I was interviewing a 14-year-old-girl who was very unhappy. She had come from good home, with a loving family. She had all her needs taken care of- nice clothes, lots of friends, good health, and was even enrolled a well-to-do private school. But still, something was missing.

“It’s just not fair,” she said. “My friends get to go to the concert, and my parents are just way too strict! They should see all the things my friend’s parents let them do. My life is so unfair.”

For the next 30 minutes, I listened to her tell me of all the things she didn’t have, and hear about all the things she wanted. She complained, compared, and highlighted all the things she desired, but didn’t have.

I have to admit, upon first meeting her, I found myself a little put-off. I wanted to snap her back to reality, and remind her of all the things she had been blessed with. But whether this young woman was wrong or right, wasn’t the issue I was concerned with. My main focus, was to help her shift her perspective, and try to offer her alternatives from living a miserable life.

If I’m honest, I often see my own self in this 14-year-old girl. It may not be presented the same way, but often times, I feel an unhappiness begin to creep into my life when I let my guard down. A slight covetous look at my friend’s brand new home, a little comparing of my weight to another’s. With seemingly tiny, insignificant thoughts, I find unhappiness beginning to creep in.

But as I’ve learned over the years, these thoughts aren’t insignificant, they’re dangerous. They can take over my mind, and transform the state of my heart within moments. They can bring me to a place of unhappiness, and discontentment.

The truth is, happy people aren’t happy because they were born that way. Happy people are happy because they have chosen to live in a way that keeps their mind and heart aligned to God’s truth. We’re reminded to think on the things that are lovely, good, and praiseworthy - because our thoughts will open the door of our hearts. I’m learning to take control of the things I allow my mind to ponder. Here’s what I’ve found that happy people don’t do:

1. Happy People Don’t Complain

Whether it’s a passing comment about the crummy weather, or a drawn out conversation about those annoying co-workers, complaining will always lead to discontent, because your feelings will always follow your words. Instead of speaking negativity, I’ve made it a point to give my complaints to God and to talk to him about the things that concern me the most. And I’ve found that though my prayers don’t always change my situation, they always change my heart and remind me of the things that really matter. May we learn to count our blessings each and every single day.

2. Happy People Don’t Compare

We often measure ourselves up against other people. But doing so will guarantee life on an emotional roller coaster, because sometimes we’ll measure up, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we’ll be the smartest, prettiest, most successful person in the room- but other times, we’ll be the last one on the totem pole. As Christians, we are called to measure ourselves by nothing less than the value we’ve been given by Jesus Christ, a value that cannot be taken away, decreased, or added to. A value that is sure, steady, and strong. There is only one measuring stick that matters, and it’s called the cross of Calvary. I’m thankful for a God who declares us valuable, because of his very death and life for you and me.

3. Happy People Don’t Compete

It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting ahead. Whether it be our focus on our finances, our families, or even in our ministries, we can get caught up in wanting more, having more, and making more. It’s a cultural norm that’s drilled into us from the earliest memories of sporting games and school competitions. Though it’s healthy to strive for our best, happy people understand that true contentment is less about winning, and more about living a worthwhile life; a life that exudes the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus. A life that isn’t focused on being better than others, but rather, blessing them.

So whether we’re 14, or 104- the secret to living a happy life is by saying no to complaining, comparing, and competing, and choosing to keep our heart and mind grounded in nothing less than Christ.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

Publication date: May 27, 2014