Build a Happy Life
How often have you said, “I just want to be happy”?
How often have you said to someone else, “I just want you to be happy”?
Have you ever stopped to consider exactly what happiness means? What, exactly, is this happiness you are wishing for?
It matters because it’s hard for your wishes for happiness to come true if you aren’t clear about exactly what happiness is.
What is Happiness? A Definition of Happiness
Possibly the best place to start defining happiness is by defining what it is not.
Many people believe that happiness is having fun at a party, the excitement of new experiences, the thrill or the delights of a fine meal. These are all wonderful experiences to be cherished and cultivated but they are not happiness.
These experiences are the definition of pleasure. They are experiences to have and let pass. A meal to savor, then digest. A party to enjoy then let wind down.
Once that happens, it takes even more to make us feel good again. Chasing pleasure is not happiness.
So, if happiness is not the same thing as pleasure, then what is happiness?
Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
In other words, happiness comes when you feel satisfied and fulfilled. Happiness is a feeling of contentment that life is just as it should be. Perfect happiness, enlightenment, comes when you have all of your needs satisfied.
While the perfect happiness of enlightenment may be hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain, happiness is not an either /or case. There are nearly limitless degrees of happiness between the bliss of enlightenment and the despair of depression. Most of us fall somewhere between, closer to the middle than the edges.
What Are Your Essential Needs to be Happy?
Since happiness is when your life fulfills your needs, the next logical question is, “What are my needs?”
Over the many have offered answers to this question and nearly all came back with too simple answers to what is, at its core, a complex problem.
Let me ask you a question. Would you say that you, like all humans, are complicated to understand? Of course you are. We all are. If we weren’t life might be much simpler but also much less rich. That complexity means that there are no simple, one-size-fits-all answers to what makes us happy.
Our individual needs vary based on our genetics, how we were raised, and our life experiences. That complex combination is what makes each of us unique, both in our exact needs, and in every other aspect of what makes us the person we are.
WE PROMISE stands for:
· Wellbeing — mind-body connections, aspects of your physical body that affect your mood, and vice versa
· Environment — external factors like safety, food availability, freedom, weather, beauty, and your home
· Pleasure — temporary experiences such as joy, sex, love, and eating
· Relationships — as a social species, relationships are at the foundation of what it means to be human
· Outlook — how you approach the world through adventurousness, curiosity, and making plans
· Meaning — having a purpose and the wisdom to understand it
· Involvement — to be happy you have to be engaged and actively involved
· Success — confirmation from yourself and others that what you do has value
· Elasticity — how you recover from life’s inevitable negative events
These 9 categories cover the range of human needs in a very general way and are intentionally overlapping, just as our thoughts and feelings overlap in our mind.
For example, the thrill of a roller-coaster ride is a mix of: fear (Elasticity), joy (Pleasure), adventure (Outlook), shared experience (Relationships), safety (Environment), upset tummies (Wellbeing), the courage to ride (Involvement), and the reward of having done it (Success). All these are experienced in one event, many at the same moment in time.
While the WE PROMISE categories are a convenient way to organize and simplify our universal needs, they are just the beginning. we are each more complex than that.