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Reclaiming Lasting Happiness: Six Beliefs That May Be Holding You Back

Updated: Jan 23

When we ponder the meaning of life or our own life's purpose, it often boils down to how we measure up in the happiness department.

Books have been written, movies have been made, and entire industries have been constructed to help people achieve happiness. Even with these efforts, though, it remains elusive for many people.

The following six beliefs may explain why you have trouble maintaining happiness.

1. Money determines my happiness

Does your happiness fluctuate with your bank account balance, 401k, or the stock market? For many, how much money we have directly correlates with our ability to be happy. But often, that amount is relative and arbitrary. Ask someone who has $1 thousand, and they will tell you they would feel happy if they had $2 thousand. Ask someone with $250 thousand, and they may tell you the number is $500 thousand. Some millionaires I know are vulnerable if their net worth dips below $50 million! When you link money to happiness, you will find that your need for more becomes insatiable.

2. The success or failure of others influences my happiness

Other people pose a threat to us to the primitive part of our brain; in essence, they represent potential competitors. If one of those competitors outdoes us—in essence, one-ups us, it can impact our happiness. And, if that person or someone else we view as more powerful than us slips and falls, there may be a slight feeling of satisfaction—a twinge of happiness. Most tabloid magazines are particularly good at highlighting the rise and fall of wealthier, prettier, or more intelligent than us. And for many, this permits a transient sense of happiness. And the reverse can be true.

3. I will be happy only if someone else is happy

This is the trap many parents fall into. As parents, don't we wish just that for our children? "All I want for my children is for them to be happy," and if they are not, it often impacts the ability of a parent to be happy. Others may require a boyfriend or wife to be content. Although it may seem as though this type of happiness is a good thing or even moral, truth be told, co-dependent happiness is fragile and often leads to self-sacrifice, which, in my experience, can lead to self-sabotage.

4. Certain conditions determine my happiness

Often, we have preconditions for happiness. When specific event benchmarks are met, we are certain happiness will ensue. Whether it is our team winning or achieving a particular rank in a club, moving into our dream house, landing our dream job, or finding our soul mate. Happiness is rarely caused and affected, and when viewed that way, it is usually transient, as when one requirement is met, it paves the way for another condition, and so on.

5. Things make me happy

This is not a call for you to judge yourself as superficial or question the happiness you may feel when receiving a gift. However, it is precarious when happiness dramatically depends on the number or size of material possessions. When our happiness relies on particular events, at some point, we will need more and more things to make us happy as we get tired of the ones we have.

6. Inability to admit that I am biased

I admit it; I have biases, and so do you. Whether they are directed toward the foods we eat, the beliefs we hold, or the political candidates we support. We all got them. As soon as we recognize this, it is easier to practice self-honesty and even laugh at ourselves. When we don't realize it, we dig in our heels and try to prove to others that our bias is the truth they are too ignorant to see. This steals happiness by leading to conflict.


Knowing what can undermine happiness may be the best way to begin reestablishing it. Happiness does not have to be elusive. Instead, enduring happiness can start with the daily practice of gratitude, awareness of nature, and recognition of small everyday coincidences, which I call Daily Magic. This can help you be happy for no reason. Such happiness is unwavering and long-lasting.

© Dr Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD

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