Today, I came across a blog post on the subject of how to be happy. The article was full of well-meaning, but (in my opinion) bad advice, so I thought I would address this question in today’s post. It was, I believe, Aristotle who said, “all men seek one goal: success or happiness.” He went on to suggest that happiness could be achieved through expressing yourself completely in service to society.
It’s quite amazing what these ancient Greeks had figured out all that time ago, don’t you think? When I did my degree with The University of Birmingham, I can remember speaking with one of the tutors about this very point. He commented that those ancient philosophers would be at home in a modern university – quite a statement.
Of course, Stephen Covey, the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would have known what Aristotle had said. The 7 Habits are, as he points out, timeless universal principles. However, Aristotle went on to say something that very much reminds me of the first three habits from the book.
“First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal – a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends – wisdom, money, materials and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”
It’s a three step plan if you like:
1. Define Your Major Definite Purpose
2. Acquire the Strategic Assets You Need to Succeed
3. Dedicate Yourself Completely to Achieving Your Goal
He is very clear about the type of goal you should set if you want to be happy:
• It Should be Some Service to Society
• It Should be Clear
• It Should be Practical
So, are you happy right now? If you are not, then perhaps the answer here is not the one you had expected, but it is an answer that many people have found to be true. When you can figure out what you are here to achieve with your life and then dedicate yourself to providing it, you will be happy; indeed, I would venture to suggest that nothing could make you happier.
Of course, you may not believe that life can hold a purpose for you. In fact, I have come across many people think like that – even people who believe in God. Personally, I believe that your Life Purpose has been implanted in your heart by God. I believe that you are not here by accident. You are here for a purpose and your own happiness is fundamentally bound up with understanding and achieving that purpose – your Life Purpose.
Within you there is a special talent. It may yet be undiscovered, but it is still there. I remember Deepak Chopra saying that this talent allows you to do something better than anyone else; that it is a unique talent or a unique expression of a talent. Personally, I believe that’s what the parable of the talents is about.
You can leave your talent where it is if you wish – hidden away in its secret place deep within your heart – or you can learn about it and discover how to develop it so that you can become the full expression of the person you were meant to be. When you find your heart’s true desire and dedicate yourself to making it a reality, you will never again have to think about how to achieve happiness.
So don’t settle for the advice you are likely to find lying about on the internet; the myriad of techniques for artificially raising your level of contentment with life. And don’t settle for the advice that suggests that you need to learn to be happy where you are and with what you have – it’s bad advice. You know something is missing: if you feel unhappy, that’s why you do.
Instead of trying to learn to be content with your lot, start thinking about service. What service are you here to render to humanity. It may sound like a lofty ideal to you and perhaps it is, but you know, who is to say that you are not called to achieve great things?