If you ask any given person what they truly want in life, most will eventually tell you the same. After you keep digging after the BS answers like money, fame, etc. the real stuff comes up… What would you answer? Most people… just want to be happy!
But, what makes us happy?
Most people think certain outcomes (money, people, etc.) make us happy and these are the BS answers we believe in and tell ourselves:
- Make a million dollars!
- Be famous!
- Be with a hot girl/guy!
- Drive a nice car!
However, these answers cannot be the things that make people actually happy, otherwise we would never have people with lots of money, fame, etc. kill themselves, and sadly, we do.
I have heard many people say, that success is a science, happiness is an art. Therefore, you cannot teach someone how to be happy. This is however entirely incorrect. Studies have clearly shown, what brings happiness to people in the long run. (see the end of the article for several references) All the studies I have ever seen and read myself show something clearly: If you ever depend on others for your happiness, you will rather tend to be unhappy, simply because too many things in the environment can go wrong. So, when focusing on the skills that will make you happy, keep in mind, that you need to be able to achieve them without anything or anyone else.
3 things to happiness:
Tolerance to Uncertainty: Anything we fear in life, has to do with uncertainty. Death, accidents, mishaps, etc. The better we become with dealing with them, the happier we get be in life! That is why we enjoy a bit of variety and difference every day.
2. Personal Growth: Evolution dictates the survival of the fittest. Nothing makes a person happier than getting better at something one step at a time.
3. Helping others. The human species was programmed to work in teams. It is clearly shown, that helping others gives us more happiness than many other things and it is a value add for everyone.
What does that mean?
It means, that most people are happy while on their mission to the outcome that they think makes them happy: Someone building a billion-dollar company is happy, because they get challenged every day, they need to grow and hopefully their product or service serves lots of other people. An artist, actor or singer trying to get famous experiences similar things.
BUT, once people get to the outcome, all the three things that make people happy, either get completely screwed up or start to be inverted. Here are a few examples: People want a lot of money (for whatever reason ever). But as soon as they have it, they start feeling more uncertainty about losing it again, they stop focusing on growing themselves and they don’t know who to help and who not to. Obviously, these are pure generalizations, but I hope you are getting the point.
An artist that wants to be famous enjoys the process of being out of the comfort zone, learning every day and making people happy. But at some point, anything that person has done, is within the comfort zone. There is nothing to learn anymore and the people that were supposed to be there to love the artist, are mostly superficial fans.
How does love, travelling, relationships, friends, etc. fit in here?
Proper love is 100% giving without expecting anything in return. Think about your partner, children or parents. You would do anything for them, wouldn’t you? This is why love makes us happy because it allows us to give from the bottom of our hearts. If you feel you deserve something from your partner, you will not be happy anymore, even though you still call this thing “love”.
Relationships make us happy because the right people make us a better person. They challenge us. And that is, what makes relationships wonderful. If you think of any great friend, this is what your friendship is all about. That is also why “fans” do not make us happy, because they sound exciting initially, but we do not grow as people.
Travelling makes us happy, because we get to experience new things. We get to challenge ourselves and live with uncertainty. Once the unfamiliar becomes familiar, this slows down and we do not get excited anymore.
People think money makes them happy, because they believe it gets them to deal with uncertainty. But this is not correct as more money mostly brings even more uncertainty.
What’s the solution?
No matter what stage of your journey you are on, a beginning, an up, a down or an end, focus on never stop doing the 3 proven things that make you happy:
- Do something everyday that pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Every single day. A call, a conversation, anything. Nothing big, just something that excites you. Something where you do NOT know 100% what the outcome will be.
- Learn something new… every single day. Read great books. Study other people. Get into a conversation with someone way smarter than you and hit two birds with one stone: feel uncomfortable and learn something at the same time.
- Help someone without expecting anything in return. You can always give something: Time, Money, Energy, a Smile, Attention… It does not matter what. Touch enough other people in a positive way WITHOUT expecting anything and you will surely be on a fantastic way in life.
Why might people still not be happy?
Some people truly work on these things, but they are still not happy — Why? Here are 3 reasons:
- NOT knowing the 3 steps above.
- NOT doing the 3 steps above.
- Having a WRONG SELF-PERCEPTION — which is most common. Believing you are doing something, but either doing it wrong or not at all.
3 proven paths to unhappiness:
- Focusing on things you can’t influence (past, other people, weather, circumstances,…)
- Comparing yourself to others and not your own best version
- Short-term thinking. because of your need to receive short-term happiness while sacrificing long term one. This is called: addiction.
People can be addicted to anything, be it drugs, sex, porn, social media, etc. I want to cover 3 different things that can destruct your happiness in a less obvious way than the things above and which many people underestimate:
- Addicted to certainty: Many people that need to know and plan each and every detail of their lives, will inevitable be miserable. You simply cannot account for everything and if you are pissed because of something that you couldn’t influence, you will be unhappy all day. That’s why: Gain tolerance to unertainty.
- Addicted to too many options: Options are essential in life and you always want to try to have 2–3 at hand at any given time. Actually, this is what I personally call successful, if you always have a few possibilities and are never tied down to only one thing that you cannot get out of. However, some people take this to the opposite extreme and try to have 10–15 options. This reminds me of being home on a Sunday trying to kill time and not knowing which YouTube video to watch cause you have so many options. You then kill time by being bored due to not knowing which option to choose. So, do not try to have 10 options open, but focus on a few key ones.
- Addicted to attention: Many people do things like giving back, growing, etc. to receive attention from others. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, but if this is all you live for, remember: Anytime the outside can dictate on whether you can be happy or not, you will lose. This is also true for Social Media: If anonymous trolls can make you miserable, you should get off of Social Media. Don’t get unhappy because of your need for attention.
Being the co-founder of TenX I naturally want to create a work place where people are genuinely happy, so how would this be achieved?
How to create a happy work place?
- Certainty: From your company, for their job, money, etc. Since people naturally strive for certainty, you have to allow them to achieve it clearly, as long as they GSD (get shit done). At the same time you have to give your team members freedom to try out new things and stay curious.
- Challenging Outcomes: You need to give people challenging outcomes to achieve. This is how they can push themselves.
- Relationships: They need to be around other talented people that inspire them on the one hand but where they can also contribute. Also, they need to see how the relationship of the company is meaningful to its customers. Nothing makes people happier than seeing an impact they are making with the product or service they are creating.
Here you have it — these 3 things cover: Tolerance to uncertainty, growth and giving back..
Why do I write about this?
Normally I write and talk about entrepreneurial tech things. Today, I write about this, even though it has nothing to do with what I am experiencing, or feeling right now. I know where I need to go, I know how to get there and I am uber happy on this path. But I know that once I get there, I need to know why I was happy on this path. It was NOT because of the outcome, it was because of the process.
The reason I am posting this, is NOT for you. I am posting this for myself. As a reminder, to never stop pushing myself out of my comfort zone. To learn every day. To help and give back.
Happiness is a science — you just learned about it! So go out every day and do something that ensures your future happiness. Not somewhen, not tomorrow, today!
Berkeley Psychology — https://psychology.berkeley.edu/news/dacher-keltners-latest-research-happiness
Harvard Study of Adult Development — https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-secret-to-happiness-heres-some-advice-from-the-longest-running-study-on-happiness-2017100512543