Psych Central

happinessAre we really talking about your in-laws again? This was my thought as I sat with my client who has logged countless hours lamenting about her husband’s family and their endless shortcomings. Once again, I redirected her to focus on that which she can control—herself.

I’m guilty of this myself. My first round of therapy during graduate school starred my mother. The second round featured my husband. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-to-late thirties that I truly brought the focus of my therapeutic journey to myself. This is when I began to awaken and blossom.

Fast-forward through the bullshit to the path of happiness by taking these steps:  

1) Take responsibility for yourself. Consider the wisdom of Wayne Dyer, ”Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make.”

Yes, we must honor our family-of-origin and earlier life experiences for how they shaped and molded us—but we must also take responsibility for how we unconsciously recreate familiar themes and pattern in our lives until we choose something different.  Accept the past and let it go. Write out your grievances and ceremoniously shred or burn them. Thank those experiences for granting you the wisdom you now possess.

2) Empower yourself. Focus on the present. Create the life you want. Change boundaries in relationships that are not working for you.  Seek healthy relationships that support and inspire you.  Set healthy limits with others.  Do work that is meaningful to you and that is aligned with your highest self.  Beware not to set your own ceilings with self-limiting beliefs and instead, aim high.

3) Love yourself.  Advocate for yourself assertively, demonstrating respect for others as well as yourself in a way that is honest, clear and direct.  Be your own good parent.  Take excellent care of yourself (physically, emotionally, spiritually.)  Practice self-care for pleasure (leisure, hobbies, etc.)  Open yourself up to receiving abundance, prosperity and tremendous joy by truly knowing you deserve these things and they are readily available to you for the asking.  Imagine you have a magic wand and create your greatest personal and professional vision.  Then live your life with intentions that support this vision to make it your reality.

Be the author of your own life story—and make it good.

Twitter: @Joyce_Marter and @Urban_Balance

Facebook:  Joyce Marter, LCPC and Urban Balance

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Image: Creative Commons License Dawn Ashley via Compfight




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    Last reviewed: 17 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Marter, J. (2013). The First Step Towards Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from



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  • Mark: I disagree that the example used is inappropriate. I find it’s often the decisions we make personally...
  • Candy Wilde: Communicate with your partner is what most peoples advice is. Sounds easy but when touching on the...
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  • Joyce Marter, LCPC: Good feedback, thanks!
  • Meems: This therapist uses the word “I” a bit too much.
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