For much of my life, happiness eluded me. I understood the idea of being happy, but I couldn’t experience it. I had a rough childhood that involved mental, physical, and emotional abuse. I left home at 17 to escape. I didn't see or feel happiness very much growing up.

My happiness isn't an accident. It took a lot of work to get here, and it takes work to maintain it.
 

After I left home, I dropped out of high school to work three jobs. That didn’t afford me many happy moments, either. I did get my GED, which then qualified me to get a series of 13 dead-end jobs. At that point, I'm not sure I even believed in happiness anymore — or at least that it was accessible to me. But then everything changed.

At this point in my life, I can honestly tell you that I experience happiness every day. I understand what it means, and what nourishes and detracts from it. It isn't an accident. It took a lot of work to get here, and it takes work to maintain it.

For me, it all started with teaching myself a new way of thinking about and seeking happiness. Certain myths about happiness had been blocking the true experience of it, until I let them go.

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Here are a few of the myths that might be holding you back, too.

1. Happiness is a destination.

I always thought of happiness as a finish line. I thought it started with working on my major life goals, and when I accomplished them, I would “reach” happiness. Beginning to explore the idea of happiness in literature and with people wiser than I, I began to accept that happiness is not dependent on circumstance. It's dependent on mindset.

You don’t have to achieve your biggest goals and dreams before you can be happy. The journey to those achievements is filled with opportunities for joy. Life doesn't always play fair. It might have dealt you a tough hand. But that isn't a barrier to happiness. It's an opportunity to adjust your attitude and find satisfaction in the slivers of light that shine so much more brightly in the dark. Nothing is more satisfying than enjoying happiness after every punch you take.

2. You can be happy without money.

For a large portion of my life, I’ve been broke. Correction: more than broke. I owed money to family, friends, and companies and was constantly stressed about how I was going to pay the bills.

In 2012, I started a lifestyle business. I write, speak, and consult. The business grew and allowed me to pay off all my debt. With the debt paid off and enough money to live comfortably, I learned that although money doesn’t lead to happiness, it IS a part of the happiness equation.

You can’t enjoy the little things when you’re constantly stressed about having enough money to pay your bills. You don’t need to be a millionaire or even make six figures, but you do have to have enough money to free yourself from financial stress. Liberating yourself from worry is crucial to lasting happiness.

3. Your relationships don't determine your happiness.

Love is one of life's most exquisite gifts. But it can break your heart. I have experienced both. I was convinced that I could be happy despite everything inside of me screaming in pain from lost love. I was wrong.

Your relationships can and will affect your happiness.
 

It's important to end any toxic relationships and embrace the ones that make your life better. Get honest with yourself about the relationships in your life. If they make you unhappy more often than they make you happy, it might be time to reassess their value.

4. I, personally, cannot be happy because...

I could insert hundreds of reasons I thought happiness was out of reach — the abuse, the lack of education, the series of disheartening jobs — they all painted a picture that happiness just wasn't in the cards for me.

Your beliefs directly affect your decisions and actions. If you don’t believe happiness is possible for you, trying to make choices that lead to happiness will seem ridiculous.

Happiness starts in your mind and manifests in your actions. Don’t let self-limiting beliefs convince you that you can't have what you want. You can be happy.

Happiness is a decision you can make right now. You can wake up each day determined to choose happiness and do the work to make happiness your reality.

What myths about happiness have you been believing?

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