What does it take to live a happy life? There are varying views on this topic, and research only continues to shed light on the science of happiness. Today, let’s just ponder three potential key ingredients for a happy and fulfilled life that you really love.
“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – C.G. Jung
Instead of waiting for a happy ending to magically sweep us into an entirely new kind of life experience, let’s start with today, using the resources we have access to here and now. Your most valuable resource, so it happens, is less dependent on what happens to occur around you, and more closely connected to what you decide in this one moment.
You are probably more powerful than you’ve ever given yourself credit for; don’t doubt that power, because that’s exactly the resource that’ll give you new life.
We’re not going to find the happy life by chance, though we may stumble upon the sweet serendipity of surprise joys in unexpected places. More than likely, we’re going to have to participate in unearthing the joy in the journey. When we stumble across some darker times (for these exist in the human experience, too) let’s remember that our struggles are part of the journey. One part of anything doesn’t encapsulate the whole truth.
Knowing unhappiness has a way of opening our hearts to a more profound depth of aliveness. Understanding deep sadness elicits compassion, which ultimately makes the world a nicer place to live in for all you meet. Each part plays a role in the wholeness of being alive.Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. – Omar Khayyam Click To Tweet
In your quest to live a truly fulfilling life on earth, consider that any positive, sustainable change begins at home, with yourself; and it begins here, in this place.
The following three pillars of intentional living are based on a course called A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, which is built on content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory.
Of course, there’s more than one way to go about living a life you love. I hope these three approaches give you some new ideas to contemplate.
What Does It Take to Live a Happy Life? 3 Ideas to Contemplate
1. The Need for Mastery.
“Happiness is not in our circumstances but in ourselves. It is not something we see, like a rainbow, or feel, like the heat of a fire. Happiness is something we are.” – John B. Sheerin
One thing that becomes critical for happiness is feeling that we’re good at something—dancing, painting, teaching, gardening, sports, writing, anything. This pillar is called “the need for mastery.”
The need for mastery shows up in several contexts. For instance:
- We seek superiority over others (the desire to control or be better than) so that we can assess our progress towards mastery.
- We engage in flow activities, which happen when we’re completely involved in this moment, focusing all of our energy and attention towards this one thing. Flow enhances happiness by enabling our progress towards mastery.
- We take personal responsibility for happiness, which fosters personal mastery over our thoughts and feelings. The more internal control we take, the less we need to control the world around us.
There are two routes we can take towards mastery: the scarcity route or the abundance route; I’ve written about these here (you might want to read this once you’ve finished reading about the next two “pillars” below).
“Loving others is the key to living a happy life. How you treat others is going to be an impact on your career and success.” – Jeremy Limn
Having a sense of intimacy or connection with at least one other person is extremely important for living a happy life that fills you up. As humans, we have an innate need to connect with others, to be loved, and to give love without expectation.
It’s helpful to note that you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to fulfill this need; you might just consider a new perspective concerning your connections with others.
This desire for belongingness lands us on a scale, ranging anywhere between “needy” and “avoidant.” Ideally, we’d like to find ourselves somewhere in the middle of that scale.“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” – George Sand Click To Tweet
Belongingness is the same need that’s at least partly responsible for why we feel good when we’re kind, generous, and trusting. Again, we can either approach this need with a scarcity mindset (with a thick layer of need) or an abundance mindset (with an idea that all is well and what we give is ultimately what we receive).
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” – Oscar Wilde
Having a sense of freedom means you’re the author of your own judgments and decisions, and that your internal world is not controlled by external events, circumstances, other people, or what happens to occur but which you cannot control.
When you prioritize freedom, in how you live inside yourself, it becomes much easier to live a happy life.
It’s possible to choose happiness regardless of what happens around you (though it can feel pretty darn near impossible at times, and that’s okay too: it’s part of the journey, not the whole thing). It’s possible to generate a core of peace in the eye of a storm, and the trick to doing so is strengthening your belief that it’s indeed a possibility for you.
This could mean that you place more worth in how you feel instead of how you’re perceived by others, or maybe you start a forgiveness practice rather than let old bitterness rule your life. You will know what frees you by how you feel; follow that guidance.“To live a life of regret is to deny yourself living a life of happiness.” – Jeremy Limn Click To Tweet
Wanting to be superior to other people or seeking external control is one way people try to fulfill this need for autonomy, and this reflects a scarcity orientation towards life—“If they win, I lose;” “I must prove to others how strong I am;” “There is not enough to go around.” It’s autonomy over our internal environment, which stems from an abundance orientation, that truly enhances our happiness in the long run.
Feeling abundant, loved, loving, and free on the inside is your power.
- What do you consider to be the pillars of a happy life—these, or any others?
- What flow activities do you enjoy that you could engage in today?
- Think of one area of your life that could use some more love: how might you be able to bring love here?
Please share your thoughts on living a happy life, lessons extracted from your journey, how you retain a sense of internal peace and power regardless of what happens to occur, and any helpful or hopeful stories with me in the comments.
Encourage someone else to live a happy life; share this post and be a ray of sunshine for them.
Instead of seeking happiness in some other time and place, after certain milestones are reached, start growing it right here. This is your point of power.