Are you happy with your life? How often are you happy? Does your work make you happy? Does a relationship make you happy? If you are not happy, whose fault is it?  Don't blame anyone else or make excuses. If you are not happy most of the time, then it's your fault. Life is a one-time trip, and you are in charge of it. If you were on vacation, wouldn't you want to be happy the entire time? Well, look at life as a vacation from no life. The more time you spend not happy, the more of your vacation you are wasting.

There are some religious fundamentalists who argue that life is supposed to be a process of suffering and sacrifice so that you can meet your maker and spend an eternity in bliss. Well if you believe that, go right ahead and suffer. Personally, I don't know any advocate of this policy who is actually following it. I think they are more like those used car salesmen who sell them but don't actually buy them.

If you are in pursuit of happiness, a good long-term relationship helps. Commitment in a relationship provides security and is desirable, and the "until death do us part" is very commendable. But the idea of reasonableness needs to be applied. If commitment is keeping you in an unhappy relationship, then you are punishing yourself and the other person. Either make it a happy relationship or make it an ex-relationship. Don't procrastinate. Commitment shouldn't exclude happiness.

Perhaps you are satisfied with your job, with your relationship and/or your life. That's not good enough. Don't settle for satisfaction! You can spend your entire life being satisfied, but never be happy. They are not the same things. What brings us satisfaction is often not what makes us happy. Being satisfied after eating means you are no longer hungry. You could have eaten dog food and filled your stomach. Being happy after a dinner means you really enjoyed the experience and the food. Emotions are involved. People who settle for satisfaction are lazy – and they are cheating themselves.

We spend a third of our lives sleeping and another third earning money. Add in all the time spent on personal hygiene, commuting, cleaning, and other chores, and what we have left over for personal enjoyment and happiness isn't much. If you don't enjoy your job, you are ruining one third of your life's vacation. Do you really want to do that for 45 years? If you are also staying in a relationship that doesn't make you happy, then you might as well end your life's vacation now, because you are a loser. You shouldn't tolerate an unpleasant job, career, spouse, or significant other. Each of those decisions may have been good at the time, but circumstances change. If you don't do something about it, no one else is going to do it for you.

A common problem for many people is what I call "creeping misery." We adapt to situations that gradually worsen over time. Happy relationships often develop into okay relationships, which become tolerable relationships, which become almost unbearable. It happens with health, work, bad habits and many other things. A friend of mine can barely walk because of a bad knee. It pains all of his friends to watch him, knowing he could get surgery to correct it. From his view, it has been a gradual process of deterioration that he views as an inconvenience. Had it happened overnight instead of over years, he'd be in the hospital tomorrow having the surgery. But gradual decline allows gradual adjustment, adaptation and acceptance of situations that would be intolerable if they happened quickly.

We tend to view ourselves from the perspective of the life to which we have become accustom. If people could periodically step back from their lives and take a look at the big picture, many would be shocked. Individuals, as well as organizations, tend to cling to the status quo, failing to recognize or at least acknowledge a slow decline. It usually takes a crisis to bring about change, and then it is often too late. People gradually become obese. Occasional smokers become chronic smokers with emphysema. Light drinkers become moderate drinkers, and then alcoholics. Happy marriages become abusive. Good jobs become unpleasant jobs with "golden handcuffs."

Each of us should have a "life assessor" who periodically audits us and lets us know when our life sucks, or that we are on the wrong track. Mother nature doesn't help the situation. First our bodies stop growing and then they start shrinking. Our brains start declining at about age 30, along with the rest of us, and eventually we all die from some disease. We watch it happening in older people, and we expect it to happen to us. As one pessimist put it, "life is a process of dying."

You should view life as a process of living, with different phases to be enjoyed in different ways. You need to make the most of each phase by planning for it. Life may well be looked at as a long trip to the grave, but like any trip, it's not the destination that makes it good or bad, but the traveling. You can make the trip really fun, or you can just tolerate it until the end. It's your choice to be happy. Indeed, you owe it to yourself to do so. And when you are nearing the end of your trip, wouldn't it be great to be able to say, "I had a great time. I was happy, I made others happy, and I'd love to do it all again."

Now about that audit...