post written by: Marc Chernoff

9 Things You Do NOT Need to Be Happy

9 Things You Do NOT Need to Be Happy

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never truly live if you are forever looking for the meaning of life.”
―Albert Camus

Today, as I was walking to a coffee shop in downtown Austin, a school bus stopped in front of me and a little kid waved at me frantically through the bus window.  I laughed and waved back.  There was instantly a look of surprise and then extreme happiness on the kid’s face just because I waved back to him.  This reminded me of how, as children, we need very little to make us happy.

As adults we somehow grow into the belief that we need everything to be a certain way in order to find and appreciate moments of happiness.  But the truth is, to be happy we need much less than we think we need.  In fact, I believe one of the best feelings comes when you realize that you can be perfectly OK and happy without the things you once thought you needed.  And that’s precisely what this short article is about – the things you do NOT need to be happy:

1.  Ideal circumstances.

The happiest people do not live with a certain set of circumstances, but rather with a certain set of attitudes.  Choosing to be positive and grateful for what you have now is going to determine how you’re going to live the rest of your life.  So look for something positive about today.  Even if you have to look a little harder than usual, it still exists.

Ultimately, your greatest achievements are moments in time when what you’re doing allows you to see how wonderful your life already is.

2.  Everyone’s approval.

The biggest prison you will likely ever live in is your fear of what other people think.

You cannot let other people tell you who you are or what you want.  You have to decide that for yourself.  When you’re making big decisions, remember, what you think of yourself and your life is more important than what people think of you.  Don’t let others make you feel guilty for living your life.  It’s YOUR life.  As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, live it YOUR way.

Fulfillment and success in life lie in your ability to use your entire mind to achieve your goals, dreams and desires.  Take sufficient time to spend with yourself, without external interference.  You’re worth it.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  A perfect past.

Do not let the shadows of your past darken the doorstep of your present and future.  Let go, forgive and move forward.  Just because the past didn’t turn out like you had hoped, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you had envisioned.  In fact, we often grow stronger in the places we were once broken.  Because it’s not until you’re broken for a while that you truly learn what you’re made of on the inside.  And this insight gives you the ability to rebuild yourself, stronger than ever before.

Most of the time the only difference between long-term happiness and long-term despair is not quitting on yourself.  As long as you are breathing it’s never too late.  Today is a new beginning.

4.  Full control of life’s constant changes.

Life is constantly changing and we’re changing with it.  We’re not the same person we were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  Life’s cycle doesn’t stop.  Change is what it’s all about.  But every ending is the beginning of something else.  Every exit is an entry somewhere else.  Live, learn, and let go.  Don’t hold yourself down with the changes you can’t control.

Although some forces are out of your control, you can control how you react to things.  Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – whether you’re happy or not depends greatly on which aspects you focus on.  The best thing you can do is to let go of what you can’t control, and invest your energy in the things you can.  Live simply, love generously, speak truthfully, breathe deeply, do your best, and leave the rest to the powers above you.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

5.  A carefree, stress-free life.

Great challenges make life interesting; overcoming them makes life meaningful.  Don’t wait until everything is just right; it will never be perfect.  There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions.  So what!  Get started now!  With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more skilled, more confident, and more successful.

Say it:  “I am determined to live a happy life no matter my challenges!  I will turn all my tales of fury into tales of glory!  I will turn all of my tales of woe into tales of WOW!”  And no matter what happens, just do your best and appreciate what you’re learning.  You won’t enjoy your life if you don’t enjoy your challenges.

6.  All the things you don’t have.

You are right here, right now, with what you have, breathing.  Enjoy it.  You’ve got nothing to do today except to smile.

Happiness is valuing what you have, and enjoying the people, places, objects and events in your life for what they are.  It’s not about changing and achieving all the time; sometimes it’s about being and appreciating.  And you can nearly always enjoy the things you have and the events happening around you if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

7.  A mountain of money.

If we counted our blessings more often, instead of our money, we would be a lot richer.  Keep money on your mind but out of your heart.  Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life for yourself.  Cultivate your spiritual growth.  The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.

  • Happiness formula = Do your best and appreciate what you have.
  • Unhappiness formula = Compare yourself to others and the things they have.

It’s nice to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s also important to make sure you haven’t lost track of the things that money can’t buy.  You don’t need a lot of money to lead a rich life.  Good friends and a loving family are worth their weight in gold.  It really is the little things that mean the most… like a long hug at just the right time.  (Read The Happiness Project.)

8.  Any event happening in another time and place.

Make your time count.  Do not wish your moments away.  Do not ruin today by focusing on another time and place.  There is only now; realize how rich you are in it.

Right now you are creating history – your legacy.  Don’t let life slip by without being aware of it.  Life works in a strange way:  You want something and you work and wait and work and wait, and you feel like it’s taking forever to come.  Then it happens and it’s over and all you want to do is relive all the great memories you made along the way.

Happiness is the journey.  Open your eyes.  Don’t miss it.

9.  Constant happiness.

The bottom line is that you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes.  Life is not always perfect, and the utopian world of constant happiness in not natural, nor should you expect it.

In the short-term, your mood will fluctuate, but it is your ability to realize and deal with these fluctuations that allows you to maintain long-term happiness.  Any fool can be happy when times are good.  It takes a strong soul with real heart to develop smiles out of situations that make most people weep.  But it is possible.

Live every day of your life in full.  Experience the highs and the lows, the positives and the negatives, and all the moods present between the various extremes.  Don’t focus on simply being happy.  Focus on living a well-rounded, seasoned life.  Focus on achieving completeness.  Yes, happiness is part of this completeness, but so is sadness, difficulty, frustration, and failure.  And overcoming these latter points supports your personal growth far more than constant happiness.

Next steps…

Choose happiness today by taking life moment by moment, complaining very little, and being thankful for the little things that mean a lot.

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What do we sometimes forget we do NOT need to be happy?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Dustin McClure

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  • Suranganie Dayaratne
    September 15th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Very true. I totally agree with all the aspects you mentioned. Really good advice for those of us who have unintentionally joined the rat race to find happiness.
    Thank you.


  • Hi Marc and Angel. Inspiring article! Just what I needed to read! Are you part of The Landmark Forum by chance?

  • As always, such sound reminders - advice I know but forget to follow.

    To answer your question, I think many of us often forget that we don’t need any more than what we have to be happy. It’s not what we have, but what we think about what we have that counts.

  • I’d add the fact that you don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy. Sure, companionship may be something you want in the future, but most people get stuck thinking you absolutely MUST be in one. If you’re single, you must be miserable.

    It causes people to fall into commitments that won’t work out, or they may even possibly miss meeting someone that does make them happy.

  • All excellent points, as usual. I actually can’t think of anything you forgot. So instead, I’ll just say that being mindful of what you do have is so important. Nearly all the time you can find something good. This is often true even in the worst of circumstances. Once during a truly bad time of my life I remember noticing how friendly and helpful people were - and that helped a lot. I could’ve easily chosen to wallow instead of appreciating what I could.

  • Absolutely. Thank you so much for this. Great reminders of why we’re here: to live life, not to merely survive. Excellent.

  • Love it Marc!

    Totally agree that a mountain of money can never guarantee happiness. We should keep money in mind but out of the heart. I think it’s difficult but possible. Plus gratitude is the base of happiness. If we’re not happy with what we have then we won’t be happy after having what we want. Thanks for reminding me of the key point that “Happiness is a journey”. :)

  • Man… This hit it right on the money for me… at this exact stage of my life. First time to your blog (from zite) and I have a pretty good feeling I’ll be devouring it. But obviously you don’t get by in life only on your good looks :). This post alone is worth supporting you and purchasing your eBook. That’s where I’m heading next. Thanks for putting together such a powerful post. John

  • I was reading the points and asked myself why I cant be happy when I know a lot of these things? Why I can’t just BE happy? . Then I realized every time I thank God it is for the wrong reasons, not the things that matter and the ones that are worth it. We have to be grateful for every breath we take and be present in every moment, good or bad. English is not my native tongue btw, but I wanted to share some thoughts :)

  • What does one do, Marc, when you give everything to the person you love and he/she treats you like dirt? Each of these logical reasonings are tough to understand in those times. Any advice would be appreciated.

  • Such sound advice. Being happy as you say is certainly not dependent on external factors but rather an internal state of mind.

    There is not much that is required to be happy, but in our materialistic, achievement-oriented society we often forget that.

    I would add that Success as defined by society today is not something necessary for happiness although we often do not believe it.

    A life well lived is all it takes.

  • I think we sometimes forget that the lens in which we view life has a lot to do with our overall happiness. Thanks for giving my lens a nice cleaning this morning with your article.

  • I would add that you do not need to be perfect to be happy. No one is perfect. Embrace your quirks and all. Love and appreciate you for YOU!

  • Thank you. Exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

  • Powerful messages once again and of course so true.

    I would add to the list we do not always need to be told how good we are or how talented we are at something. Obviously it’s nice to get positive comments, but when we get the opposite we may not be able to handle the negativity? Recently I got nasty comments from a fellow poet on a poetry site I write for which shook me up and I ended up returning like for like. But did it make me feel happy? NO! So I decided to ignore it and just let the person get more irate and I feel a lot calmer now and not wanting to cause harm. So like you say so often in your messages, it’s best to not return bad feelings; just accept not everyone is going to like you and I totally agree.

  • Wow!

  • I would add health to the list. Your health is always taken for granted until you lose it - or a loved one loses it and you become a caretaker. If you are healthy, count your blessings. Sometimes all the money in the world can’t bring it back.

  • I definitely agree. I think that a life without troubles and challenges would be far from satisfying, it would probably just be boring.

    I would just add that you don’t need to live life like others, even people you admire. Find your own lot in life, and stick to it. Improve where you can, but don’t try to copy someone else’s path out of sheer infatuation.

  • This was one of your best article that I have read…

  • Great insight! I think we often hunt for happiness so much, we forget to enjoy the moments we are seeking. In other words, when we finally get what we wanted, we are already looking beyond it to the next thing. Goals are important, but so is appreciation and relaxation.

  • Superb!!

    This has become my all time favouite. I have and am learning to implement all of these points in my life. By reading the points I know how much I’ve grown in the past year and I’m amazed.

    I feel so blessed and honoured to be a part of this life, even when I’m brought to my knees, I am always lifted to my highest and a better place than I ever imagined.

    I’ve learned to look at the small things and be grateful for them, to open myself up to meeting new people and have come to realize allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not a bad thing.

    I’m thankful and grateful! :)

  • Some quick thoughts:

    Permission: You do not need permission to be happy about anything, anyone, anywhere at anytime in your life. I found myself constantly needing approval in my 20’s, and it kept me back a lot from exploring things I should/could/would have explored.

    Perfect timing: “I’ll be happy when…” DO you do this? I know I do. There is no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should…says the poet. God has plans for you. And at any point you can choose to be happy, for as little happiness as you can find. Be happy now, because the longer you wait, the less happiness you will have.

    A Plan: You cannot plan happiness. Its not dependent on time, location, environment, cast members, theme, decor, food, air quality, weather, lighting, season, complexity, mood, blood pressure, white blood cell count, temperature, flexibility, pain level, eyesights, hearing loss, etc.

    Bottom line: Happiness is a choice made independent of all external and internal variables. Its an approach to life.

    A purpose: I still have no idea what my purpose in life is, but I am still happy. Why? Because I choose to be. I also have stopped looking so hard for my purpose, I am choosing to do my best and be my best. I want to see if my purpose will find me.

    Irene: why do these people take “everything” from you? My guess is that you are not setting expectations on what you want or need, how far you are willing to go, and what you want to do. Relationships are shared experiences, you deserve your share.

  • Okay, just reading this list made me smile. I would add being in a relationship. I feel young people my age(I’m 20 years old) have this thought that without a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you won’t feel complete. But I’ve never had a boyfriend and I’m happy in my own solitude. You also don’t have to be married or have children because it’s 2013. That’s all I have to say.

  • Thank you Marc and Angel, you guys seriously can change a really bad day into a really good one. Truly inspiring. And your say about how it is so not important for everyone’s approval lightened my mood. I was just spoiling my days by pleasing others rather than pleasing my own self and ended up being unhappy at the end of the day. I shall now adhere to this point and stay happier. Thank you again for posting it at the right time just before I was about to enter into an unwanted negative mode.

  • Beautiful! I really needed this today. :) Lots of feel-good energy in this post. Thank you for sharing!

    Blessings to all,
    Mary Jane :)

  • THIS: “Say it: “I am determined to live a happy life no matter my challenges! I will turn all my tales of fury into tales of glory! I will turn all of my tales of woe into tales of WOW!” And no matter what happens, just do your best and appreciate what you’re learning. You won’t enjoy your life if you don’t enjoy your challenges.”

    Thank you. You’ve really summed it up nicely.

  • Thanks Marc &Angel for another wonderful post :-) You got me thinking as always! Happiness is a constant journey, but in humdrum of life I often forget that.
    Irene: When somebody loves you they show you. Love, respect and attention are given freely. We realize this truth in our own given time.May God bless you.
    Sending you light & love.

  • Great article! I agree with Vincent. I would also add we do not need a mountain of friends to be happy. With our social media tendency to collect names and likes as if they carry monetary value, sometimes we get lose our perspective. We get lost in the noise and forget what’s important (what you’re having for dinner isn’t important…sorry). Remember who your true friends are and focus your time and attention on them. Memories made (and not read) are where dividends are paid.

  • Great post! I agree with Vincent too. Some people think that they must be in a committed relationship to be happy. If it’s not the right relationship you won’t be happy at all. Taking time to know yourself, not being afraid to be alone and liking your own company are very important to your long-term happiness.

  • Nice job! I would add that you don’t need to be part of a “couple” in order to be happy. Singles can and do have rich, full, exciting, connected, meaningful lives that include rewarding relationships with others, stimulating interests and hobbies, fulfilling jobs, and a little extra time for reflection and solitude.

  • Irene, I’m going to suggest another article that I also saw on this site. The quote below is from “A change in bad habits leads to a good change in life” and the quote below is from a list titled “20 bad habits many of us repeatedly struggle with”:

    This seems to apply to your situation.

    3. Chasing after those who don’t want to be caught. – Do not chase people. Be you, do your own thing and work hard on your passions. The right people who belong in your life will eventually come to you, and stay.

    Good luck!

  • This article put me back in prospective. Sometimes we can lose sight of the good that is “right now” in plain sight. Take time to stop, look and observe……where you are……in the present.
    Loving all the points. You met me just when I needed it. Thanks.

  • Amazo post. I love this list. Definite for sharing!
    B :)

  • Love this article! So inspiring and thought provoking! Thank you for posting it.

  • Recently I went to a friend’s new home in an exclusive area that is amazingly beautiful in every way. I am very happy for the friend as he is as awesome as his new home.

    Afterwards, when I returned to my older, small home that needs so much work, I opened the door and smiled. Though it lacks a lot of things, my home is the one that brings me joy and contentment. That is a something to treasure!

  • Thanks for the mention when using my pic! :)

  • This article arrived at a particular dark period of my life and suddenly the sun broke through the clouds! I am a keen fisherman(woman!) and follow the catch and release principle when fishing. From now on I will treat life’s challenges the same way - catch what inspires me and builds me up and release that which is negative and try everyday to remember and treasure the exitement I experience when catcing even the smallest fish. Thanks for great inspiration as always!

  • Another thing you don’t need is a life packed with activities that make other people happy.

    Find out what makes you happy and stick to it. Took me years of failing to get fit via martial arts and bootcamps and jogging programs before I realised the one sports activity I truly loved was walking. Now I power walk every day and it is such a pleasure getting fit.

  • Great read this morning!

    One thing that i think you don’t need to be happy is: another persons approval. Too mant times its easy to get caught up in others expectations, rather then just living up to your own. Im happier when im living up to my standards and not everyone else’s :))

  • An energizing article!
    Thanx a lot <3

  • You guys are awesome. I feel blessed to read this article when I did.

  • Great article, totally agree with everything! Since I started practicing being in the moment, I feel much happier and content with my life.

    It also helps to just wake up every morning and find a few things that you really love about your life, no matter how much you’re currently struggling with things.

  • Just a small but significant change to no 2: you don’t need ANYONE’s approval. Do what’s right, be true to yourself, and go for it. Which is what I would say to Irene - someone who treats you like dirt is WRONG for you. Yes, it’s hard to show him/her the door - been there, done that, and it DOES hurt like blazes. But it’s the only way. You’re worth it. And I believe you will find that you are NOT alone, even if you’re lonely and in pain for a while.

  • Thanks a lot for the great article dear Marc and Angel. :)

    In my opinion, one should “Move On” in such situations and should not waste his / her precious time and energy on someone who take them for granted.

  • @Cobbie: We’ve read several books by Landmark speakers and graduates (Three Laws of Performance, The Success Principles, etc.), but have never attended one of there conferences or classes.

    @Vincent, Christine and Kim: Agreed. When we think we “need” to be in a relationship, we often settle for the wrong one. Sad but true. Excellent points, both of you.

    @Christy King: That kind of reframe is so powerful. Quite often, the only difference between a good day and a bad day is how you look at it and what you choose to do in it.

    @John: Thank you for supporting our work by purchasing our book. I hope you thoroughly enjoy it. :)

    @Rebeca: Agreed. The foundation of all happiness is gratitude for what we already have in our lives.

    @Irene: I think the responses others have given you already provide excellent advice. Also, two articles I suggest you read (and perhaps the book recommendations referenced in them as well): and

    @Kevin Halls, Cherry, Rochelle and Kathy: “People pleasing” is something I used to struggle with too. Excellent points.

    @Connie: That kind of gratefulness will keep you smiling… :)

    @David Rapp: As always, every point is on point. – “Happiness is a choice made independent of all external and internal variables. Its an approach to life.” – I couldn’t agree more.

    @Dustin McClure: You’re welcome. Thanks for the beautiful photo.

    @Ansi: I’m glad you’re seeing a brighter skies. And I love the “catch and release principle” metaphor. I may revisit that idea in a future post.

    @All: Thank you, thank you! You all inspire Angel and me so much. Your kind words and added insight fuel the effort and energy we put into every post. :)

  • I sincerely love all your posts and advice. Your words really help me in my everyday life. Thanks.

  • Thank you for this! When the world feels like its falling on top of you, you have to remember the blessings you do have!

  • Vincent. Thank you for sharing that part about relationships not being needed for happiness. I knew this to be true but I couldn’t think of good enough reasons for it to be so. So thank you again for giving me the answer I’ve been looking for.

  • Wow, just wow. That’s all I have to say on, not only this article but your entire site. I stumbled upon this a few months ago and since then been reading the odd post of yours and every article I’ve read thus far has never failed to be thought provoking or enlightening. Making my way through all your posts though so I just want to express my gratitude to both of you! Extremely well written and thought out articles on some of life’s biggest questions, you are truly inspirational and I can’t thank you enough for the time and dedication you put into this!

  • This article made me think of a recent observation that my husband and I made. A new subscription to Netfix has enabled us to enjoy some TV shows that we would likely never have watched in a weekly series format. One thing that stood out in the British series is that the stars are not necessarily beautiful, in the American sense. They are quite ordinary in face and figure yet they still manage to have exciting work and romantic lives. It is very refreshing.

  • Wow! This hit right on the target of everything a friend and I were talking about earlier today. I absolutely agree and love everything about what this article talks about. I’m always moved by all the articles I read on this site but this one in particular has got to be my all time favorite. Thank you so much for the wise wisdom that you both share! Every time I read an article of yours, I instantly feel more grounded and just put back into reality of what’s truly important in life :))) thank you so much!!

  • I have been happily living with not needing everyone’s approval for some time now but some people will just not let you live. I am currently having a problem with someone I work with who thinks she needs to save me from my singleness. I am a grown up and am very aware of my life and my situation and am happy that I’m making progress in life and I feel confident. This woman will not stop pushing me to date her friend and i have no interest in her friend. She says I need someone and that I shouldn’t be single. I have told her numerous times “thank you for thinking of me but I’m good, things are good for me, I’m fine”. She insists that I need to find someone and that my life is not OK. I don’t know what to say to this woman anymore as she has become almost harassing in the way that she can’t stop focusing on my life. She hardly knows me anyway and is making some huge issue out of me being single and apparently to her I’m not capable of living my life. I don’t know what this kind of behavior is about.

    It’s very sad that someone would push and push on someone to live life the way they think you should live. I’ve been very patient and respectful to her so far when trying to make her see my life and choices don’t need her help or approval but she just wont back off. This is not respectful behavior and I’m feeling pretty insulted that she can’t see I’m perfectly capable and it’s not her business. It’s almost like she wants to control me, it’s very weird. There are some people in the world who don’t like others to live their life when it doesn’t fit into some box either them or society has created. I will not let these people influence me because they can’t see correctly, I have to say it’s frustrating though. Sorry for the long comment.

  • Thank you.

  • I never thought about life like this; living with the ups, downs, frustrations, and the joy of life. Embracing this thought will require I accept my life for all that it is, the good and the bad. I wonder is it possible? Thank you.

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