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10 Daily Habits of Exceptionally Happy People

By Jeff Haden | Small Business

What you decide not to do can make a huge difference in your life.

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you'll get huge returns -- in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being -- from adding these items to your not to-do list: Every day, make these commitments to yourself. I promise your day - and your life - will go a little better.

Employees make mistakes. Vendors don't deliver on time. Potential customers never sign. So you blame them for your problems. But you are also to blame. Maybe you didn't provide enough training. Maybe you didn't build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked for too much, too soon. Taking responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others isn't masochistic, it's empowering -- because then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time. And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

You've looked away. You've done the, "Wait, let me answer this text..." thing. Maybe you didn't even say, "Wait." You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it. Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they're talking to you, like you're the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone. Other people will feel better about you - and you'll feel better about yourself.

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room. You'll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You'll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you'll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you'll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

Interrupting isn't just rude. When you interrupt someone what you're really saying is, "I'm not listening to you so I can understand what you're saying; I'm listening to you so I can decide what I want to say." Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say. They'll love you for it -- and you'll love how that makes you feel.

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet TMZ are doing fine without you. But your family, your friends, your employees -- all the people that really matter to you - are not. Give them your time and attention. They're the ones who deserve it.

You don't need to know the instant you get an email or text or tweet or like. If something is important enough for you to do, it's important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you're doing. Then, on a schedule you set -- instead of a schedule you let everyone else set -- play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what's happening. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better. If something is wrong, don't waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you'll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now. Don't talk about what's wrong. Talk about how you'll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go. Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn't know -- especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you -- unless you let it.

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you've talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn't everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it's "not your place" to talk to Joe, it's probably not your place to talk about Joe. Spend your time on productive conversations. You'll get a lot more done--and you'll gain a lot more respect.

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don't, should you care too much about what they think? When you say no, at least you'll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don't want to do you might feel bad for a long time -- or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn't want to do in the first place.

We're all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can't change, or what we won't be able to do, or how other people might perceive us. So it's easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide we need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives. Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by. And so do our dreams. Don't let your fears hold you back. Whatever you've been planning, whatever you've imagined, whatever you've dreamed of, get started on it today. Put your fears aside and get started. Do something. Do anything. Otherwise, today is gone. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever. Today is the most precious asset you own -- and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.

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