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. For, as Camilla Kimball said, “You do not find the happy life. You make it.” And 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 wonderful course called A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, which “draws content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory to offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfillment.”
Of course, there are many ways to go about living a life you love. These three approaches may give you some 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 are 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 would like to find ourselves somewhere in the middle of that scale.
It is the same need that is at least partly responsible for why we feel good when we are kind and generous to others, and when we trust others and our 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 that we are free means we are the authors of our own judgments and decisions and that we are not under the control of any other people, events, or circumstances. When you have freedom over what you think, it becomes much easier to live a happy life–you allow yourself to be happy regardless of what happens around you.
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 is autonomy over our internal environment, which stems from an abundance orientation, which 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?
- 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 learned, or experiences 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.