Ban these words for a serious attitude boost.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated March 08, 2019
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If finding happiness was easy, everyone would be happy all the time. Unfortunately—or fortunately, if you like a good challenge—being happy can take a lot of work, and part of that work is cutting out phrases, trains of thought, and habits that can actually prevent happiness. The other part, of course, is practicing habits that promote happiness or adopting positive lifestyle choices (such as the Dutch gezellig). Before you can start to work toward happiness, though, you have to stop the actions and thoughts that make you unhappy. Sometimes, even that can be enough.

To that end, take some advice from Laura Gassner Otting, a public speaker, motivator, and writer—her upcoming book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life ($15; amazon.com), comes out April 2. Otting says four simple words, strung together, can bring anyone’s journey toward happiness to a halt: “I’ll be happy when…”

“In even murmuring these words, you hand over your power and your happiness to forces outside of your control,” Otting says. “Why wait to be happy? Why put off for tomorrow what you can, need, and must have today?”

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It’s easy to fall into the “I’ll be happy when…” trap. Who hasn’t believed that happiness or contentment will arrive once you get that perfect job, fall in love, or finally pay off that debt? It’s easy to hope that, once a relatively small part of life is fixed up, everything else will fall into place and then you’ll be happy. But, the reality is, there will always be something else that needs to be fixed before you’re able to be happy, and pretending otherwise is just postponing your own happiness.

Cutting this little phrase out of your vocabulary won’t suddenly make you happy, but it might set you on the right path–one where happiness lies in forces that actually are in your control. (Namely, your own perspective.)