How to have Much Less Stress and Much More Happiness

Posted On: May 6

I know that right now many people are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and that is only natural given the incredible onslaught of difficult and depressing news we are bombarded with day in and day out. Although I am doing pretty good right now, there was a time years ago (actually my first few years of college) when I was struggling mightily to keep my life on track and moving in a positive direction. It was then that I decided that if I wanted my life to get better, I would have to get better. So I set out to learn everything I humanly could about how to build a happy, joyful and successful life. After reading hundreds of books and listening to hundreds of hours of motivational/self-help audio programs, I boiled down everything I had learned into my own personal “Strategies for Success” life-skills handbook. What I’d like to do in this blog is share two very simple workshops that I believe can have a strong positive impact on reducing the stress and anxiety in your life right now and giving you much, much more happiness and enjoyment.

Workshop number one: Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Step One

Make a list of the top 10 things that give you stress, anger, anxiety and frustration in your life right now.

Step Two

Give each of the items you wrote a rating from 1 to 10. A score of one indicates that this is a stressor for you, but it does not really affect you too much – it is basically an annoyance, a nuisance. At the other end of the scale is a rating of 10, which means that this item is highly stressful to you and it causes a tremendous amount of frustration and pain in your life. Score each one now.

Step Three

Next to each of the stressors you have indicated, write either a “C” for the items you have control over — that you can directly impact, change or very strong influence. Or write “NC” which indicates that although this might be a stressor for you, in reality, there is nothing you can do to truly impact it. These are things like the economy, the government, taxes, other people… things that you might have a little bit of influence on but there is no way that you alone can dramatically change this issue. Be very honest with yourself when assessing each of your issues from step one.

The goal then is to have the courage and discipline to take massive control of the items you wrote a “C” next to and get those scores as close to one or zero as possible…AND… learn to completely let go, as much as a humanly possible, of anything on your list that you wrote “NC” next to.

It is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned: that the majority of pain, anger frustration and anxiety in most people’s lives… is caused by things that are completely out of their control. Even though there is literally nothing they can do to make any kind of significant impact on them, day in and day out they worry, stress and get angry over things that they should just try to put out of their mind and forget about. Learning to take control of what you can control, and letting completely go of what you will never control is one of the most important life skills anyone can develop.

Step Four

Write out five specific and realistic ACTION STEPS that you can take right away to begin to take proactive control of the items you wrote a “C” next to. Hoping they get better, waiting for someone else to fix them, wishing they will go away on their own… not a good strategy. Getting busy on taking strong, positive control of them… a very good strategy indeed!

Workshop number two: The Happiness List

Step One

Make a list of the top 10 things that give you happiness, joy and relaxation in your life. This could be a simple as getting a hug from one of your children… to buy a new jet! What I’m looking for in this list is really the simple pleasures in life that make you smile and give you happiness. For many people, this is their hobby… such as gardening, photography, fly fishing, golf, playing music. It’s also the other little things that just make life more vibrant… like entertaining friends for dinner, listening to your favorite kind of music, enjoying a piece of chocolate cake, going for a run… anything that gives you a good, happy and relaxed feeling is what should go on your list.

Step Two

Now next to each of the 10 things on your list (hopefully you have at least 10, maybe more) score each one on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of one means that even though this is something that you know makes you happy and gives you joy, you have very little of it in your life right now. A score of 10 would indicate that you have an abundance of this item in your life right now — you go running every day, you have great music playing around you all the time, your kids are hugging you once an hour. You currently get lots of happiness from this item.

Step Three

Look at every score below a seven and figure out, specifically, what you can do to increase the score on that item and bring yourself more happiness and joy. For example, I wrote down that music has a really strong impact on my mood, and that certain kinds of music either relax me or energize me. So I went down to the store and bought myself two of those tiny Apple Nano’s ($29 each) and loaded one with my favorite relaxation music any other with my favorite high-energy songs so that no matter where I am I can plug in my earbuds and play some music that will help me feel much, much better. A simple and low-cost solution that has had a huge positive impact on my life. The question is: where can you do the same sort of thing in your life? Write out at least five specific and realistic action steps that you can take right away to move your scores higher and bring more enjoyment and relaxation into your life.

Although they seem obvious, I assure you that these two little workshops can make a big difference in your life if you take them seriously and put forth the effort to implement what they can teach you.

If you feel like you, or someone you know, would benefit from doing the complete 43-page “advanced life skills workshop” I created… after nearly 20 years I have finally decided to make it available to the public. I went to and designed a softcover/spiral-bound version (15.50) that is perfect as a workbook you can go through then keep and look at for years to come. Or if you would rather have a PDF version of the workbook that you can print out over and over again so that you can do to workshops multiple times a year, you can download a PDF from the Lulu site for just $7.50. I am obviously not doing this to generate a ton of revenue since I only make a few bucks on each one, but I am extremely passionate about getting this workbook into the hands of anyone and everyone that is struggling to create a happy, balanced, joyful and successful life. It has taken me more than half my life to read tens of thousands of pages and summarize them in this workbook that many, many people have told me contain life-changing information. I can agree with them with great humility since almost nothing in the book was written by me, but instead has been gleaned from the greatest thinkers and teachers of all time.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book for yourself or a friend, or just want to send some friends to the site so that they can get one, here is the direct link to my “Strategies for Life Success” workbook:

As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to your comments. Take good care — I wish you every possible happiness and success, John Spence

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  1. I see that a bunch of folks have already ordered the workbook and the PDF — THANK YOU!!!!!!!! If you have ANY problems at all downloading the PDF — or if for ANY reason you are not 100% happy with the workbook — just let me know and I will take care of it right away. Also — if you get the workbook and you LOVE it — it would be fantastic if you could send a note on to anyone and everyone you feel would benefit from doing the workshops. I am really looking forward to the feedback on how the workbook impacted your life. Thanks again — John

  2. Dear John,

    Thank you for caring about people. I am always inspired by your generosity. I have some clients that could benefit from this workbook and I will pass on the link. I have a question. Would you consider writing a future blog that addresses “Husband and Wives As Business Partners.” Is that ever a good idea? How to set up a structure that would allow for business success and still protect the marriage? What would be a way to map out such a partnership on paper? If it wasn’t working, what would an “exit strategy” look like? I think you get my drift….

    Do you have a “Just Ask John” section on this blog? (wink)

    Keep being the diamond that you are,

  3. Thanks John!

    I have been working on stress prevention lately, and was about to blog it. You made my life easier, and I give you credit for that!



  4. John:

    Your email and blog was very appropriate for us today. My Office Manager went to the hospital for high blood pressure due from stress (my diagnosis). So I sent her the link to the article. This is something that I do all the time and as they say “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Other than health and happiness, it is all small stuff.

    Mitch Roffer, Ph.D.
    Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc.

  5. John – This is an excellent message. I just see so many people missing the boat on happiness. There are so many societal messages telling people that happiness comes from material goods – houses, boats, clothes, etc – that they just don’t get it. What you are saying here is awesome. People need to get in touch with what really creates happiness and follow those things. If you really do an exercise like you are talking about, it leads to some surprising results.

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