“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings
One of the most enduring pursuits of the human condition is the elusive search for happiness. What does true happiness mean? More importantly, how do you cultivate and embrace true happiness within yourself?
The answer to that question is as widely divergent as are individual personalities. What one person might define as their true happiness would be another person’s misery. Much as with beauty, “true happiness” may actually lie in the eye of the beholder.
That said, there are certain happiness truths which apply to each one of us. These fundamental tenets of happiness can help you find your authentic self and manifest true joy.
True Happiness Truth #1: Being Your True Self is Vital
You will only find happiness in yourself when you are being your true self. If you want to find happiness, all you have to do is look within. Your inner power supplies an unlimited source of abundance and happiness—you just need to learn how to tap into it!
My own experience taught me a lot about true happiness (and conversely, what is not true happiness). Like many entrepreneurs, I thought when I was rich, happiness would follow. So instead of figuring how who I really was and learning how to be my true self, I chased financial dreams.
The fruits of my labor had brought me millions of dollars…but even after buying every possible material possession one could imagine, I was still fundamentally unhappy. My defining Ah-ha moment came when I realized that no amount of money would bring me true and lasting happiness. For a little while, sure. But then the novelty wore off and I realized my business goals, which were all about money, were empty and meaningless.
This realization led me to shut down my online business. My business was financially lucrative, but it was no longer aligned with who I wanted to be. I knew I had to make a change.
It took me years to find myself again. Once I shed all financial expectations for myself while I took some time to get to know who I truly am and what kind of changes I want to make in the world, my true happiness began to take shape. I realized that for me to be happy, I need to help others succeed.
As soon as I put serving others first, my perspective in my life and business changed. When my perspective shifted for the better, then all other aspects of my life followed suit; my relationships with my family, friends, and God all improved drastically.
For the first time in my life, I finally knew what true happiness felt like!
True Happiness Truth #2: Happiness Is an Inside Job
I just mentioned that money didn’t bring me happiness, obviously, but this point is worth repeating because so many people waste their entire lives pursuing more money, and they feel like they never make enough. I want to save you from that fate.
One of my most powerful moments was when I stopped relying on things outside myself like wealth, possessions, and accolades to make me happy. I had worked so hard to reap the benefits of financial success, but once I “had it all,” I still felt hollow inside. It was a blow to realize that the quantifiable, objective measures of success did not lead me down the path of true happiness.
When you’re constantly scanning the horizon for the next thing to make you happy—whether that’s a new relationship, a powerful job title, or an overflowing bank account—then you’re not searching for authentic happiness. Searching for an external source for our happiness prevents us from searching internally for our own true selves.
So, how did I change course to live a life full of abundance and happiness? I learned to lead with love and generosity instead on focusing solely on money and professional rewards. When I shifted my mindset to what would make the real me feel good on the inside, I made it my number one goal to change lives and make an impact on the world. Only then did I find my own true joy.
Happiness is internal to all of us; it’s an unconscious manifestation of honoring our individual true, authentic selves. Finding your own bliss is an internal exercise, not an ongoing search for increasingly greater numbers of outward rewards. Happiness isn’t something you can earn or buy, but something you must learn to recognize and appreciate within yourself.
True Happiness Truth #3: You Can Be Happy Even in Devastating Situations
The nature of life is such that we are not often in a state of contented nirvana. It’s rare that the stars align in such a way that every aspect of our lives are perfectly balanced, humming along in harmony.
It’s a complex paradox. When you’re killing it at work, your romantic relationship may suffer because of the long hours you’re putting in at the office. When you’re doing an amazing job as a selfless caregiver for your ailing parent, your own health may be in jeopardy because you’re not getting enough sleep or exercise.
If you wait for everything to be perfect in your life until you can find true happiness, you’re going to wait forever. You need to grant yourself permission to embrace happiness in small moments in daily life. While it can be hard to find those moments of true happiness when you’re in the trenches, it’s vital to find daily reminders of joy, so you can manage the other competing stressors.
Dr. Randy Pausch is a shining example for how to find happiness even in the face of insurmountable personal challenges. Professor Pausch spoke to faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon about Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams during the university’s Last Lecture series.
Dr. Pausch’s heartfelt lecture talked about his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and how to live life to the fullest. Pausch later reflected, “Cancer didn’t change me at all. I know lots of people talk about the life revelation. I didn’t have that. I always thought every day was a gift, but now I am looking for where to send the thank you note.”
Sadly, Dr. Pausch died from cancer on July 25, 2008, but his legacy endures. He had gone on to author an internationally best-selling book entitled The Last Lecture. To this day, Dr. Pausch’s legacy is to show that life is too short to waste just going through the motions. Embrace what brings you unique joy and you can be happy, even in the face of adversity.
True Happiness Truth #4: Remember the Roots of Your Happiness
When you’re grappling with how to find true happiness in your life, sometimes these complex mental analyses can be boiled down to the very basics. Ask yourself this simple-yet-important question: What things did you love to do when you were a child?
When you were a child, you did things for the sheer joy of it. You weren’t focused on earning a living, impressing anybody else, or on making money. This is why discovering your authentic self as an adult means reflecting on your childhood. What infused your childhood self with fire and passion?
When you reflect back on what you were born into this world innately loving to do, what used to bring your pure joy, then you can harness that as an adult. The more your honor your authentic, unfettered self, the closer you will be to re-sparking that inner childhood happiness within.
True happiness is within your reach. You owe it yourself to start living your true, authentic life—today. Because if not now, when?