The average person finds themselves, at least occasionally, overwhelmed with their own life. Overflowing schedules, sleepless nights, deadlines, rent, heartbreak, tragedy – from endless and exhausting everyday things to serious problems. Keeping it all together is difficult even for those rare few who have it all together, let alone those of us who feel lost. We sacrifice our mental and physical health for our careers and families and at the end of the day, we’re tired and confused, wishing someone would come along and explain how to fix the problem, how to feel better. What can we do to change our life and be happy?

Start slowly

Pain is a funny thing. In a lot of ways, it makes us selfish. When we are hurting, it’s hard to focus on someone else. Stress and weariness make it hard to care about other people’s worries and problems, because we’re just too tired to notice. And then comes the greatest enemy of progress – self-pity. We indulge in it with a masochistic sort of delight, blaming the world for being careless, for being cruel. Why did it have to go and deal us a bad hand, when there are billionaires out there, sipping cocktails on their yachts and enjoying every moment of their lives? Why are some born into privilege that they don’t deserve? We form grudges and then we coddle them, growing more and more bitter with each passing day.

The only way to counter dark thoughts is to become more self-aware. This is only the first step in figuring out how to change your life, but it’s an important one. To understand others, we must first understand ourselves. In order to overcome obstacles, we have to focus on how to solve problems, not how unfair it is that the problem is there in the first place. Life is unfair, but if we don’t find ways to wrestle with it, no one else will do it for us.

Remember what’s really important

How many times did you think “Oh, if only I had a lot of money, all my problems would disappear.”  While finances are important, most of us don’t really understand what kind of impact money has on us. Money, on its own, has no meaning. Big houses and fast cars are empty, meaningless dreams. It’s useless to focus on them as the end goal, because we tend to teach ourselves that we need fancy, expensive things to feel joy. We become obsessed with satisfying our impulses by buying things we don’t need.

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Money is a tool, and the only way to get a better life is to start seeing it as such. It can enable us to do many great things, but it’s not going to make us happy on its own. Spending time with our family, being healthy, doing things we enjoy, that’s what will make us happy. As for money, there are many ways to save up, from buying second hand clothes to finding a discount chemist – just embrace simplicity and thoughtfulness before you jump to buy something.

Learn the final secret

By now, you understand that to influence external circumstances, the change you make needs to come from within you. So, how do we change ourselves and learn to be happy? The answer is simple – through passion. We change our lives by taking every last bit of fire we have in us and putting it into the things we love. We fight tooth and nail to make our dreams come true, we dedicate our time to learning the skills that we always wanted to know, we don’t let rejection discourage us. Being passive will get us nowhere, so we do all those things we kept promising we’d do: drink more water, exercise, learn a language, read a book, live the life that we want to live. Good things won’t fall from the sky, but luckily, through passion, we will reach them on our own.

The world does not belong to the meek and the quiet. It belongs to those who are fierce, who fight for themselves and what they believe in. When you look back on the life you’ve lived, will you be happy to say that you didn’t stick out? Or would you rather be the passionate person who has made a difference, who took the bad and turned it into something good and valuable?

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Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life. He is an all-around fitness adviser and his words are strong as an Australian Bull.