun at work, everyone benefits. This holds true for every aspect of our lives. No matter who you are or what you’re doing—whether you’re teaching or learning—if you are enjoying the process, the odds are in your favor that you’ll achieve the outcome you desire. It seems obvious to consciously choose happiness, but I would wager any amount of money that when writing out their short-term or long-term goals and plans, most people don’t count enjoying themselves during the process as part of the equation.

Let me quickly define for you what I mean when I refer to “the process.” It’s not just the steps you take in a direct effort to achieve a particular goal, but it is your life in its entirety. This means all daily activities that make up your life—whether picking up your dry cleaning, shopping for food, feeding the baby or taking a nap. In other words, “the process” is your life.

“If choosing happiness is such an obvious thing to do,” you may ask, “then why is it so darn hard to remember to do it consistently?” This is a fair question, and here is one answer that may surprise you.

The workout crazes of the early ‘80s brought about the phrase “No pain, no gain,” and American culture was quick to adopt it in every facet of life. “‘No pain, no gain’ is an American modern mini-narrative,” David Morris wrote in The Scientist in 2005. “It compresses the story of a protagonist who understands that the road to achievement runs only through hardship.” The perception and mindset was, and continues to be, that if you’re having fun, you must not be getting anything worthwhile done. I’ll say it again: I call BS! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that everyone sit around all day being content with what they have. I’m suggesting that not only is it OK, but it’s your right to enjoy every step you take toward achieving your goals. If you are consistently making choices to enjoy yourself during the process of whatever it is that you are trying to achieve, you will more than likely get there easier and faster.

Therefore, we have to be aware of the mindsets we create that defer happiness in our lives. We must be diligent and remind ourselves that the constant pressure to achieve our professional and personal goals is no reason not to enjoy the steps along the way.

Related: The Key to Your Overall Happiness Is Simple

I am constantly amazed by the ways that people manage to deny themselves the chance at happiness in the moment. Instead, they fall prey to a dangerous mindset that decreases their potential for happiness.  They put their happiness on hold when they repeat and internalize negative statements like, “When I finally buy a house, I’ll be less stressed and I can enjoy myself,” or “I’ll be happy when I’m able to retire,” or “I would be happy if I only made more money.”

Trust me when I say there are always more bills to pay and something expensive to repair around the house. Unexpected setbacks will occur and new work projects will quickly replace the ones that are currently stressing you out. Statements that focus on what you lack in the present, or predicate happiness on a future event, destroy your chance of enjoying the moment.

There are far too many people holding onto their precious ticket to Happy Land, waiting for the Good-Time Express to arrive. Give me a break! Better yet, give yourself a break. This defies all logic. Why wait for good times? Why not have them now? In fact, now is the only place where good times can happen.  They can’t happen in the past and they can’t happen in the future.

The point I’m making is that happiness can only be experienced in the present, in the moment of whatever it is that you are trying to achieve right now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t plan for the future, set goals, undergo your daily routine, deal with the unexpected and still make conscious choices to enjoy yourself while doing so. People who consistently enjoy the process not only reap the benefits of achieving their goal, but they have a fond appreciation of how they earned it. In my view, that is the ultimate success.

You might be thinking, “So what if I have to wait to get what I want to be happy? Aren’t some things worth waiting for?” It’s true that some things are worth waiting for. The caramel at the bottom of an ice cream sundae comes to mind, but certainly not your happiness. You can’t wait for happiness. Of course you feel happy once you get what you want. You’ve completed the task and received your due reward. Life is good again. You can relax and enjoy yourself for the rest of time, right?

Sorry to break it to you, but happiness doesn’t work that way. What you’re really experiencing is not happiness, but temporary relief. Relief is fine. It’s certainly a byproduct of happiness, which is welcomed and feels good, but it’s not long lasting and it’s not true happiness. In a short time, you will notice the return of that same needful, longing mindset and the elation, brought on by attaining your heart’s desire, starts to recede. It’s at this point that the old mindset returns and the cycle begins again, making your attainment of happiness into a carrot to trudge after. You can find yourself thinking, “OK, that was nice. I achieved that goal and I have all the money I want. But for some reason the thrill is gone. Now what else do I have to achieve so that I can be happy once again?” When you convince yourself that your happiness is dependent upon something that has to take place in the future, it is difficult to enjoy the present. Let me blow your mind for a moment: The present is a gift. Unwrap it.

Whether you’re at home cleaning out the garage, making cold sales calls, comparing prices of brands of peanut butter or preparing a pitch to win more business for your company, it is your right to enjoy yourself. That may be one of the keys to attain happiness, understanding that happiness is your personal right, just like freedom of speech and being able to vote. It’s curious to me that we have laws in place to make sure no one infringes upon our right to happiness, yet we are so often a willing impediment to our own enjoyment of life.

It’s time to shift into a happier mindset! That’s your choice and your responsibility. It’s time to shift your focus and way of thinking to what’s working in your life, rather than fixating on what isn’t working. Be eternally grateful for what you have. Every day, throughout the day, bless the things that life has given you rather than cursing what life hasn’t given you.

Treat life as a game. Unleash the child within you and have fun with life. Know that your sense of humor is your sense of perspective—it’s a choice you have on how to deal with the stuff that life throws at you every day. Every day, throughout the day, find the laughter within and around you. When you are able to instill these qualities into yourself, you not only attract happiness, you become happiness and happiness becomes you and you take it with you everywhere you go.

The Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to “the pursuit of Happiness.” Maybe it should read “Life, Liberty and the Happiness of the pursuit.” Now that’s a mindset to adhere to.

Related: The Key to Accomplishing More: Having Fun

Photo by Yuvraj Singh on Unsplash

Steve Rizzo is the Attitude Adjuster. You can’t attend one of his keynote speeches and leave with the same attitude. He’s a personal development expert, comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. It’s no surprise that he’s been inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon on fewer than 250 speakers worldwide since 1977. You can find out more at