What Makes Happy People Happy?

Happiness these days is our elusive Yeti. We all get a glimpse of it once in a while but no one can seem to grasp it long enough to make it a regular part of their lives.

Psychologists have found that what actually does lead to longterm happiness is a combination of autonomy and wellbeing, connection, competence and purpose.

Autonomy is you making decisions about things that matter to you, it’s being in charge in certain areas of your life and running projects, businesses or endeavors that you care about.

Wellbeing is your physical and mental health. Lord Richard Layard, the lead on a study called Origins of Happiness, concluded that “tackling depression and anxiety would be four times as effective as tackling poverty.” Makes you wonder why most of the developed world continues to accumulate ‘stuff’ mindlessly.

Connection to others (which by the way comes up in every book that talks about happiness, fulfillment and a meaningful life), includes family, friends, colleagues, and significant others. The more connected people are/feel, the happier they will be. Being surrounded by people who make you feel warm and fuzzy inside is essential to your happiness.

Competence and purpose are about us acquiring knowledge, honing talents, developing skills and putting them towards something that is personally meaningful. Some people love tennis, some like to cook, some want to be writers, some truly enjoy manipulating numbers. The more you love what you do, the better you will want to play tennis, cook, write or solve for x.

Whatever it is, it carries a meaning to you beyond the surface actions you are engaged in. Tennis? Competition inspires you and entertains people. Cooking? People enjoy good, healthy food and it brings crowds together. Why do I write? Because it gives me a chance to connect with people on a fundamental level and for us to find common ground in our shared experiences.  Numbers? They help other quantify the world in a way that makes sense. So long as there’s a deeper meaning behind your actions, you feel good about doing them.

Where to Find Happiness

If you can find a way to mix all the above between your work and your personal life, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

Five Questions to Get You Started

1. Do you have a sufficient level of ownership over what you do?
2. Do you love and feel loved by family, friends or that special someone?
3. Are you healthy, physically and mentally?
4. Are you really good at something?
5. Does what you do have a deeper meaning beyond the actions?

In the next few posts, I’ll be doing a deep-dive on each element and figuring out how to bring more of each one into our lives without killing ourselves with the effort.

Do you think happiness is a myth or achievable?


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