Bruce Lee was able to cram a lifetime of experiences and accomplishments into his 32 years on Earth.
His martial-arts prowess was the result of training both body and mind to operate at the highest levels.
And even though his life was short, he left behind wisdom about what it takes to lead a happy, successful life that we can draw from in the pursuit of our own dreams.
Here are 19 of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes about happiness, and how we can apply his wisdom to our lives:
“The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”
In life, we only have control of ourselves and the actions we take. We do not control what the world will do in response. While our input is valuable, it is rare that we will have complete control over the results in our lives.
By remaining open and receptive to the world, we can adjust ourselves to the needs of the situations we find ourselves in instead of our preconceptions of what “should” happen, and by doing so we will be ready for when opportunities come our way.
“Take no thought of who is right or wrong or who is better than. Be not for or against.”
Spending our energy judging and labeling people or acts as good or bad, right or wrong is a waste of time and energy. Putting someone else down may have a short term payoff while we feel superior, but it doesn’t help improve our world. Non judgment and understanding are the basis for creating positive change.
“Real living is living for others.”
When I write for CTHC I feel so alive, so energized, as it’s one of the best outlets I have for sharing my passion for life with the world and make a meaningful contribution to it.
The world needs people who don’t simply shuffle papers and push buttons for a living, but who also passionately create something to share with the world. That could be their knitting, their architecture and design skills, their passion for yoga, or anything else.
The important thing is not what we share, but THAT we share our life with the world.
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
It’s one thing to kill 20 minutes on FaceBook after a long day at work, and entirely another to kill every evening watching LOLcats videos on YouTube.
Time is the one resource we all have a limited amount of, we owe it to ourselves to invest it in activities that enrich our lives and those of the people we care about.
“Defeat is not defeat unless accepted as a reality-in your own mind.”
Life can push us around, knock us down, and hit us when our back is turned. But when things go badly, we can persevere – we are never down and out until we decide we are.
I had tendonitis for 7 years and couldn’t talk for 2.5. For part of that time I felt defeated…until I decided that I wasn’t, and that I still had the power to get back on my feet and keep on going.
“The more we value things, the less we value ourselves”
By placing more and more value on the stuff that we have, we rob ourselves of the energy and attention that could be used to value the only thing we ever truly possess: our selves.
The more we value ourselves, the more value we will get out of the things in our lives. Lack that value of self, and we will live with a void no possessions may fill.
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”
When we look around, it’s easy to spot individuals who seem more successful, happier, who have life more figured out than we do.
But life isn’t a contest or a race. Reaching our goals is a matter of persevering – often for months or years. It’s not a matter of competing, racing, or passing judgment.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
The path in front of us is often unclear and uncertain. Goals help give us direction, but we need not get attached to their attainment. Often, it is in the striving that we will find the things that truly fulfill us. The goal provided us with the map, and life the destination.
“As you think, so shall you become.”
We become what we think about most of the time, whether that’s happy or sad, healthy or sickly, wealthy or poor.
Our minds have a funny way of realizing whatever it is we dream about, so it’s important to learn how to run our minds – particularly **(MM link)our internal dialogue**
Happy think about what they want and how to get it. Simple, right?
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
If we spend our life trying to become someone else, we will look back with regret at the end.
We see images of what it means to be happy, to be successful, to be fulfilled all around us, but all that we truly need is to be open and honest with ourselves.
This requires us to be vulnerable, to embrace uncertainty, and to accept our real desires as being worthy pursuits, but when we live our truth everything else will fall into place.
“If I tell you I’m good, probably you will say I’m boasting. But if I tell you I’m not good, you’ll know I’m lying.”
When we live our truth and express ourselves fully, openly, creatively, and passionately we will open ourselves up to criticism.
We don’t need to be modest for modesty’s sake, proper for the sake of being proper, or to follow any other convention except for our truth.
Let people judge our actions how they want. These judgments are a reflection of the content of their own hearts, not ours.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Mastery of a skill is something that requires focus and dedication, and it is mastery that has the most impact on our life and in the world.
It is easy to be swayed by what is interesting or desirable right NOW, to go for instant gratification. But we can’t give up what we want most for what we want now.
“Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves.
This difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people live only for their image”
Society gives us plenty of images of what success looks like. When we accept and pursue these images, we’ve replaced our truth with a notion of what is proper or expected of us.
But our lives aren’t meant to be lived based on someone else’s expectations or to portray the “right” image to the people around us.
It is to embrace our true desires and reach our highest potential for creating something that we find beautiful.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”
We are often afraid to look silly and incompetent in front of others, and as a result, aren’t willing to take the risks necessary to make progress.
To ask questions, request help, and seek guidance are not signs of weakness, but strength. The willingness to let others know more than us is the very thing that will help us reach their level of knowledge in a given area.
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
If we are too rigid in our thinking, we limit our opportunities for growth and bring frustration into our lives.
Things rarely go exactly as planned, and having a very strict outlook about what must happen is a recipe for constant disappointment.
The flexible mind is able to observe the world and react to changing situations. It is able to tell when its own ideas are no longer working and that it’s time to discard or adapt them in favor of a new approach.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Planning feels good because it appears to get us closer to our goals while bearing none of the risk of action taking.
But it is only in taking action that we are able to test our notions or to make tangible progress toward a goal.
So as tempting as it is to plan, dream, and accumulate more information, it’s taking action that is ultimately the best teacher of all.
“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”
It is easy to make mountains out of molehills and complicate matters beyond our comprehension. At the very least, this gives us a great excuse for not reaching our goals.
But most problems have a simple and elegant solution to them, one that requires little stress or friction and little wasted time or energy.
By eliminating all the extra, unnecessary stuff” in our lives (actions, objects, ideas…) we decrease the resistance between ourselves and our goals.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
We often approach our lives with a very clear idea of what is supposed to happen in any given situation. When things don’t go our way, anger, frustration, and other negative emotions aren’t far behind.
By adapting ourselves to the needs of each situation we encounter, it is much easier to act with responsibility and integrity and create the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
It is easy to become hooked on the accumulation of information, whether that’s from reading books and blogs, TED talks, or a course from Cracking The Happiness Code. This is just another form of procrastination, avoiding doing the things we need to in order to reach our goals.
Real learning is when our behavior changes – applying the knowledge we’ve gained.