Six Secrets to Achieving Happiness: What I Realized on One Normal Morning in Cusco

The morning my life changed began like any other morning, with the same responsibilities, and with nothing significant to make it stand out. I looked around my room that I rent on the rooftop of a lovely apartment on the fourth floor of a centrally located building in Cusco, and I felt overwhelmed with pride. I felt this sense of pride, not because I’ve achieved the American dream that so many pursue, but because I’ve achieved precisely the opposite.

As a young girl, I watched fairytales about women who were swept off their feet by charming men, who completed them and gave their lives the happy endings they were so desperately searching for. For a long time, I was waiting for this magical conclusion too.

Then one morning I woke up and realized something: I am happy, it is not the end, and I haven’t needed a man to get to this point. For all intents and purposes, I leaned in and created my own happiness. I have felt happy in a fleeting way in the past, but it wasn’t until recently that I have truly achieved a sustainable sense of happiness. I’ve decided to break down where this happiness stems from.

I am happy, it is not the end, and I haven’t needed a man to get to this point. For all intents and purposes, I leaned in and created my own happiness.

Here are my six secrets to achieving happiness:

1. Know that happiness comes from within

My mother always says this, and now I realize the truth in her words. You cannot expect the people in your life to make you happy; it is something you need to create for yourself. It comes from a healthy sense of self-worth, which can only be achieved when you prioritize your wants and needs over those of others. I don’t mean be selfish, but live your life for you, and not the way other people think you should.

2. Take risks

Risk taking is a key element to achieving happiness. I often find that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. A healthy calculated risk can benefit your psyche far more then sitting at home and playing it safe. I regret the missed opportunities in my life much more then those that I seized and that then did not pan out.

3. Travel

Traveling is candy for the soul. It can be a bittersweet feeling to leave the comforts of your home, but there is no greater treat then exploring somewhere new. Traveling opens up your mind to new things, whether it’s food, cultures, or people. I have met some of my best friends while living abroad that are both similar to and different from me, and I’ve learned something new from each one of them. In my experience, traveling has also made me appreciate what I have.

Traveling is candy for the soul. It can be a bittersweet feeling to leave the comforts of your home, but there is no greater treat then exploring somewhere new.

4. Follow your heart

Whether this is in love, your career choices, where you decide to live, or otherwise, it is an imperative element to happiness. This does not mean that you should avoid logic when making decisions, but rather that you can feel confident that your heart naturally knows logic.  When I chose a nomadic lifestyle, I knew that I would have to overcome obstacles. However, the rewards have always outweighed the sacrifices for me. I may be missing birthdays, weddings, graduations, and my little sisters’ dance recitals, but I know in my heart that I am doing what is right for me. Besides, with Internet and Skype, you are never too far away from loved ones.

5. Surround yourself with positivity

I have had my fair share of friends, boyfriends and even family members who have brought me down emotionally. I used to think that I needed them in my life because I cherished quantity over quality when it came to my relationships. It wasn’t until I chose to cut people and things out of my life that didn’t make me happy that I truly became happy. It can be hard to part with people who feel like such a significant part of your past, but if they aren’t adding something positive to your life, then they aren’t worth the time and energy that they take up.

6. Live in the present

I spent a lot of time in the past looking forward things in the future—so much so, that I often forgot to live in the now. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how important it is to take the time to love and appreciate the current aspects of your life. I am young, I have a master’s degree, I live in a beautiful city, I’m independent, I have a job that I thoroughly enjoy, and most importantly, I have friends and family who love and support me. I’m still excited about the future, but I am perfectly content being where I am.

Achieving Happiness
Achieving Happiness

About Anna French

Anna FrenchAnna has obtained a master’s degree in International Development, which she utilizes to promote human rights while she backpacks, hikes, volunteers, blogs and explores cultures around the world. You can follow her journey at, Spin the Globe Project.

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