The Secret of Happiness

Posted on October 21, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Secret of Happiness
By Joe Tye


When I ask people what they want out of life, I frequently hear back some variation on this theme: “I just want to be happy.” Sounds simple enough. So I ask the obvious follow-up question: “Are you happy?”

How about you? Are you happy? If you’re answer isn’t an absolute and unqualified yes, would you like to know the secret for being happy. It really is pretty simple (simple, but far from easy). The secret has three key parts.

1. Don’t chase what you don’t really want. This, too, sounds simple enough, but it is a principle that is almost universally violated. Nobody on their deathbed ever said, “You know, I wish I’d watched more television,” yet according to AC Nielsen, the average American wastes more than four hours a day sitting in front of the plug-in drug.

The average American household today spends more than it earns, financing the balance with debt. We buy more than we can stuff into our attics, so we stash all the extra junk in storage lockers. And then we complain that we never have enough money. Buyer’s remorse is a frequent symptom of chasing what you don’t really want. But I’ve never, ever heard of anyone suffering from saver’s remorse.

2. Don’t want what you can’t have: Lots of people make themselves miserable with their complaining that the universe is not conspiring to fulfill their every wish. They watch The Secret, then visualize diamond rings, California mansions, and Italian sports cars. When those things don’t materialize, they (usually without admitting it) feel somehow cheated.

The truth of the matter is that there are not nearly enough California mansions and Italian sports cars to go around, and for most of us ordinary people (a label I wear with quite some pride) these things are beyond our reach.

One definition of happiness that I’ve read is something to the effect that you can be happy if you want only what you already have. I don’t agree with that; I believe that aspiration, ambition, and vision are good things. But only when they are directed toward authentic and meaningful goals.

3. Know what it is you really want: This is a lot more difficult than it seems, especially in a culture where most advertising is trying to convince you to want things that you don’t need and that you can’t really afford. Here is my variation on the classic formula for success and happiness:

Dream as though you were going to live forever; act as if you had to pack the rest of your life into the next twelve months.

This formula can help you zero in on what you really want from life, and help you avoid wasting your time, energy, and money chasing the diversions and distractions that the world will use to tempt you onto a false path.



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