1. Life has a purpose. Because of a recent best-seller, the word "purpose" has acquired Christian overtones. That is by no means necessary. Every life needs a meaning, and the more inspiring that meaning, the better. What erodes happiness more than anything else is the loneliness and emptiness that results when you feel that your life has no meaning. Millions of people live by the slogan, "Family is everything," but it's not. Meaning and purpose are everything.

What kind of meaning should you seek? Here are the standard choices. Consider them as they apply to you.






Personal growth

Hobbies, recreation

Education, study



Most people select a few of these, primarily family, friends, hobbies and work, which they hope will be enough. But what about the higher values, which will bring far more lasting, secure happiness? Among these I'd select love, giving, service and personal growth. If you leave these out, your happiness can be snatched away by losing your job or your friends. You run the risk of becoming an empty nester as your family grows up and moves away. Establish a higher purpose early in your life—preferably starting today—and your future won't be so vulnerable to change.

2. Inner happiness. We hear this phrase a lot, to the point that it becomes meaningless. All those models on TV look as if they gained inner happiness from a slim waist, the right makeup, good hair and being young. Real inner happiness is easy to measure, however. If you can sit by yourself, doing nothing to distract yourself, needing no one, and still feel happy, then you have achieved inner happiness. It is marked by feeling safe, knowing that you are enough, finding a core of peace and calm. I sometimes put all these factors into a single phrase: You are truly happy if being here is enough.

3. Focus on relationships instead of consumerism . America is a consumer economy driven by insatiable appetites for whatever is bigger, better, newer and more expensive. You and I aren't going to change that fact, but we can see through the glossy promise that consumerism makes you happy. It doesn't. Nor do heaps of money. Studies show that after a person has achieved enough money to cover life's necessities, the returns begin to diminish. The very rich are not happier than the rest of us, nor are winners of lotteries. In both cases, a huge surplus of money tends to bring out psychological flaws such as anxiety, greed and a fear of not having enough.

If you define yourself by what you own, trouble lies ahead, because you have left a hole where a self needs to be. It is far more important to have a secure, loving relationship that mirrors your true self. I know that this sounds much harder than buying a new computer or a faster car, because it is. But relationships can bring inner fullness; expensive things simply wear out.

Understanding more of the principles of real happiness


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