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Leadership Thought #267 – Happiness Comes From Within

It almost seems if there is an epidemic of unhappy people these days.  Far too many people are simply biding their time each and every day thinking there is some magic formula that is going to make them happy.  As a result they keep tinkering with their lives by making small and big changes hoping that one day they get it right.   Instead of living in the present and making the best of their circumstances, many individuals are either are too nostalgic for the past and “what could have been” or too caught up with the future and “what should be”.  In their wake often lies the scattered remains of failed or stalled careers, broken relationships, emotionally scarred children, unnecessary debt burdens, unhealthy lifestyles, the complications of too much medication and therapy, and the inevitable isolation resulting from ever increasing narcissism.

It’s no wonder there is so much unhappiness.  Our expectations have been carefully manipulated for years by commercial interests who just want to sell us more “stuff” through locating our pain and unhappiness.  They have mastered the art of telling us what’s wrong with our lives.  We are bombarded with media and social messaging that tells us to put ourselves first.  It’s all about how we look, how much we have,  what we do for a living, not settling for the less than perfect partner, where we live,  how we feel, how smart and successful our kids are, where they go to school, etc.    All of this is a trap and only leads to one place and that is further unhappiness.

Happiness comes from within not from some set of external stimuli.  Of course there are examples of people who are in terrible circumstances that obviously need changing, but this the exception not the rule (especially in a country as blessed as the United States).  The pathways to true happiness have always been the same throughout the ages:

  • find your passion and spend time cultivating that passion;
  • find your talent and spend time cultivating that talent;
  • strive to build long-term meaningful relationships that are based on mutual emotional support and respect;
  • give back to others who are less fortunate than yourself – make a positive difference in someone else’s life;
  • live your life in the present tense and make the most of the here and now;
  • take responsibility for your actions including learning from your mistakes;
  • practice acceptance and forgiveness for yourself and others as often as possible;
  • avoid negative self-talk; and
  • don’t let fear rule your life, instead accept it, embrace it and move forward anyway.

Life can be a roller coaster at times.   There will be highs and there will be lows.  The important thing is not to overreact or think that everything has to be perfect all the time.  Perspective is important.  There is no silver bullet.  There is nothing you can buy or pill you can take that will make you happy for any extended period.  The joy from acquiring things is ultimately ephemeral.  Count your blessings.  Look for the good in yourself and others.  Commit to your important relationships even when they are tested.   Pay attention to what really makes you happy, not what you think or have been told should make you happy.  Look inside and be true to yourself and your loved ones – happiness will follow.

6 Responses

  1. Congratulations on a coherent, well-written article. Your post avoids some of the philosophical vagueness that many writers stumble into when they address this topic of how to be happy.

    I disagree with your answer, however, because I find it to be incomplete. I agree that true happiness does indeed have something to do with charitable works and strong relationships, but these are devoid of meaning apart from God. It only makes sense to love your wife if she is personally and wonderfully created by God for you to serve. However, if she is a random mixture of chemicals, then the rule of survival of the fittest comes in. If there is no God then everything you wrote above is wrong, and you should use your wife for personal gain as you see fit. After all, this is what we observe the animals doing in nature.

    • Thank you for reading my blog and your thoughtful reply. I certainly agree that one’s faith is a critical factor in their search for happiness. I chose to not overtly state this, however, the principles I espouse are firmly grounded in my own faith.

  2. Well good. Then there’s some logic behind them. I certainly would not want to argue against strong family relationships in a day and age where they are often cast aside so easily. It seems every few weeks now that I here of another couple whose been together a long time whose going through a divorce. I am thankful that God gave me a wife who loves me very much, and I pray often that he will continue to keep our relationship strong through his power.

    God bless you.

  3. I have arrived to my decision that your post head “happiness comes from within ed robinson&#039s b…” is just great, other webmaster should take it from you..

  4. In your outlining the causes of ‘unhappiness’ you have not mentioned ‘blaming behaviour’ as a significant contributing factor. Yes there are external influences as you have outlined, but I read a strong blaming attitude in this paragraph. What of personal responsibility, we can choose to follow these influences or not to. The external influences will always be present and it is how we address them is our responsibility. Blaming has become a very common way for dealing with and even generating more unhappiness.

    You write: “Of course there are examples of people who are in terrible circumstances that obviously need changing, but this the exception not the rule….” I find this rather shocking to read. What of the millions of children who die of starvation every year, could they be regarded as “the exception”? Your generalisation is quite disturbing to read and seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding of a “world view.” The wasteful death of so many people on this planet is a reflection of our essence as human beings – always wanting something and always resulting in need. And it is this essence of our nature that we have not successfully addressed during our whole life on this planet and consequently, as a species, we will continue to experience unhappiness.

    I believe if we were to be honest about our nature as human beings we might then, and only might, know ‘happiness’ because we might experience true empathy for our ‘unhappy,’ suffering and/or dying fellow humans and, in turn, we might then chose to act differently. The history of humanity, to date, however, does not support this hypothesis!

    • I write mostly for and to an adult leadership audience comprised of CEOs, business owners, senior excecutves, etc. I would argue that my statements hold for this group. I appreciate and respect your point about the suffereing of children in this world. Any child that is undergoing suffering is a terrible tragedy and a blight on humanity. I also wonder if you’ve ever looked at UN studies of what countries have the happiest people. There are quite a few developing nations at the top of this list and many advanced nations near the bottom. I think we have to be careful about exporting our values and definition of what happiness means and should mean for people in vastly different circumstances and cultures. The West has a terrible track record in this regard. In fact, I believe that our overall level of happiness is in a steady decline and has been for quite some time. Far too many people who live in relative comfort compared to their peers in other nations are too quick to assume a victim mentality and lose critical life perspective.

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