How To Be Free, Happy, and Successful – Part I

by Stephen Mills on September 9, 2009

This article contains a collection of bits of wisdom on freedom, happiness, success, and a few other topics.

Be Extraordinary

Being extraordinary is something that anyone can do no matter what it is you do.  You don’t have to be in any particular job or circumstance to be extraordinary and make a difference in your world.  It’s not about your circumstances, it’s about you.  You can choose do be extraordinary.

“If Fred the Postman could bring extraordinary creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box, I can do as much or more to reinvent my work and rejuvenate my efforts.  He is proof that there are no insignificant or ordinary jobs when they’re performed by significant or extraordinary people.”  — Mark Sanborn

Stop Trying To Do It All

I know you think you have to do all those things you think you have to do, but you don’t.  I used to be there too.  All the people who got used to me doing all those things also got used to me not doing them anymore.  The world survived and the earth continues to spin.  I’m a lot happy and healthier as a result.  If you are a helicopter parent, your children will not die if you stop hovering.  In fact they will start to thrive when you give them some room.

“Learn that productivity isn’t everything. Creating is great, but you don’t need to fill every second with work. When you do work, get excited, pour yourself into it, work on important, high-impact tasks … and then relax.” — Leo Babauta

Identify the Essential and Eliminate the Rest

This two step process is the most elegant way to simplify your life.  It’s easy and it works miracles.  The biggest stumbling blocks occur because people think everything they do is essential or they can’t eliminate the other stuff because somebody else will not survive.  They are wrong on both accounts.  So get busy identifying the essential and eliminating the rest.

“Our lives are frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify” — Henry David Thoreau

Free Yourself From the Manipulation of Others

Consider how you are damaging or neglecting your healthy relationships by tolerating the toxic ones.  You don’t get a mulligan (do-over) in life.  Every minute spent with a toxic person is a minute taken from a healthy relationship and a minute lost from your magnificent life.  Set yourself free from manipulative relationships.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” — Helen Keller

Freedom From Commitment

“If there is one change you could make today that would have the biggest impact on your life in terms of productivity, effectiveness, and being able to do the things you most want to do, it would be to reduce the commitments in your life.”  — Leo Babauta

I couldn’t not agree with the sentiments quoted above more.  People fill their lives with one commitment after another, one at a time.  You are giving your life away one commitment at a time. Free yourself from commitments.

Stop Killing Yourself With Choices

Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.  In the book he documents how all the choices we have are making us unhappy.  You are probably stressing yourself out, wasting time and mental energy, and generally sabotaging your success and happiness by making too many decisions.  When our biology evolved, we had few choices.  Eat or die.  Run or die.  Hide or die.  Kill or die.  Our minds were built to look for patterns and make quick decisions in order to survive.  Top 10 Ways To Stop Killing Yourself With Choices

“If you overcome paralysis and manage to choose, and you manage to choose well, you’ll be less satisfied with what you’ve chosen if you’ve chosen from a large set than if you’ve chosen from a small one. Even if you make the right choice, you end up thinking about all those other wonderful things you’ve passed up, and that makes your choice less satisfying.” — Barry Schwartz

Paying The Price of Freedom

Everything you do or don’t do has a price attached.  You pay a price to change and you pay a price to maintain the status quo.  The price you pay may be in the form of money, time, stress, health, a confrontation, loss of friendship, loss of material things, or anything else for which you have value.  Determine what is trapping you in the life you don’t want and pay the price to get out.

“Every day outside of a box is another day added to your free life.” – Harry Browne

Make Positive Choices

Are you making primarily positive choices – choosing the best among good alternatives, or primarily negative choices – choosing the least worst alternative?  If you are making too many negative choices then you are trapped by your situation.  A free person will be choosing from a set of good alternatives most of the time.  Take an inventory of your choices and create a life of positive alternatives.

“Why do you have to postpone moving to a warmer climate where you can swim all year round, until you are so old that you’re afraid of the water?” – David S. Viscott

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

This has made a huge difference in my life.  If you can truly absorb and practice a mindset that doesn’t sweat the small stuff, you can take a giant step forward toward a life of happiness and peaceful well-being.

“Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” — Robert Elliot

Well-Being is Better Than Happiness

I recommend you choose well-being over happiness.  Occasional happy moments happen to everyone regardless of your overall state.  Happiness is a number of short-lived states.  You can be temporarily happy doing things that will hurt you and cause serious trouble in the long wrong.  Well-being is more a state of contentment and a sense of serenity and peacefulness that comes from knowing you are doing things and living in a way that is right for you.  Well-being requires positive action on your part.  You are choosing to live according your values.

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” — Marcus Aurelius

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Diggy - September 10, 2009 at 6:26 am

Heya Stephen!

Sometimes we create so much business for ourselves, filling our time with things that dont really matter. What if we just stopped everything for a bit, and noticed how much freedom we really have?

Mostly its about doing things differently, seeing them from a different angle, questioning why people do things in a certain way. This may not always pay off, but there will be times where you make a discovery and have the rest of the world follow you 🙂

Thanks for the inspiration!!
.-= Diggy –´s last blog ..The Timing is Never Right =-.


Stephen Mills September 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Hi Diggy! Thanks for your comments and you are welcome. Have a great weekend.


BunnygotBlog September 10, 2009 at 7:13 am


You have presented a great post to improve our daily routines in life. Change is good its value is less stress. Stress is something we all could use less of in our lives.
.-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Labor Day Weekend – Summer Sendoff =-.


Stephen Mills September 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Hi Bunny. Thanks for stopping in to comment. I really appreciate all of your support and your great blog articles. 🙂


Vin - NaturalBias September 10, 2009 at 7:18 am

Great tips, Stephen! I was actually thinking of Leo’s book when I came to “Stop Trying to Do it All.” Identify the essential and eliminate all the rest very much relates to his philosophy as well. Perhaps he learned from Thoreau!
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Proof that Modern Foods Cause Human Degeneration =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Hi Vin, did you see Leo has a new minimalist blog?


Addrienne August 26, 2014 at 5:49 am

Please teach the rest of these internet hognaoils how to write and research!


Flash September 10, 2009 at 8:30 am

As usual, good article.

I do have one question, though, “Who is Fred the Postman and how did he bring extraordinary creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box?”
.-= Flash´s last blog ..20 years =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Hi Flash. Fred is the title story in a book by Mark Sandborn called “The Fred Factor”. Click the link in that paragraph to read more as I made it the subject of a blog article.


Kaylyn August 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm

That kind of thinking shows you’re an eepxrt


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills September 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Stephen – OUTSTANDING! The way you wove this together really brought it home, thank you.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Conscious Awareness – When Change Leads to Acceptance =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Hey Jonathan, thanks so much!


Mary September 10, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Thank you so much, again, as usual. I am overwhelmed personally right now. I guess the hardest part for me if really truly figuring out what is essential. I am continually amazed at how often your posts and tweets help me. Thank you so much


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Hello Mary and thank you! Try not doing some of the things you think are less essential and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at how the world doesn’t stop. It was a lesson I had to learn too.


alternaview September 10, 2009 at 10:09 pm

This is a great post and it delivers a very important message. We do need to focus our attention on being extraordinary and do all we can to make certain that the thoughts and emotions we have are aligned with us being able to reach our goal. I read somewhere that whatever you turn your attention to, you are capable of creating. The problem is that often we are focused on so many other things aside from being extraordinary. It is easy to become preoccupied and focused on all the things going on around us that we fail to focus our attention on those things that are really important, such as being extraordinay. Thanks for the post. Your suggestions are all very helpful.
.-= alternaview´s last blog ..There is no need to worry about the future =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

alternaview, hello again! Focus is definitely critical to creating. When we aren’t paying attention to what we are doing we are doing a job less well done.


Robin Easton September 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

You have no idea how timely this is for me right now. I’ve just been offered a book contract this week and this last year I had to simply cut waaaay back on EVERYTHING just to be able to do the work that needed to be done….AND still have a personal life. By that I mean time with my husband, time to do my yoga and walking/hiking exercising, time to eat healthy and take care of myself.

Many people were upset with me because I could not be in their lives in the way I previously had been. Not if I wanted to stay healthy, not grossly overextend and also be able to continue to fulfill my dreams. Some of these people don’t work or even have hobbies/interests. And that’s okay for them, I do not judge, but it is not my life. My life is filled with dreams and creative projects and amazing time spent with my husband and all kinds of adventurous things. I LOVE living and I no longer wanted to spend hours on the phone. And one day it just hit me that this in my life. I don’t have to spend hours on the phone.

I LOVE this whole paragraph: “Consider how you are damaging or neglecting your healthy relationships by tolerating the toxic ones. You don’t get a mulligan (do-over) in life. Every minute spent with a toxic person is a minute taken from a healthy relationship and a minute lost from your magnificent life. Set yourself free from manipulative relationships.”

This whole post is just TOPNOTCH!! It’s one I’ll print out and read again probably more than once. Thank you for this solid stand. I LOVE it!!!!!
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Dare to Take Risks =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hello Robin and thanks! Your zest for life is so contagious 🙂


Zeenat(Positive Provocations} September 11, 2009 at 4:22 am

Hey Stephen,
An awesome post as always!!!
This is such a well presented article. Has covered every topic that has high impact on our lives. Loved all the quotes 🙂 They are like Little drops of wisdom to enhance this post.
I loved all the points…but my 2 personal favorites are:
1}Be Extraordinary…and the postman…just excellent.
2}Well-Being is Better Than Happiness….and the quote“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” — Marcus Aurelius…is one of my favorite quotes. I often say this quote to charge myself up before a big event…like an interview, seminar, etc…Somehow its very empowering 🙂
Thank you Stephen for such a wisdom filled post.
.-= Zeenat(Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Lost Souls – A Tribute =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Hi Zeenat and thanks for your support. How inspiring to be the an extraordinary postman!


Positively Present September 12, 2009 at 6:29 am

What a great post! I feel so inspired now… and can’t wait for Part II! 🙂
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..own your happiness =-.


Stephen Mills September 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Positively Present, thanks and have a fantastic weekend!


Oscar - freestyle mind September 12, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Great article Stephen. Thanks for reminding that to be happy we don’t need anything special. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
.-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..The Zero Hour Workweek By Jonathan Mead =-.


Stephen Mills September 13, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Thanks, Oscar. I’ll be putting out Part II soon!


jonathan figaro September 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Seeing yourself in your mind as extraordinary. Why? do you want to create happiness? do you want to be successful? do you want to reach your goals? Then Extraordinary is the only route. Great post!


Stephen Mills September 13, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Hello Jonathan! Thanks for you comments and support!


Jonny September 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Stephen, You have a great writing style which is very easy to read. I hope you continue to create great posts.


Pankaj Giri February 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I was trapped in some fuzzy thoughts. yours article help me lot to clear those thoughts(fear of failure).


Stephen Mills February 7, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Hello Pankaj. I’m glad this helped.


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