From time to time, whilst chatting with various individuals, I have been told things like “I’m not happy” or “I feel something is missing in my life”. When I have asked “What specifically is the issue?”, I have been told “I’m not exactly sure”. Hmmm… What is someone supposed to say to that?
So… I have sometimes shared the 10 components that I consider to be the key components for living a profoundly happy life and then I’ve asked which of these components, if any, seem to be missing in your life. After hearing the list it is usually much easier for the individual to pinpoint what’s missing or what their issue is. I think it’s a pretty cool list.
So, in no particular order, here it is, the 10 components that I consider to be key to creating a profoundly happy life. You might want to start by scrolling down and first reading the 10 headings and after that choose to read the areas that speak to you most. In any case I hope you enjoy 😀:
1. Physical health – It’s hard to feel great when one’s body feels sick. (5 tips: Eat healthily, exercise, sleep enough, don’t do dangerous stuff, pray for health)
2. Appreciate your riches – We’re already rich, we just have to take notice of how ridiculously wealthy we really are – instead of taking our riches for granted! (How does one do this? Try making a list of your blessings, including every part of your body that works, every possession you have, every family member and friend you are pleased to be connected to, every meaningful pursuit you are involved in, every opportunity you have… Looking over that list will remind you how ridiculously wealthy you already are!)
3. Thinking positively – Being able to think positively in challenging situations is a fundamental to happiness. No one goes through life without experiencing challenging situations, obnoxious people and a whole manner of ordeals. The idea behind thinking positively is that it is our thoughts ‘about’ the challenging situation that we find ourselves in that put us in negative states, not the situation itself.
Just to briefly illustrate… Let’s say Joe and Benny both miss their flights because the cars they booked to take them to the airport were late. Joe is angry for the rest of the day, whereas Benny says to himself “O.K. I didn’t plan for this to happen, but it has. Worse things have happened! … So what are my options now? How can I use my time productively while I am waiting for the next plane?” Two hours later Joe is still seething about the irresponsible driver whereas Benny has moved on and is using the extra time to call his mom and to get caught up on some work! In short, what goes on inside of our minds has a much greater impact on our happiness than what goes on around us, and what goes on inside of our minds is our choice!
4. Love and believe in yourself – We love others when we focus on their inner beauty. We believe in them when we see their inner strength and know they have what it takes to do what they need to do. To love ourself we need to focus on that which is beautiful about ourself (the goal is to focus on the inner beauty not the external beauty – E.g. perhaps our purity, morality or kindness…) – & – To believe in ourself we need to know that we have what it takes to do what we need to do.
5. Have a healthy relationship with your Creator – People who flatline (clinically die) and then are revived sometimes minutes and sometimes even hours later describe the amazing feeling of being with their Creator – A feeling of being loved, understood, of being home, of knowing everything is O.K. Our goal as Jews is to develop this feeling whilst we are alive (based on the reality that our Creator loves us, understands us, believes in us and is able to provide us with everything we need).
6. Living with integrity – If a person lives in line with their moral values they can look at themselves in the mirror and know that they are looking at a good person (or at least someone who is striving to be a good person). If a person is dishonest, harms others or doesn’t live up to their word, how can they feel good about who they are?
7. Nurturing special relationships – If we don’t have a special relationship with at least one other, we will feel alone, but if we do have even just one special relationship, it can transform our life! (The word for life in Hebrew is Chaim – which is a plural word – one reason the word for life is plural in Hebrew is because if we are not meaningfully connecting to another, that’s not called living).
8. Giving – Although we intuitively know this, scientific experiments have shown that we get more pleasure from giving than from taking. One can give a smile, a compliment, by lending an empathetic ear, by lending someone money, giving someone a lift in one’s car or by helping someone move house. All of these things flip us into ‘giving mode’ which is incredibly pleasurable. The ultimate is when one doesn’t only do ‘random’ acts of kindness, but when they can also find their personal, ultimate contribution to the world (see next component).
9. Pursuing meaningful goals – The Torah, our instruction manual for living, teaches us that which is truly meaningful to pursue. This includes many things such as honouring our parents appropriately, becoming wise, helping those around us, pursuing self actualisation… When we pursue truly meaningful goals, we are directing our life towards something intrinsically and eternally meaningful, which is completely different from (excuse me) trying to complete or get a high score on a computer game, or (excuse me again) watching sports or other T.V.. Computer games, T.V., sports etc. are a lot of ‘fun’, but they will not imbue our life with ‘real’ meaning. They merely help distract us from the fact that we may be lacking real’ meaning. (Sorry if that was a bit harsh)
Perhaps the ultimate in pursuing meaningful goals is to finding your unique contribution to the world – You have a unique contribution to make in the world that flows from who you are, your passions and your abilities and which addresses an area of the world around you that you understand to be profoundly in need of help. Please see my article “How to figure out your personal contribution to the world” to get more of an idea of how we find our unique contribution. As you pursue your unique contribution you share your light and goodness with others, making a profound difference in their lives and you become a partner in the creation and perfection of the world! This brings a lot of inner happiness and fulfilment.
10. Daily growth – If we aren’t growing in at least some of the components listed above we will feel like our life is stagnating. We were put down here to grow (not to chill!). It’s imperative to have a mentor to guide us and at least 1 good friend who supports our growth. Focusing on one thing, such as dealing with an anger problem, and working on it consistently, can bring about huge, amazing results and the amazing pleasure of growth. Knowing that every day you are doing something that brings you closer to being the person that you want to be and to achieving the goals that you want to achieve is a fantastic pleasure!
So, these are my 10 components for a profoundly happy life. I hope you enjoyed. If you have anything to add or any comments at all, I’d love to hear. (You can type comments below). If you want to download a PDF of the diagram above where I have visually put all the factors together, you can do so here: Happiness diagram).
NOTE: Regarding money – It is actually a misconception that money and things that can be bought are included in the factors that bring true happiness, (i.e. the factors listed above). A person can have enough money to go on holiday all the time, have an expensive car and be able to buy all the clothes and gadgets that they want… But even with all these externals, without the above factors (none of which can be bought) one will not be happy. Money can be used to pursue the above factors, but it itself, or stuff that can be bought with it, are not factors that bring true happiness. Money can ‘distract’ us from the holes in our happiness. It won’t fill those holes.
Before I finish I want to share this simple, amazing exercise: Get something to write on and find a peaceful place, then ask your heart “What will make me happy?” and write your list.
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Until next time
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