True happiness consists in making others happy.

~ Hindu Proverb ~

Happy: Heaven or Hassle?

March 29th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 25 secs

How happy do you feel being you?

Happy about your life? Or are you at that point where strangling that cat, yelling at your partner, and ditching the kids seems reasonable?

Sometimes, out of sheer frustration you might look for something encouraging. Like, perhaps some advice on how to be happy. That will do it. Or does it?

Some sites say that being happy is all about following a superior formula, like this new happy morning routine:

  1. Get up at 5.30am to greet the dawn
  2. Do a spot of Tai Chi before having a peaceful cup of tea
  3. Don a bright smile and make everyone happy
  4. Gently raise the family so they’re all bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and ready for anything
  5. Pack bags (you did remember to prepare everything the night before, didn’t you?)
  6. Put away and clean, using the latest range of Earth-friendly cleaners
  7. Revel in the seconds as you shower with luxury shower gel
  8. Wipe down the bathroom(s) – come on, you know you want to…
  9. Get yourself readied, looking and feeling fabulous
  10. Cook a wholesome and nutritious breakfast
  11. Feed the pets and take the dog for a walk (if you don’t have a dog, walk your neighbor’s)
  12. Pay a bill or three while you have a spare moment
  13. Clean the kitchen and turn out the pantry – got to be organized
  14. Bundle everyone out the door laughing and smiling
  15. Then make sure you leave for “work” early, looking primped and polished, ready to enjoy another day of rose-colored bliss.

To me, this isn’t a happy life recipe. It’s lacquered hassle; buffed up and dipped in fluff to make it seem appealing.

Forget everything you’ve ever read about happy being so cutesy twee. This superhuman stuff is not only unrealistic, it’s utter codswallop! I wish people trying to sooth their perfectionistic guilt with ideal timetables wouldn’t write such advice.  It actually pushes people away from happiness. Pressure to do life “right” according to an excellent schedule, fans our self-blame into an internal inferno.

Although dismissing perfection, it’s clear they’re steering you to obey a set of rules. “Do these and you’ll be happy.” Don’t, and it’s all your own fault.

Of course, much of the advice is good.  Like helping others to help yourself, not trying to buy happiness, and picking the positives life brings. But, regardless how helpful, if you’re a thinker you’ll need more to be satisfied.

Being happy, as in really satisfied-with-life happy, takes more. It takes meaning, because simply believing in being happy doesn’t cut it for me.

When he was gradually dying in a death camp in Germany during WW2, the Viennese psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, was struck by the power of meaning. So malnourished and weak that he had an ant’s nest living in his foot, Frankl survived because his meanings were so strong.  Despite living through hell on Earth, he found ways to find relief, reliving happy moments from his previous life.

Meaning that is noble, delightful, and even beautiful is what makes you contentedly happy. Try as many strategies as we like; without meaning they fizzle when the going gets tough.

So I say, if you want to be happy, deeply happy to the core, uncover the meaning that makes sense for you. Not my meanings, your partner’s, or your social circle’s, but yours. Think about what you can give to life by being your authentic self. You won’t please everyone. But then satisfaction is always lacking when you get it secondhand.


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