What does it take to live a happy life? There are varying views on this topic, and the research being undertaken only continues to shed light on the science of happiness. Today, let’s just ponder three key ingredients for a happy and fulfilled life.
“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, let’s start living a happy life today. We’re not going to find the happy life by chance–we’re going to have to participate in unearthing joy in the journey. When we stumble across some darker times, let’s remember that our struggles are part of the journey.
Knowing unhappiness has a way of opening our hearts to a more profound depth of happiness.
The following three pillars of happy 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 are many ways to go about living a life you love. I hope these three approaches give you some new ideas on how to be a happier human today.
What Does It Take to Live a Happy Life?
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) is so that we can assess our progress towards mastery.
- We engage in flow activities, which happen when we are 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. In other words, we practice taking internal control for our lives, which fosters personal mastery over our thoughts and feelings. It seems that 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’ll write about these in next week’s post.
“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 and fulfilled life. As humans, we have an innate need to connect with others, to be loved, and to give love.
This desire for belongingness lands us on a scale ranging from “needy” to “avoidant.” Ideally, we’d like to find ourselves somewhere in the middle of that scale.
It’s the same need that’s at least partly responsible for why we feel good when we’re kind and generous to others, and when we trust others and that trust is reciprocated. Again, we can either approach this need with a scarcity mindset or an abundance mindset.
“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, or other people. When you have freedom over what you think, it becomes much easier to live a happy life.
It’s possible to choose happiness regardless of what happens around you. It’s possible to generate a core of peace in the eye of a storm.
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. It’s autonomy over our internal environment, which stems from an abundance orientation, that truly enhances our happiness in the long run.
You may also be interested in the scarcity vs. abundance route to living a happy life.
- 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?
- How can you give love today?
- Are you willing to be at peace inside no matter what’s happening outside?
Please share your own thoughts, lessons extracted from your journey, how you live a happy life, and any inspiring stories with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone who is worthy of living a happy and fulfilled life.
Instead of seeking happiness in the distance, grow it under your feet.