What Makes People Happy – Hint: Its NOT Getting What You Want
What Makes People Happy – Hint – Its NOT Getting What You Want
Hello, my name is Noah Elkrief and in this blog post, I’m going to talk about what makes people happy. The absolute most important thing to know about what makes people happy is that making your life perfect and getting everything you want can’t make you happy. It can’t make you happy, it can’t fulfill you, it can’t give you peace, it can’t give you the happiness that you want.
I know that this sounds radical; I know it sounds ridiculous. But I’m going to explain it in such a way that you’ll see so clearly by the end of the blog post that you’re going to say to yourself, “How didn’t I think of that?” It’s going be that obvious. But before I show you, before I help you to discover this for yourself, I want you to know just one thing: If getting what you want can’t make you happy, then that means that you can be happy without getting what you want. I’ll come back to that in the end.
Changing circumstances to “perfect” isn’t enough to give us the happiness we want
When we get what we want, we have managed to change something in our lives from our idea of “bad” or “not good enough” to “perfect”. Since getting what we want often seems to give us moments of happiness, of course we are going to keep spending much of our life trying to make ourselves, our situation, and others “perfect”.
But, as we may have come to realize, this strategy doesn’t really fulfill us. We tend to live life with a lot of suffering and discontent between our brief moments of happiness. When we get what we want, we only experience happiness for a few minutes or days before our attention goes back to our other thoughts.
When most people get what they want, and see that it doesn’t make them happy, they just think “I must not have enough of it”. They get success and aren’t happy, so they think “I must not be successful enough” or “I must not be wealthy enough”. If they believe love will make them happy, but yet they are not happy in their relationship, they assume “she must not love me enough” or “he must not appreciate me enough”.
The reason that changing our circumstances to “perfect” isn’t enough to give us the overall peace and happiness we are looking for is because it just doesn’t address most of the thoughts that create our unhappiness. What makes people happy? Losing the thoughts that make us unhappy.
The reasons why the pursuit of happiness through circumstances can’t fulfill you:
Emotions from the past
- No matter how “perfect” our circumstances are, they don’t change our thoughts about “bad” events from our past that create our sadness, guilt, and anger.
Anxiety and worry
- Changing circumstances can’t help to alleviate most of our anxiety. No matter how “great” our circumstances are, we will still have almost all of our anxieties and worries about what others think about us, about losing what we love, about not getting what we want, about loved ones getting hurt, and about any other outcomes we think would be “bad”. Even if you get someone to love you, you will still worry about what they think, as well as what your co-workers, friends, parents, and children think about you. Even if you get the “perfect” house or job, you will still have anxiety about the future with regards to money, job security, death, illness, and everything else.
- When we manage to get the “perfect” circumstance we want, we often instantly begin to fear and worry about losing it. If we think our happiness comes from something external, of course we are going to worry about losing. Even if we get the “perfect” job, we will worry about losing it. If we get the “perfect” romantic partner, we will worry that they will stop loving us, and then require them to constantly reaffirm their love. Or, we may worry about losing our “great” appearance, our strength, or our athleticism as we get older.
Insecurities and shame
- Regardless of how “perfect” we make ourselves and our situation on the outside, that isn’t enough to change our negative thoughts about ourselves, and stop us from feeling incomplete and a subtle sense of lack in our life.
The time it takes to achieve goals
- It often takes a lot of time to change something from “bad” to “perfect”. During this time, we are stuck experiencing sadness and anxiety from believing that “something isn’t good enough” and “it would be bad if I don’t get what I want”. As long as you think success can make you happy, and you don’t have success right now, you’re going to feel a sense of lack from thinking this moment is insufficient and you’re going to feel anxiety from believing that it would be bad if you never get success.
Judgments and resentment
- Getting everything you want in life can’t eliminate your judgments about others. The judgments about the people at work, the people on the street, the people you watch on TV, your family, and your romantic partner will still be there. When we have judgments about others, we don’t feel love for them. When we judge others, it gives us a slight feeling of pleasure from believing that we are “better” than others, but it also makes us feel separate from people, creates anger and resentment, and perpetuates our feeling of being unfulfilled and insufficient.
Failure is inevitable
- We aren’t always able to achieve our ideas of “perfect” (e.g., getting the “perfect” job, spouse, or house). When we don’t get what we want, our thoughts create sadness, anger, guilt, or despair.
- We can’t change many of the aspects about ourselves and others that we think are “bad” (e.g., height, weight, face, personality, intelligence). This leaves us feeling ashamed and unworthy. No matter what we achieve or acquire on the outside, it won’t eliminate the thoughts that create our insecurities.
Nothing is permanent
- We can always lose any “great” circumstances that we have. When this happens, our thoughts clearly make us suffer.
As long as we believe in “good” and “bad”, we suffer
As long as we believe our idea of “perfect” circumstances, we will also believe our idea of “imperfect” circumstances. “Perfect” doesn’t exist without “imperfect” because “perfect” isn’t “perfect” unless we have something to compare it against. We can’t think that someone is “pretty” without thinking someone else is “ugly”. We can’t think one comment is “nice” without thinking a different comment is “mean”. In this way, as long as we are pursuing “perfect” circumstances to make ourselves happy, there will always be more situations, events, personality traits, appearances, actions, words, and events that we believe are “bad” or “not good enough”. This means that there are always more negative thoughts to keep creating our sadness, shame, anger, and anxiety.
Why a marriage proposal makes you happy, but can’t fulfill you
Let me give you an example of how getting what you want plays out when it comes to a marriage proposal. If you have a strong longing to get married, then you may have thoughts like “things aren’t good enough because I haven’t found the person I want to marry”, “I shouldn’t still be single”, or “it will be terrible if I end up alone”. These thoughts would create your sadness, shame, and anxiety. Then, in the moment that you get engaged or married, you would experience a very strong sense of happiness or relief because all of these thoughts would have completely disappeared from your mind.
However, this initial happiness doesn’t last forever, because it is only a matter of time before your attention goes back to all of your other thoughts. Achieving your goal for marriage doesn’t eliminate your negative thoughts about how you are overweight, not attractive enough, or not caring enough; how your job isn’t “good enough”; how you don’t make enough money; how your living situation is less than ideal, and how you still don’t have the children you want. In addition, you may have new thoughts about how your spouse isn’t “good enough” at cooking, cleaning, loving, appreciating, and providing. All of these types of thoughts will continue to create sadness, shame, insufficiency, disappointment, resentment, and anxiety.
Don’t worry, you can be happy much sooner than you thought
If you have already gotten a lot of what you wanted in life, you may feel a sense of relief to understand why you aren’t fulfilled, and it may be nice to know that you are not the only one who is dissatisfied.
However, if you still have many goals, it can be tough to acknowledge that getting what you want doesn’t have the ability to fulfill you. But it is important to understand that this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue your goals, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t be happy. It just means that if you really want peace, you need to directly address the thoughts that are keeping you from it. And the beauty of this is that you can do it right now. You don’t have to wait until you get everything you want and make life “perfect” for you to be happy (as you may have thought was the case).
You can be happy right now if you just address the thoughts that make you unhappy. You don’t need to get anything or improve anything because you’re life isn’t “not good enough” to be happy. There’s nothing insufficient about you or your life. You’re not at a disadvantage of being happy compared to anybody else that you know or see on TV. In fact you’re at an advantage because now you see that getting what you want can’t make you happy.
Of course, you can continue to pursue your goals, but that is separate from the pursuit of happiness. Then you can really enjoy the pursuit of your goals because you know your happiness isn’t dependent on the outcome.
A clearer way to view happiness
Getting what we want clearly can’t get rid of all of the negative thoughts that make us unhappy. The normal way we pursue happiness is by asking the question “Can acquiring/achieving that make me happy?” But, happiness isn’t something that can be acquired or achieved. We need to reverse that question and ask “What makes me unhappy?” and “Can acquiring/achieving that eliminate the cause of my unhappiness?” The only thing that causes unhappiness is thoughts. Therefore, the most important question to ask is “Can acquiring/achieving that eliminate all of the thoughts that cause my anxiety, worry, insecurity, sadness, anger and guilt?” What makes people happy? Losing the thoughts that make us unhappy.
Thank you for reading this post about what makes people happy
Thank you for reading this blog post about what makes people happy, and why getting what we want can’t make people happy. If you have some questions about what makes people happy or you’d like some help with this, please feel free to contact me. I’ll see you around. Bye.