This post is a follow up to the happiness poll and the previous 5 Steps to Happiness posts. In the original post, I included a poll and asked folks to choose the most difficult step in the path to happiness out of these five steps:

The 5 Steps to Happiness

Step 1:                 Adore yourself!

Step 2:                 Gratitude

Step 3:                 Cancelling the (negative) noise

Step 4:                 Decide to be happy

Step 5:                 Share your joy!

Here are the original and updated responses.*  [ To all those who took the poll: thank you!  If you’d like to take the poll, you can find it in the original post here:  The 5 Steps to Happiness ]

What is the most difficult step in these 5 Steps to Happiness? 

                                                                                                       Early Result              Current

Cancelling the (negative) noise                                                  46%                            40%

Adore yourself                                                                                23%                             23%

Deciding to be happy (understanding it’s a choice)               12%                              14%

Gratitude – No complaining!                                                       12%                             12%

Sharing with others                                                                          4%                               7%

Undecided or Other                                                                         <1%                              4%

Although the percentages changed, the result did not. The third step, “Cancelling negativity”, is still considered the most difficult. I agree, although some negativity can be useful. I also wasn’t surprised to see that “Adore yourself” was still considered the second most difficult step. Many people struggle with this, yet it’s so important! In fact, I think it’s the base step for accomplishing a lot of things, including inner happiness. 

Before I get to the first step – I promised that I would discuss each of the steps in turn –  I thought I would first write about what it means to BE HAPPY.

Happy Face

Can Happiness be Defined?

The word happiness is usually twisted into something magically unattainable or reduced to a trite fleeting emotion. It is neither. Dan Gilbert points out in his book Stumbling on Happiness that “…happiness really is nothing more or less than a word that we word makers can use to indicate anything we please.” This may be true, but I will try to convey how important it is to discover the meaning of inner happiness and how different that is from the typical definitions. 

Pollyannaish - blech.Side Note:  There is a misconception that being happy equates to being Pollyannaish. I don’t
have anything against friendly, bubbly, sparkly folks. (You know who you are.) They seem nice. But, the outward persona has nothing to do with inner happiness.

The happiness I’m referring to is not an outward expression or a fleeting moment of bliss. A more accurate description is inner peace. I won’t quote the Dali Lama or some such here, but it is along that line of thinking. Here’s the best written definition I can provide at this early stage in the process:

Happiness is an inner peace with the knowledge that nothing external can alter it.

So, how do you know if you have this inner happiness? The philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, “Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so.” While that does have some truth to it, the initial goal here is be able to identify it and hopefully these processes will help you like they helped me. If so, what it means to have inner happiness will be more clear after the fourth step, but the short-term answer can be found in the definition. It’s an inward calmness, almost void of any on-the-surface emotions (bad or good), and nothing can change that sense of peace.

Can Anyone Really BE HAPPY?

To be clear, this is not a state of existence that you’re necessarily constantly aware of. There are also times when we intentionally abandon the inner happiness and allow the external to yank us out, often in order to deal with an emotion. Grief, for example, or even an overabundance of joy. Life events and strong emotions may temporarily take over; however, once you have some experience with the inner happy place you will always know it’s within you and accessible.

That’s a tall order, I know, but it is attainable. It’s already part of you. The problem is that we are in the bad habit of wasting time in the pursuit of happiness (the emotional state or external whatevers that “make” us happy) that we fail to look within for the more valuable and more accessible happiness.

Next Post… Adore Yourself!

These are the five steps that helped me to access the inner happy place, allowed me to have a greater sense of self, and provided me with an appreciation for, well, everything. Knowing that you have happiness at your disposal is empowering – and arguably more importantly – comforting. I hope you find something in these steps that can help you as well.

In the next related 5  Steps to Happiness post, we’ll start at the beginning with the first step – Adore Yourself! This is a necessary place to start in the quest for happiness and generally a good starting point no matter what your goals in life are.

Let's Begin!

*P.S. I feel compelled to mention again that the poll is by no means an empirical study. That is probably obvious. But, maybe not.