What Does Happiness Mean? And Are You?

happy dogMy dog, Jack, bounds onto the step, tail wagging wildly as I step outside.  “Want to come   along for a ski?” His legs become springs and he explodes straight up in the air – he can look me in the eye. Then he tears off down the trail scooping snow in his mouth.  I might be imagining things, but it seems as if he’s smiling and having a great time.  Is he experiencing happiness?

“How ya doing, Hors (short for hor d’oeuvres)?” The big tomcat rolls over on his back, legs stretched in the air, purr-motor going before I even touch him. Is he experiencing happiness?

I sit at my computer developing a communication training  and coaching program for a large organization, imagining how it will help them overcome some challenges, and I wiggle in my skin as I experience a feeling of great happiness.

Carol and I complete a coaching call with a couple who are making huge advancements in their relationship.  We “high five”, grin, hug and I experience a feeling of great happiness.

What does it take for you to experience great happiness?  What is it?

In our world of extreme abundance, most of us don’t think much about the basic needs of food, water, shelter, safety, and security, do we?  We are very fortunate, and I’m grateful for that. But for most of us, those things don’t evoke the experience of happiness.

Yet when we move up Maslow’s hierarchy into psychological needs such as family, intimate relationships and self-esteem, and even higher into self-actualization needs, this is where the happiness deal happens and often goes wonky.

I believe it is true that you and I can experience happiness any time we want, when we understand what allows us to have that experience, that feeling.  There are many things that can do it.  But what is the secret sauce that allows you and me to have the happiness feeling consistently and for the long-term? I don’t mean every minute of every day, because that might not be possible for you, yet.  But at least to experience happiness for the majority of your day, at least 90%.

What is it?

Does buying that new sled do it?  Maybe short-term when you’re riding it – until a newer and bigger one goes by, or the monthly payment schedule arrives.

Does that beer or two or ten with your friends do it?  Maybe short-term when the music is rockin’.  But then … the next morning arrives.

Does the newest phone, computer, or tablet do it?  Maybe short-term until the faster, sleeker, slimmer one comes out next week, or you can’t download the app you have been waiting for.

Does that evening of romance which builds into passionate love-making do it?  Maybe for a while until the thoughts and discussion comes back to bill payments, work schedules, undone laundry, and garbage that needs to be taken out.

I believe that the only way to experience long-term and lasting happiness is to participate in activities that are meaningful, purposeful, value-full, and contributing to the lives of others. This doesn’t mean you need to find a new profession or leave your intimate relationship or buy another doodad; it only means consciously getting out of yourself and finding a way to help others and add value to their lives.


A friend was feeling sorry for herself because she didn’t get any respect from her team at work.  She developed a strategy to show and give respect to each person on her team every day.  Instantly her situation changed as she focused on them.  The result?  She also felt respected and happy.

An executive wondered why he had to struggle every day to get the employees to see things his way and to do the job the way he wanted it done.  When he decided to ask for their ideas and help, together they were able to establish ways to exceed the company goals, increase profitability, and everyone involved felt valued, engaged, and happy. The executive was able to invest more time doing the things he loved, showed more appreciation to his team, and he experienced greater happiness.

The husband felt distraught.  He had chosen to work more days and longer hours to buy the vehicles, travel trailer, electronics, and fancy holidays that were important to him as a husband and father.  He thought he was supposed to do this.  He committed to ask his wife and family what they wanted from him, and to really listen.  When he learned they only wanted his time to create memories as a family, he cut back his work hours, sold some toys, and they committed to date nights, family games nights, and simple family excursions from home.  He and his family experienced happiness.

What is the secret sauce for you?

Or, on whom can you focus outside of yourself, to help them improve their lives?

Or, what skills, talents, and abilities can you share with others so their lives become more enriched?

Or, how can you become like my dog, Jack, bound into action, and just be happy – just because you can?

I’m curious to know your thoughts.


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