In my young adult years, I answered that question with things like things like:
…graduate from college
…pass the CPA exam
…start my “real” job
Later it was:
…make more money
…buy a house
Like you, I’d heard that happiness has to come from inside. But what the heck does that actually mean?
The cool thing is, scientists are researching happiness.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Sonia Lyubomirsky notes that “only about 10 percent of the variance in our happiness levels is explained by differences in life circumstances or situations – that is, whether we are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced, etc.” She also reveals that half of our happiness is baked in – it’s our set point.
That means that fully 40% of our happiness is dictated by intentionally pursuing it.
But don’t confuse this with hedonistic gratification, or the momentary pleasure derived from good food and fine wine, a Broadway show or a sell-out concert.
Lyubomirsky says of the people who intentionally pursue happiness, “They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings.” And it’s these things that have a powerful affect on happiness, beyond our circumstances and set point.
The book lays out everyday happiness strategies including practices of gratitude and positive thinking, social connections, living in the present moment, managing stress, caring for your body and soul, and committing to your goals.
Interestingly, the research also indicates that the success of the practice in making someone happy depends on the person. Your friend might derive happiness from practicing gratitude, but for you the pursuit of personal goals lights you up. As you try different strategies, notice which ones are a genuine fit for you.
So many of us waste time waiting for future happiness that keeps us from fully enjoying – being happy in – the present moment. What a difference to live from a place of happiness, knowing we can create our own rather than waiting for it to come to us.
Want more on this? Read my post on What if Happiness was Your Starting Point here.