Ever notice just how much people want to improve their lives and increase their happiness? This seems to be everyone’s burning desire. It is even written into the Constitution (you know, that old piece of paper you have no idea what it says)!

Being an interesting person and living a full and happy life is not that difficult. The problem is the average person does not make much effort… at anything. They just want a simple solution. They don’t take action and when they do they don’t persist. Just by doing something and sticking with it you are way ahead of everyone else. Remember that.

If you are one of those people that actually wants to be successful, happy and live a fulfilling life, well that’s just peachy! This list is for you.

1. Don’t waste your time

You have far more time on your hands than you realize, but you probably waste it watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web, and other mindless activities. We all need some downtime and we all have things we enjoy, but when those activities consume an inordinate amount of your time it’s a waste. Six hours a day of TV is ridiculous. Use your time for something productive.

2. Be intellectually curious

Use your time to learn, grow and explore. Read books (classics and new), learn a new language, read the newspaper (the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal), or explore an arcane topic—think of all the people you can entertain at parties with your knowledge of the 19th century Italian cardinal Mezzofanti. If you don’t know something, don’t just shrug—go find the answer!

3. Keep learning

I hope you didn’t listen to the stupid bullshit about university not being worth while. It is and a university degree is the best investment you can make in a good life. Even though you might be done with university, don’t stop learning. Keep studying. In fact, pick something and become an expert. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Actually, just read everything by him (and Bill Bryson while you’re at it).

4. Start your personal development

Self help books might be cheesy sometimes, but some of them are quite helpful. Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a bit dated, but a classic. Find others about business, finance, happiness, and so on, and read them or get the audio book version. Your personal development and growth is important.

5. Be polite

If you are from the West Coast like me, using sir and mame is not all that common, but you should use them. They will distinguish you from the common rabble. Always say please and thank you. Those two words have so much power and are so rarely used. Just listen, you will notice that people don’t use them. Ask them and they will tell you they did, but they didn’t. Being polite and courteous will make people like you and notice you.

6. Remember names

People are very attached to their names. Make it a habit to remember names. When you use someone’s name, they immediately perk up. They will remember you, and fondly too, because you showed interest in them by remembering their name.

7. Don’t waste your money

Do you really need the latest fashions? Do you need the entire CD, or will one song be enough? Can you find it somewhere else for free? Chances are you can do without a lot of shit. My little trick: wait a week and if I still want it, then I get it. Whatever you do, do not buy a new car. If you smoke or buy coffee daily, stop. (for your health and your wallet—make coffee a once or twice a week treat, but no more). My point: don’t succumb to the consumption culture, it only brings you down.

8. Save

Save at least 10% of your earnings, more if you can, and do not touch it! Create a free Sharebuilder account (Roth IRA or regular brokerage account), and have your savings automatically invested. Choose index funds (say, 40% in a S&P index fund, 40% in a small cap fund, and 20% in a foreign index). If you don’t know what any of this means, then look it up! You should know about this shit.

9. Pay cash

Credit cards are way to easy to abuse. Don’t get stuck in the debt cycle. Just pay with cash. Pull out what you need and when it runs out, you are done. The only exception to this buying big ticket items when your credit card offers some purchase protection and extended warranties. In that case, literally go home, log into your bank account, and pay the credit card in full that day.

10. Exercise regularly

Maybe you are young with a smoking hot bod, but don’t take it for granted. Trust me, when you are older you will wish that you had kept an exercise routine. Not only does exercise make you look and feel good, but it also improves mental acuity. Going for a walk, job, playing sports, whatever are good. Stay active.

11. Don’t sit around

Our bodies were not made for sitting. If you sit for 8 hours a day, it will kill you. Even if you are working out. If you can’t get a standing desk or a big ball for a “chair” then get up and walk around for 15 minutes every hour or so. Sitting is one of the worst things you can do, so avoid it as much as possible.

12. Eat well

Read Food Rules by Michael Pollan and then follow them. Basically, make vegetables and fruit your primary source of food. Limit meat and dairy. If the food comes in a package, don’t buy it. If you can’t pronounce all of the ingredients or don’t know what they are, don’t buy it. If the first five ingredients contain sugar or salt (learn the terms for these on ingredient lists), don’t buy it.

13. Meditate

Meditation provides clarity of thought, relaxes you, and improves your physical and mention health. This has all be verified by science. Spend a few minutes meditating every day. Trust, the benefits are noticeable and wonderful.

14. Have a moment, then get back at it

We all hit rough patches in life. That’s just part of how it works. It is normal to have moments when we are sad, when we lack faith in our abilities, lose direction, and so on. Bad things happen to us and those that we love. The tick is to not let yourself get caught up in this. You can’t change it, so get back on the train and move yourself forward.

15. Persistence is the secret

Successful people are persistent. Even when things don’t look their best, they stick with it. They don’t give up. Things usually look their worst just before they get really awesome.

16. Have values and don’t compromise them

It is important to have values and not compromise. You should believe in something and stand for it. Values are not necessarily opinions, so don’t confuse the two. Your values set a benchmark for how you approach life. Don’t be afraid to rethink them or challenge them, but don’t compromise on them if you truly believe in them.

17. Maintain your integrity

Similar to your value, integrity is about remaining consistent—being consistent in your actions, values and principles. In other words, walk the talk. People don’t like hypocrites, liars or people who stand for nothing.

18. Have goals

Make a list of goals and develop a 5 year plan, 1 year plan, and a 6 month plan to realize them. You won’t do it all, but you should try. Circumstances will change, though you should make every effort to fulfill your goals. Most importantly, write your goals down pn a physical piece of paper and review them daily. Print them out and have them on your desk or posted on the fridge. Revisit them regularly, updating them as needed.

19. Make a bucket list

You should have a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Some people like to call these life lists. I don’t care what you call it, just have one. Use your imagination. There is a huge world out there with some many amazing things to see and do. Make your list, find ways to do what is on it, and keep adding to it.

20. Don’t be afraid to fail

Failure is the best lesson in life. Everyone fails, so what? It is not the end of the world. You will learn a lot and be better next time. Being afraid to try something new because you are worried you might not succeed is just foolishness. You learned to be afraid, otherwise you would never have been able to walk because you would have been to afraid to try it.

21. Avoid being conventional

There is no reason you have do things the same way as everyone else. Try a different path. Hell, make a new path. Conventional people are boring and limit themselves. Who is more interesting: the guy next door who goes to work every day and comes home and sits on his couch watching TV or Kathy Griffen? Be anything but conventional!

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