Hot-air Baloon

App A: The Choose To Be Happy Checklist

Key Guidelines Checklist from the book, You Can Choose To Be Happy

Tom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
Send Feedback/Questions to:
You Can Choose To Be Happy:
Site dedicated to enhancing human happiness, self-development, and success
SITE MAP: All free Self-help resources includes online book, You Can Choose To Be Happy, and SHAQ

Photo of Dr Tom and Sherry Stevens
search index brief sitemap advanced site search
search engine by freefind

Appendix A: From the book, 
  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression,  Dr. Tom G. Stevens

The Choose To Be Happy Checklist

Along with personal and clinical experience, research has now provided strong support that these guidelines really work!
Go to: to see the results.

Do you know that you can "choose to be happy"? You can't just say to yourself, "Be happy" and magically become happy; but you can choose beliefs, thoughts, and actions that will lead to happiness. This list of tips are key points from my book.

 1. CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY BY MAKING HAPPINESS (for self and others) YOUR TOP GOAL. If you make money, success, a good lifestyle, or even family approval your top goal in life--yet are not happy--what have you gained? Aristotle said that only happiness is worthy of being our top goal. To maximize your chances of being happy, make overall happiness for yourself and others your top goal (ultimate concern) in life. Integrate all other goals around that central goal. Happiness is different from pleasure. It isn't shortsighted or selfish the way pleasure is. Happiness requires love, enlightenment, truth, getting higher needs met, and inner harmony.

You are responsible for your own happiness. No other person or external condition can make you happy or unhappy. You control your own happiness by your own thoughts and actions. Your happiness is in the palm of your hand. You can choose to be happy by developing your Happiness IQ--learning functional beliefs and life skills and learning both internal and external routes to happiness. (Chapters 1,2)
Go to beginning

 2. LOVE SELF AND OTHERS UNCONDITIONALLY. Love and happiness go hand in hand. The feeling of love is a happy feeling--perhaps even the essence of happiness. Loving someone means making their health and happiness a high priority. Choosing to make happiness for self and others your ultimate concern is the practical application of loving self and others. To develop your own self-love (self-esteem), take good care of yourself in each area of your life--health, career, relationships, recreation, finances, spiritual life, etc.

An important element of self-esteem and happiness is loving yourself and others unconditionally. Unconditional love can overcome the criticism, negativity, and dysfunctional treatment from others. Loving self and others unconditionally means finding something beautiful and worthwhile in ourselves and others no matter what we are or what we have done. No matter how unintelligent, ugly, uneducated, poor, or sick we are. No matter how much we have failed or done bad or stupid things. No matter what anyone thinks of us. No matter if no one else in the world likes us or not. No matter what--we are still worthy of our own love and still worthy of making happiness a top goal.

To love yourself unconditionally (1) find a philosophy of life that appreciates all human beings, (2) continually choose to make health and happiness top goals, and (3)use the self-acceptance process to accept and forgive the worst aspects of yourself and others. Cleanse your emotions from recurring feelings of resentment and guilt. Face the worst incidents head on. Empathy is the best cure for anger and guilt. First, understand possible causes. Understand why people do harmful things, and understand that destructive people are not happy people--they constantly pay for their harm to others. The dysfunctional beliefs that hurt victims hurt perpetrators. Choosing to focus on "unfairness" or "getting even" only generates more pain for you--worsening the original injury. Instead, focus on acceptance and make your own life as happy as possible. Then, the past will not matter so much, "Let go and let God." (Chapter 5--also Appendix on Anger)

 3. SEEK TIMELESS, MENTAL (or Spiritual) VALUES.   As soon as you choose an important goal, you give it power over your life. If you choose to make money a top goal, then instantly you give money power over your emotions. Anyone controlling your income can control you and your emotions. Uncertainty over money will create high anxiety. If you make timeless, mental values like happiness, truth, beauty, knowledge, and love primary values, then you have much more control over your own destiny. You can fulfill these values in many ways that don't depend on other people or ups and downs of everyday life.

Make seeking truth and knowledge close companions to choosing happiness for self and others as your top goal. Seeking truth and knowledge is a primary motive of the brain. Avoiding the truth automatically causes repression and internal conflict. We can't completely hide the truth--some part of our brain knows the truth and will undermine our happiness until we integrate that truth into our lives.

Make personal growth a top value. It goes hand-in-hand with seeking truth and happiness. Actively seek sources that can help you learn how to be happy--people, books, classes, etc. People who thirst for growth can learn to lead the happiest lives. Other top values of Maslow's self-actualized people included beauty, simplicity, uniqueness, self-sufficiency, wholeness, playfulness, richness, completion, justice, aliveness, and goodness. We can satisfy these general values no matter how poor or alone we might become. They depend primarily on our mental powers--not on outside forces.

Do not become overly attached to any one particular goal, person, event, or external condition. Doing so immediately creates anxiety, because it means that too much can be lost by putting all our eggs in one basket. Instead, make enduring mental or spiritual states your top values. (Chapter 1)
Go to beginning

 4.  DEVELOP YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE AND BUILD A STRONG HIGHER SELF. Your brain creates parts of you that are like "little people" inside you--your inner child, inner parent, and parts representing all the your life roles (child, parent, student, professional, lover, athlete, artist, etc.). Keeping your inner subparts operating as a harmonious group is essential to happiness.

Your Higher Self is your "Inner Hero" that loves unconditionally and automatically makes happiness for you and others a top goal. If you don't listen to it and follow its direction, it will remain weak and ineffectual. If you do, it will manage your life like a good executive of a corporation or conductor of an orchestra. Self-actualized people have strong, integrated Higher Selves. Developing a strong, positive philosophy of life builds your "Inner Hero." (Chapter 3)
Return to Beginning

 5. SEEK EMPATHY AND BALANCE. Learn to understand and respect each point-of-view of each inner part. Seek the same deep empathy for others. Learn how to weigh the value of each point-of-view for truth and happiness. We can learn from any point-of-view, even if that learning means we learn of its destructive power and learn how to overcome it.

A strong Higher Self acting like an inner conductor can create the proper balance between inner subparts. It can create the inner harmony essential to happiness. Learn your own proper balance between potential inner conflicts such as work versus play; giving versus receiving; or focusing on the past versus the present versus the future. Try achieving balance between mental, physical, social, and other activities each day--or at least each week.
Go to beginning

 6. OVERCOME YOUR GREATEST FEARS, and LEARN THAT YOU CAN BE HAPPY IN ANY SITUATION.  What are your greatest fears--poverty, loneliness, rejection, failure, blindness, sickness, death? As long as these fears remain hidden and unresolved, "little daily reminders" of them--such as a poor grade or a rejection--will haunt you and reduce your happiness each day.

Use the self-exploration process (chapter 2) to discover and face every important fear in your life. Develop plans and clearly imagine what you would think and do to make yourself happy in that awful situation. You may need to find out how others have successfully coped with those situations. Victor Frankl overcame Auschwitz and Genevieve overcame a year in a full body cast. They showed that an active mental life filled with positive mental activities and thoughts can sustain a will to live and even create happiness in the worst of situations. Genevieve said it became one of her happiest years. After that year she said, "I used to be a fearful person; but after that year, I knew I could overcome anything."

Once you overcome your deepest fears, then you can face each day with new confidence and calmness. You will immunize yourself to those daily negative "reminders." (Chapter 4)

 7. USE ABUNDANCE THINKING--Set "Zero Expectations" for what you receive, learn to be grateful. Overcome deficit (entitlement) thinking--that others (or the world) owe you something. Thinking you are entitled to more than you have leads to feeling deprived and resentful. Some people spend much of their lives feeling like victims. What a waste! If you learn to view every moment and everything you receive as gifts to appreciate and be grateful for; then you will be happy. Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst, expect something between, and be grateful for all that you receive. (Chapter 4)  Go to beginning

 8. MONITOR YOUR EMOTIONS, SELF-EXPLORE THE CORE ISSUES, AND RATIONALLY SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS. Be your own psychologist and discover the deeper causes of your feelings. Use the self-exploration process to follow your emotions to the heart of any problem affecting your happiness. Focus on the emotion, note associated thoughts and images, and track the general, underlying themes of your thoughts. Once you discover the root causes of your problems, use your higher beliefs and a good problem-solving process to resolve the problem. Choose to be happy by choosing the alternative that maximizes happiness.

Replace unproductive and negative beliefs and themes with more constructive ones. Cultivate interests in positive philosophies and activities. Choose beliefs that are consistent with your overall goals of seeking happiness and truth. (Chapters 2,3)

 9. REPLACE EXTERNAL CONTROL with INTERNAL CONTROL. Recognize the forces in your life--family, peers, media, or authorities that want to influence your thoughts and actions. Observe these external influences and learn how they control you. Develop the inner parts of yourself--such as your Higher Self, values, and interests--to give you strong inner goals and direction. Learn assertive--not non-assertive or aggressive--means for dealing with external control. Assertion means balancing empathy for others with empathy for self and seeking win-win solutions through constructive communication and negotiation.

Clarify boundaries of responsibility. If you feel overly responsible for other people's happiness or for events in the world beyond your control, feelings like guilt, anxiety, and pressure will remain out of your control. Learn what codependence is and how to control it. (Chapter 6)
Go to beginning

 10. LEARN THE HARMONIOUS FUNCTIONING MODEL to understand your emotions and perform at peak motivation.  The harmonious functioning model is a breakthrough for understanding the basic causes of happiness and motivation. Your higher brain's fundamental "motive" is to learn, process information, and perform complex tasks. It seeks an optimal level of challenge (match between task complexity/difficulty and your abilities). When there is too much challenge, your higher brain produces overarousal emotions like anxiety and confusion. When there is too little challenge, your higher brain produces underarousal emotions like depression and apathy. Only during optimal challenge do you get "in the zone" of harmonious functioning and produce maximum interest, happiness, learning, and performance.

Inner conflict also causes overarousal, while inner harmony leads to happiness. One reason why happiness is such a worthy top-goal of life is that your brain regularly measures how well your life is going in every life area. Your brain uses emotions as feedback (and your most powerful natural motivator) to get your conscious mind to fix whatever is wrong (including concerns for other people and the future).

When your mind has inner harmony, it creates peak learning, peak performance, and peak happiness. Over time, harmonious functioning increases love of the activity, self-esteem, and health. (Chapter 7)
Go to beginning

 11. USE THE SIX "HARMONIOUS FUNCTIONING" MENTAL CONTROL STRATEGIES to rise above anxiety, anger, and depression. Learn to adjust your emotions like you adjust a thermostat. If your emotions are "too hot" (such as anxiety or anger), you can cool them off and get calmer. If your emotions are "too cold" (such as boredom or depression), you can heat them up to attain harmonious functioning.

Spend more of your life "in the zone" of harmonious functioning. These strategies can give you immediately improved mental control of your emotions. You can choose to be happy by choosing to use one or more of these strategies. (Chapter 8)

==> SIX "HARMONIOUS FUNCTIONING" mental control strategies to

"RISE ABOVE" negative emotions (think of CHUG-OF to remember the six):
1. CHOICE. Replace or convert the situation. Do what you enjoy or enjoy what you do!

2. HARMONY of motives. Resolve inner conflicts between parts of yourself to look forward to activities--instead of trying to motivate yourself by rules, "shoulds," threats, or "beating yourself up."

3. UNDERSTANDING. Understand, create a mental map, build skills, and develop plans.

4. GOALS and EXPECTATIONS. Keep the task challenging--not too much or too little.

5. OPTIMISM. Clarify how you can realistically be happy no matter what outcome occurs.

6. FOCUS. Keep your "eye on the ball" and persist--and remember your "top goals."

Mental control strategy 4: Right Goals and Expectations is especially useful. If you are overaroused or overchallenged, use the methods in the first column. If you are underaroused or underchallenged, use the methods in the second column. 

Think LAPDS to recall the five goal dimensions below:

To DECREASE emotional arousal                                 To INCREASE emotional arousal and
reduce stress, anxiety, and anger:
          VS.          reduce boredom and depression:

(Decrease challenge and attachment)                       (Increase challenge and attachment)

(1) Lower goal and expectation LEVELS    <=>     Raise goal and expectation LEVELS
Develop ALTERNATIVE goals               <=>     Get MORE ATTACHED to and plans one goal
(3) Focus on
PROCESS goals             <=>      Focus on OUTCOME goals
(4) Focus on
DYNAMIC, growth-          <=>      Focus on STATIC, "one-shot" oriented goals goals
(5) Focus on
SIMPLE, SMALL-STEP              <=>      Focus on COMPLEX, LARGE- goals. STEP goals

Process goals focus on what you can directly control--your own thoughts, statements, and actions. Outcome goals focus on results that you cannot directly control--such as other people's reactions to you, grades, or income. Focus on process goals except when choosing actions (and during underarousal).
Return to Beginning

 12. DEVELOP YOUR SELF-MANAGEMENT SKILLS to get more control of your time and your personal world--
Use the O-PATSM System
This system focuses on external routes to happiness--how you can get more control of your time, your actions, and the world around you. (Chapter 9)


STEP 1: Clarify values (and dreams). Make a written values checklist (of all you value).

STEP 2:  Write goals and objectives. Make written lists of general long-term goals and more immediate, specific goals (objectives). Prioritize all objectives and to-dos with "A," "B," or "C." Make a "Typical Weekly Schedule." Get a to-do book that you can carry with you at all times and get to within 3 seconds.

STEP 3:  Hold regular self-management sessions (once per week).

STEP 4:  Consult the to-do lists as you decide upon actions.

Do the highest priority items first!

Do the highest priority activities with high quality and with more time.

"What am I going to think and do right now?" This is the most important question in your life! Because "right now" is all that you can ever control.

==> Choose the alternative that will maximize overall happiness for self and others.

One step at a time, one day at a time. These little decisions of what you will think and do now may seem insignificant at the time, but--added together over a long period of time--have huge effects on your life. 

Using O-PATSM, you can accomplish more and have more fun!

 13. DEVELOP YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS IN EACH IMPORTANT LIFE AREA to give you increased personal success and confidence--especially thinking, self-management, and interpersonal skills. (Chapter 5)
Return to Beginning

 14. DEVELOP LOVING, DEMOCRATIC, AND ASSERTIVE INTERPERSONAL BELIEFS AND SKILLS. Balance empathy, understanding, and love of self with that of others. Learn how to live without "shoulds" and obligation. Learn how to give out of genuine empathy and caring instead. Seek Win--Win Solutions (Chapter 6)

 15. CREATE POSITIVE LIFE THEMES, SCRIPTS, and ROLES.  Learn how you can create the you that you want to be, and spend most of your time focused on positive interests and themes. Focus on creating positives in the world instead of avoiding negatives. (Chapter 4)


PRACTICE: Use this list regularly. Photocopy this list and post it where you will see it daily. Review it regularly and reread book sections as needed.

==> I hope living by these principles makes you as happy as it has me, let me know!

Go to beginning

Go to Appendix B: Overcome Anger and Aggression



The BOOK (free download): Go to Contents of Dr. Stevens'  book,  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression.

FREE SELF-HELP materials available on this web site (click here to see list)  

  How to ORDER You Can Choose To Be Happy  

Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ)  to assess self on many factors  including HQ-Happiness Quotient 

Email feedback to Dr. Stevens I welcome your comments about my web site or any of its contents.           

Self-Help and other resources on this website (and site map)

Web site created and maintained by: Tom G. Stevens PhD Psychologist-Faculty Emeritus,
California State University, Long Beach Counseling and Psychological Services.
URL of this web site:

Return to Dr. Stevens' Home Page

Copyright 2024 Tom G. Stevens PhD