When you think about “happiness,” what comes to mind? I used to think happiness meant feeling positive and successful all day every day, chasing a state of perpetual “happy” like it was the pinnacle of emotional achievement. Unfortunately, this definition is too rigid and unrealistic to allow for those human moments when we feel less than excited about life, anxious, or worn down from the daily grind. I felt like I was lacking happiness when I didn’t feel constant euphoria, and the thought of not living the happiest and best life was a constant fear. However, I believe we all tell ourselves lies that prevent us from recognizing and honoring the happiness we DO possess in our lives. In today’s blog post, I discuss the 5 lies we tell ourselves about happiness and what we can all do to reframe what happiness means to us.
Happiness Lie #1: It will just happen without trying
With all things we want in life, happiness takes intention, planning, and the strength to follow through on a daily basis. When I was in my 20s, I indulged in many temporary forms of happiness like shopping away most of my paycheck, partying often and heavily, and generally living a wild and reckless life. Chasing dramatic forms of happy got exhausting, inauthentic, and unsustainable. I felt myself going down a negative spiral, and my need for higher and higher hits of happy became borderline escapism. I thought stringing together as many fun moments would eventually get me to happiness. Unsurprisingly, these fleeting forms of “happiness” never lasted because I didn’t actively work on finding a sustainable way to integrate everyday happiness into my life.
Fast forward to my 30s, and I realized that finding sparks of happiness begins with having a clear definition of what my version of happiness looks like. For me, happiness was tied to how often I felt grateful for things in my life. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I started to focus on being thankful for everyday moments, the more consistently I felt happy.
Happiness is an active and daily choice. Happiness is the action, the practice of being aware and noticing on a daily basis the little wins in our lives.
Happiness Lie #2: Everyone else is happier than me
We’ve all been there, flipping through social media and seeing those perfectly curated glimpses into another person’s seemingly perfect and happy life. You feel that familiar pang of jealousy or discouragement, and you wonder how so many others seem to have happiness all figured out. Trust me, nobody has it all figured out.
Being a location-independent entrepreneur (or digital nomad), I go through highs and lows like everyone else with the added stress of building a business while constantly adapting to a new country. Most of the time it’s a fantastic adventure, but there are definitely behind-the-scenes moments where life utterly knocks me to the ground. In my first week in Bali, I got into a scooter accident, incurred a ton of unforeseen expenses, cracked my computer screen and heard some pretty bad news from my lawyers. Fun! Honestly, that week was not my finest moment. It didn’t help that everyone else around me seemed to be thriving and absolutely loving Bali. What was I doing wrong? It would have been so easy to let the negativity in, to give up, to go back home…
Obviously, that didn’t happen because I’m stubborn and love a good challenge! Instead of focusing on what other people were doing, I looked inward to find the triumphs in my own life. Getting back on a scooter after the accident, win! Finding a place to fix my computer screen, win!
By focusing on your own happiness journey, the other people’s perceived happiness becomes irrelevant. You release the expectation that your experience of happiness should be the same as someone else’s, and you become more aware of your own bliss.
Happiness Lie #3: I’ll be happy when…
Be honest, how many times have you told yourself a version of “I’ll be happier if only____or when ____ happens”? The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that our happiness hinges on external sources. We shouldn’t look to validate our happiness from the people we’re with, milestones we achieve or any experience outside of ourselves. For example, I used to think my happiness came from finding the perfect job or the perfect relationship. When I finally achieved the “perfect on paper” kind of life, I felt nothing but emptiness and anxiety.
I put the responsibility of happiness on myself. Take ownership of your own happiness. The truth is, happiness is an inside job. No matter how awesome external circumstances may seem, if we don’t find happiness within ourselves, any moments of happiness will seem hollow.
Rather than wasting energy to find external happiness, figure out what brings you happiness. When do you feel the most aligned with your purpose, what makes you tick, when do you feel the most clarity, what brings you joy? For me, being able to connect with my creativity and helping others make me truly happy.
Taking the time to fully understand what your happiness triggers are will make it easier to tap into that state of joy faster.
Happiness Lie #4: Happiness only exists when things are good
This might be a tough sell, but hear me out. Over the last few years I’ve taken the time to appreciate and love the other levels of happy – those moments that are still happy and fulfilling despite (or because of?) life’s challenges that push us to grow and be better.
Some of the most surprising moments of happiness came during one of the hardest moments in my life, when the grandfather who practically raised me passed away suddenly from a stroke. As soon as I heard he was in the hospital, I jumped on the first flight from NY to Dallas. By the time I landed, he had already passed away and I was never able to say goodbye. It was soul-crushing. However, during this moment of grief, I got to spend quality time with our once-estranged extended family members I hadn’t seen in over a decade. We talked about my grandfather’s unrelenting optimism, his terrible jokes, and his “don’t worry” attitude. His passing opened up an opportunity for our family to heal and find joy and support from one another.
Every hardship or challenge is an opportunity to practice gratefulness to find subtle shades of happiness. Be thankful for the chance to strengthen your character. Be thankful for the chance to rise above. Be thankful to be able to use your experience to help others.
Happiness Lie #5: Happiness is binary (you’re either euphoric or you’re not happy)
Despite what the media may sell you, happiness is NOT binary. Happiness is a spectrum and there are so many layers and versions of happiness that’s unique to each of us. Sometimes happiness can really feel like rainbows, sparkles, and fireworks all rolled into one. But be careful not to get addicted to only this particular experience of extreme happiness. Let’s not discount every shade of happy and start to recognize and appreciate the more subtle levels of happiness.
Find the small wins, the intricate moments nobody else would notice, and to feel gratitude for them. This is where you’ll find your version of happiness.
Perhaps a lifetime collecting these lighter spectrum happy moments combined with deep and consistent gratitude will equal to a fulfilling and happy life. Have you ever had these thoughts about happiness? What is the most challenging lie to overcome?