Do You Know the Definition of Happiness?

You’re happy with your friends and family.

You’re pretty happy with your job. It could be better, but it’s good, all things considered.

You’re largely happy with yourself. You could be a bit more physically and emotionally healthy, but your self-esteem is still rather high.

The question remains, however… are you happy?

I can’t answer that one for you.

Which is why I’d like you to do a little soul searching.

Reading dating advice without taking it is like reading a diet book without changing your diet!

Think about the happiest time in your entire adult life.

Think about where you lived at the time.

Think about what you were doing at the time.

Think about when you felt entirely carefree, where the weight of the world wasn’t solely on your shoulders, where you felt loved and supported and light.

Think about who you were dating at the time.

Think about how blissful it was. How everything seemed right with the world. How you wished that period of your life could have gone on forever.

That’s what I mean by happiness.

It’s a rare state, but it often coincides with the state of your relationship.

If it’s been a long time since you’ve felt the joys of being in a safe, nurturing, romantic relationship, it’s time to take action.

Reading dating advice without taking it is like reading a diet book without changing your diet!

Let me explain…

I consider myself an amateur sociologist. I’ve been observing dating and relationship patterns in men and women since the early 2000’s and have a whole bunch of theories.

Still, I appreciate that there are people who can back up their theories with studies, instead of relying on anecdotal evidence, like I do.

Which brings me to today’s point: scientists (who are even smarter than dating coaches!) have weighed in on happiness. And the best – and simplest – definition of happiness that I’ve ever heard was this:

Happiness is when your goals and your actions are aligned.

If you’re a musician and your whole life revolves around music, you’re going to be happiest when you’re making music for a living. Your goal – being a professional musician, and your actions – working hard at being a professional musician – are aligned.

Happiness is when your goals and your actions are aligned.

Similarly, if your goal is to have absolutely no responsibility to anyone but yourself, you might find that going to college was the happiest time for you. 10 hours of class a week, lots of down time for sleeping and drinking and conversing, tons of other like-minded young people around you.

If we were to flip those two situations over – and make the musician get a desk job selling insurance, and make the college student work full-time at an investment bank, then guess what? It’s pretty safe to say that neither would be happy.

Why? Their actions wouldn’t be aligned with their goals.

We all have different goals. Some people just want to make money and travel and hang out with friends. If that’s your goal and you’re doing it, bravo to you. You’re probably really happy with your decision.

However, if your goal is to have a happy, healthy, committed relationship… and you’re not currently in a happy, healthy, committed relationship… I have to ask:

Are you truly happy?

Are your actions aligned with your goals?

When my goal was to find love, these were my actions:

I was on three different dating sites, I went out to bars at least once or twice a week, I took salsa lessons, and openly solicited set-ups.

As a result, I went on between 1 and 2 dates a week for five years.

I fell in love, got dumped.

Dated prolifically.

Fell in love, got dumped.

Went back to the drawing board.

Had another relationship.

Ended that relationship.

Dated again.

Fell in love.

Got married.

Does that sound like a lot of effort?

It WAS. And it WORKED.

You may think that going on hundreds of dates sounds like a waste of time.

But from all of my dating, I learned what to expect from women, what they were looking for in a man, and what I was repeatedly doing wrong.

I learned how to communicate clearly, how to be a leader, and how to act with class and integrity. Most importantly, I learned that the woman I thought I was looking for was NOT the woman I SHOULD have been looking for.

All of this dating led to me becoming a better dating coach and a better husband.

Dating can do the same for you, too.

So, before you go back to work or close up your email, please try this one quick exercise:

Write down your relationship goal, specifically, what type of relationship you want.

Write down your actions – what, specifically, you’re doing to achieve your relationship goal.

If you’re dating online, that means you should write down how many people you’re contacting each week, and how many people you’re dating each month.

If you’re going to singles events, write down how many dates result from those events.

If you’re paying for a dating service or matchmaker, write down how often you utilize their services.

To reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with being single, if being single is your GOAL.

When you look at your actions on paper, you can see for yourself whether they are aligned with your goals.

If your paper looks like:

Goal: Long-term partnership that could lead to marriage and children.

Action: Canceled Match.com subscription, 2 dates in past year from guys in bars.

Well, you know what that means.

To reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with being single, if being single is your GOAL.

But if you want to find love, but are resisting because it’s easier to be alone, then you might not ever be as happy as you could be.

That, to me, is unacceptable.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    BloggyDaddy

    I agree that your actions should be in step with your goals and I also could see where the actions you listed were in step with your goals of trying to find someone.  I think that some people may have a goal to find someone, but I hope that whether or not they find said person isn’t what they equate to their own happiness.
    There is a danger in allowing a relationship to define your happiness, because I don’t think a relationship alone can make someone happy.  One has to be happy with themselves or on their way to it before a relationship becomes fulfilling in my opinion.

  2. 2
    Margo

    Evan, your explanation of the attainment of a goal is common sense or should be to those with average and above intelligence. For example, the person who wants to lose weight will not lose weight unless he or she decreases food intake and/or exercises. It’s a simple concept that needs to be reiterated because most of us (myself included), tend to do what is easiest instead of what is effective.

    I really enjoyed your chosen definition of happiness. When I reflect on it, this is why I’m currenty not satisfied in a major area of my life even though I’m working on a major goal. What I’ve realized by reading this though, is that I can still be happy in the interim career-wise. :) Thanks! 

  3. 3
    Diana

    For me, true happiness comes in wanting what you have, not having what you want. I agree with BloggyDaddy, too.

  4. 4
    Margo

    I agree with Diana to a certain extent. HOWEVER, if you can change things that you are not satisfied with, by all means change them instead of sitting on your bum and doing nothing.

  5. 5
    starthrower68

    There are, however, always going to be people who can’t be happy without a relationship.  So they might as well do what works to find one.

  6. 6
    hunter

    I think most men are happy when they find what they are looking for.

  7. 7
    Venus

    @ Dian #3 

    Thats not happiness.  Thats acceptance.  The recipe for stagnation.  I have everything I need except a relationship.  Am I happy?  Not really.  Do I want to be alone?  No.  Do I want to want this?  Hell no.  Humans are social beings.  If we find ourselves in a situation where we are alone it is natural for us to want to change this.  

    Your definition my apply to wanting material things but when it comes to basic human needs that’s a whole different ball game. 

  8. 8
    Zann

    I agree that most goals require effort. I also agree that finding a satisfying intimate relationship takes effort. But — and it’s a big but — even if your “goal” is to be coupled, and even if you work really hard at it, there are still many factors over which you have absolutely no control that might prevent that — maybe you’re not drop-dead gorgeous, or maybe you’re kind of an introvert, or you’ve got a “weak chin,” relentlessly bad hair, or you’re a trekky! No matter how gifted you are, no matter how hard you try, there’s still no guarantee you will find that special person. In other words, you may not attain your goal. Does that mean you’ve failed? You’re a loser? You’re not capable of being happy, despite the feeling that, strangely, overall, you feel pretty damn good?  

    Of course not.  Happiness comes in many forms.  I honestly can’t say when I was the most happy in my life (and I’ve been alive a long time). There are periods of time that stand out, but many of them have to do with family, friends, my kids, work, artistic pursuits, reaching all different kinds of goals. Yes, having a love in my life has been extremely enriching for periods of time, but the only thing I have for sure, always, is me.  So I better be happy with me — whether coupled or single.

  9. 9
    A-L

    I have to agree with those that a relationship does not equate to life happiness.  It can add to one’s happiness, or that part of one’s life can be happy, but being in a good relationship in and of itself does not mean happiness.  When Evan asked about the happiest time of my life, I thought back to my college days.  Academic variety and rigor combined with arts and sporting events and travel and a great group of friends that I got to see daily…  But, I was completely single all 4 years of college, and rarely did that ever bother me.  In fact, more often than not, I never even gave it a second thought. 

  10. 10
    SS

    I think one can want various things at different stages of life.
     
    For example, my graduate school years and a few years after were a very happy time for me. I was single all of that time… actually, the vast majority of my adult life was spent single, and for much of that period, I didn’t even think about it, like A-L said. I was truly happy.
    However, my priorities changed and studying, traveling and being with friends no longer brought me the same satisfaction that they did when I was 5-10 years younger. I started to feel more like Venus #7 and really desired a relationship. I also resented those people who tried to imply that there was something wrong with feeling unhappy or dissatisfied because one was single… sure if you can’t spend more than five minutes single, that might be a problem, but if the majority of your adult life is spent NOT in a relationship and you get tired of it, that’s a normal human emotion.
     
    It took me a while to feel okay with believing that yes, it is possible that one can be happier because they are in a relationship. That doesn’t diminish one as a person or mean that she has low self-esteem or that being single is bad. But seriously, why are we all here anyway (on this board, on Match.com) if we didn’t have SOME degree of feeling less than satisfied with our lives being lived alone? A relationship should not be my sole source of happiness, but you better believe that I expect a good degree of happiness to result because I am in a relationship.
     

  11. 11
    AS

    Agreeing with A-L#9 being in a relationship should not define your happiness but add to your happiness. It is also equally true that if you set a goal and you are fulfilling it then you should be happy – but what I am interpreting from Evan’s point is that if your goal is to meet someone, you have to be proactive. Just like a professional goal that you may set yourself, for example to be a director in 3 years, you have to work to make that happen so why should it be any different for your personal life? So if your goal is to meet someone, but you’re unhappy because you haven’t but at the same time you’re not doing anything to create opportunities then whose fault is it?

  12. 12
    Diana

    To Venus #3, happiness derived from wanting what you have doesn’t mean you have to remain stagnate or accept a condition you do not want. While at least one study has been done about whether this philosophical view holds true, when compared with a person’s desire level for materialism, my interpretation is different.
     

    My true and lasting happiness comes from deep within. It is not obtainable through relationships, children, material objects, money, jobs, accomplished goals, etc. As a young teen, I recognized that I could create my own state of happiness, despite my dismal conditions and painful experiences. I created my happiness by feeling in sync with the beauty in life. This brought peace, comfort, and joy. My happiness has also enriched and complimented some of my most celebratory and inspiring experiences. By feeling happiness in what I already have, like the ability to drink in a sunbeam kissed horizon, this self-fueled sustenance has enabled me to move forward and bring into my life some pretty amazing people and experiences. I have fulfilled many dreams, and it is all because of the happiness that I found in wanting what I already had, and of course, still do.

    All things in life are temporary. One can lose everything they feel makes them happy in the blink of an eye. What then? Happiness is a state of mind.

  13. 13
    Diana

    BTW, some of the happiest people on earth are the elderly. One might conclude what could they possibly be happy about? Their friends or spouses are dying, their bodies are failing, their budgets might be frayed, etc. Maybe they have learned how to feel happy, despite their circumstances, by focusing on what they already have.

  14. 14
    Venus

    @ Diana 12 & 13

    The desire to be coupled isn’t just about “wanting” it’s a part of our physiological makeup.   If it weren’t then the human race would have become extinct a long time ago.   I imagine it may be possible to suppress those desires and replace them with activities and other social affiliations that fill the void (like old people often do), but I am not old yet, and to settle for that now just feels like failure. 
    I am not suggesting that a man will make me happy, but if being coupled is a fundamental goal and it’s not being achieved then this definitely takes away from my center of happiness.   If the other areas of my life are in sync  there is really no reason why this shouldn’t be as well.  

    I never thought I would be doing on line dating, but if that’s what its gonna take then so be it.

  15. 15
    Diana

    Hi Venus ~ I think we’re talking about two different things. :) And it’s all good. My thought about happiness wasn’t intended to mean that you shouldn’t seek love and companionship nor to feel that you must settle for anything in life: love, abuse, poverty, etc.. I wish you all the best!

  16. 16
    Melissa

    This makes SO much sense!
     
    And it also makes sense as to why I’m currently not happy.
     
    I’m actually in an extremely happy relationship (thanks to Evan) but currently my goals and my actions are not aligned in other areas, which leads to tremendous discontent.
     
    Even though I’m in a happy relationship, I still pop back to your blog every once in awhile Evan to get prolific words of wisdom in other areas… and to remind me not to take my relationship for granted.  It is just shy of a year now and I owe being “happy” in that aspect of my life 150% to you!  :-)

  17. 17
    Michael17

    I like this article!
     
    I tend to be happiest when I have a Mission that I am moving towards. Just as Evan said…

  18. 18
    NonExist

    His college description was spot on for me … course my course load was 20 hours and I had a part time job which paid fantastically…. but that was it.

    And my take on a partner is that their happiness adds to yours so it can be multiplied.
    Not saying there will not be periods where tragedy strikes and sadness and anger will come in, but long term one will only be a drain on another if one does not have their own store of happiness alone first.

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