Happiness is not an “It”

So How Do We Know What Happiness REALLY Is?

I like the story told of Socrates, the Greek philosopher, who was known for his love of marketplaces. He would always visit a market if his schedule permitted. Often, he would alter his schedule to make sure he could. It was noted, however, that Socrates rarely bought anything at the markets. One of Socrates’ students once asked him, “Why do you visit so many markets and make so few purchases?” Socrates smiled and replied, “I simply delight in looking at all the pretty things I don’t need.”

At the heart of Success Intelligence is the wisdom to know what happiness is and is not. The wisdom of happiness must surely be that happiness is not an it. Either that or we have all been shopping in the wrong places. How can anyone be truly happy if they believe that happiness is an “it” that can be bought? We have to think more deeply than this. And how can anyone be truly successful if they do not know what they really value? We have to be wise.

Success Intelligence is about cultivating inner happiness. It is knowing that happiness is not an it; it is a way of being. In interviews about my work with The Happiness Project I am often asked to give a definition of happiness. I have several. One is that happiness is who you are, minus your neurosis. In other words, happiness is your original state minus the belief that happiness has to be bought, or minus the fear that happiness is somewhere else. Inner happiness is a release from foolish external conditioning and a return to divine saneness.

The inner happiness I refer to does not have to be manufactured or produced. Nothing needs to happen first in order for this inner happiness to exist. This inner happiness is preexistent. It is, if you like, prepacked into a person’s being. In fact, this inner happiness is your being, minus your neurosis. We are at our most neurotic when engaged in the pursuit of happiness.

In truth, you don’t go shopping for happiness; you sit and welcome it. Inner happiness—like inner wisdom—is wrapped up inside of you already. The great thing about inner happiness is that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t already have it.

Joy is not in things; joy is in us.
Benjamin Franklin

Success Intelligence recognizes the value of happiness. It knows happiness is an important goal because happiness is a great teacher. The more you learn about happiness, the better you can distinguish between deep joy and fleeting pleasures. True happiness is an inner guide that teaches a person how to live well. In particular, happiness can teach a person a lot about success. True happiness is valuable because, for example, it is a sign of authenticity, and it is a way of knowing you are on purpose.

Happiness also brings out the best in us. When we are happy we relate better with others. We feel more connected, we are less afraid, and we are more confident. Our inner happiness is attractive, literally, in that it attracts happy relationships. When we are happy we also work better. Occupational psychology research confirms that if you can say “I am happy in my work,” you are likely to be more productive, more creative, and more successful and experience less stress, less depression, and less mental illness.7 True happiness enables us to be more successful.

Excerpted from my book, Authentic Success.


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