The Happiness Myth: What You Should Know About Living a Happy Life


Photo credit: I Love October© by D Sharon Pruitt

You want a happy life, right?

Ultimately isn’t that your goal in life?  Everyone wants to be happy.  It’s what we are always striving for by trying to earn good money, hoping to fall in love with the right person, dreaming of living in just the right house.  It’s what we would want for our children.  Happiness is that magic ingredient that makes life worth living.

But this thing called happiness often seems so difficult to pin down and hang on to.  It’s a slippery customer that taunts us by showing up one moment, then just when we think we’ve got it nailed, it evaporates like a wisp of smoke.

The thing is happiness is not something tangible that, once acquired, becomes forever incorporated into our way of being.  It’s not like studying a skill, or learning a language.  And the reason is because happiness is really an emotion.  And, like all emotions, it comes and goes depending on various factors, some of which are out of our personal control.

Ok, happiness can be defined in different ways.

And this, I think, is what causes so much heartache for people trying to live a happier life.  There is such a plethora of courses, speakers, teachers, and guides about happiness and how to get more of it.  Whilst most of it is great stuff and super beneficial, it doesn’t always lead to that permanent change we want for our life.

Some teachers regard happiness as more of an attitude, and achieving it requires only a change of mental perspective.  Others consider happiness as being a deeper sense of fulfilment about life, which can be achieved when you start living your life purpose.

Changes of attitude, making mental shifts, fulfilling your life purpose, are all excellent and, in fact, necessary for leading a happy life.  But the emotion of happiness is not something you should be trying to live for.  The important difference here is happiness the emotion and a happy life in general.

Let’s get clear about what a happy life is.

Happiness isn’t the same as a happy life.  Living a happy life encompasses many things.  Life is messy.  Stuff happens that you can’t control.  It’s impossible to feel happiness continuously without interruption!  Happiness comes and goes, just as anger, sadness, frustration, or fear.  But if we make the right choices, we can have a happy life.  Those choices will depend on you as an individual, but there are some general guidelines which anyone can follow which can create a happy life…

#1. Money can’t buy you happiness!

This is so true… you simply have to realise this if you want a happy life.  If you still believe that you can only have happiness if you have money then you are just setting yourself up to be unhappy.  Money itself doesn’t lead to happiness.  But following your passions leads to money!

Passion experts Chris and Janet Attwood have got this down to an art.  Their work, based on their book The Passion Test, is about helping people to live their passions.  Part of their message is that when money is the only aim and reason for your work you will end up frustrated and unhappy.  Money is the by-product of offering real value to people.  And you can offer the best value when you are living your passions and your life purpose.

So if you are struggling with not having enough money to have a happy life, it’s the Universe’s way of telling you that you are not doing something right.  Chris and Janet teach that you need to get creative and find how you can offer the best of yourself to help the lives of others.  You can do it in steps, and as you start offering more value, you’ll find that money starts flowing to you to support your efforts.  To learn more about this check out Chris and Janet’s great blog post on the topic What To Do When Money Blocks Passion.

#2. Life isn’t a bed of roses!

Life’s a bitch.  It’s messy.  Shit happens.  But if you think you’ve got problems look around you in the world.  You’ll see many others whose lives are infinitely more difficult than yours, and yet those people manage to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

Take the example of Sam Berns.  He was a 17 year old from the US who died last week from progeria,  a rare genetic condition that results in rapid ageing.  In spite of being severely limited by the disease, the symptoms of which include hair loss, stunted growth, joint deterioration, and cardiac problems, Sam lived a happy life.  He made it his mission to raise awareness about the disease and to spread his message about how to live a happy life in spite of severe challenges.

Sam Berns’s secret for a happy life:

  • Don’t waste energy feeling bad about yourself.  Acknowledge your problems, accept the present and keep moving forward.
  • Be OK with what you ultimately can’t do, because there’s so much that you CAN do.
  • Surround yourself with people that you want to be around.

#3. Focus on the four main spheres of your life…

The social scientist Arthur Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute), has studied in great depth the inter-junctions of culture, economics, and politics, and has elaborated on a simple but effective model for a happy life.  According to Brooks, if you are fulfilling yourself within four specific areas of your life then your life will be a happy one.  Those areas are:

  • Family.  Resolving issues, cultivating love and connection, leads to a happier life.
  • Community.  Surrounding yourself with people that make you feel good, contributing in charitable ways, and showing gratitude, are key ingredients.
  • Work.  Having a job that you enjoy and gives you fulfilment, that enables you to grow and contribute value to something or someone.  Not working purely for money.
  • Faith.  Cultivating and nurturing an inner connection with yourself.  Whether it be spiritual, religious, or not, you need to have some sort of inner life with the deeper, intuitive part of yourself.

Here we can see many similarities with the messages of Sam Berns, and Chris and Janet Attwood.  So if you work on those four spheres you will certainly be successful in having a happy life.

#4. Go beyond the emotion of happiness…

Instead, focus on achieving more balance, discovering and following your passions and your life purpose.  The work of life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins centres around listening to your needs and resolving your inner conflicts.  When you start to live in harmony with your needs you gain more clarity about your purpose in life.  Indeed throughout my website you’ll find a common theme based on this concept…

  • Align your life with your Values and your Needs.
  • Living in harmony with these will unblock your passion.
  • Connect with your Inner Strength.  Using your spiritual connection in conjunction with your Values and Needs will show you where your soul/life purpose lies.

Your Values and the 6 Human Needs encompass everything already outlined by Sam Berns and Arthur Brooks.  This framework, which I call the Tree of Strength Model and which I use in my coaching with clients, provides a clear and simple approach to living a more fulfilled and happy life.

So if you are seeking to experience happiness, expect to have only short-term and temporary results.  If on the other hand you are seeking a happy life, then focus on living in alignment with your Values and your Needs, using your inner connection to follow your passions and life purpose.  Then you will achieve fulfilling and permanent changes in your life.

Coming up next:

The Happiness Myth part II: A Spiritual Perspective

Happiness the emotion is a useful tool.  Contentment is the enduring feeling of a happy life.  Bliss is a spiritual experience of unimaginable joy.






3 responses to “The Happiness Myth: What You Should Know About Living a Happy Life”

  1. […] Once you understand which are your most important needs, and how they are manifesting in the different areas of your life, you can take action to fulfil them in a way which is not destructive. You can think of activities and strategies to meet those needs that are in line with your higher ideals. When you are satisfying those most important needs you will no longer end up doing things against your values. That will make you feel good about yourself inside, and you will then be able to create the conditions for happiness. […]

  2. […] yourself in your spirituality… there’s plenty of stuff about that all over my website. And in part I of this post about happiness we already looked at some of the things you can do to be more happy in your life. So let’s […]

  3. […] The Happiness Myth Part I: What You  Should Know About Living a Happy Life […]

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