Do things have to be perfect for you to be happy?

Is there a pie chart for happiness? Do all the pieces have to fall into place? Is it some sort of secret formula – a combination of relationships, careers, and interests? Can one area compensate for the shortcomings of another area?

Those are some big questions.

I’m not really a happy person, but I’m also not that sad either. My pieces have never fallen into place but somehow things always work out and I’m grateful for that.

So what makes a person happy?


I’m guessing having the ability to accept things just how they are is near the top of the list (below having your needs met). I’m not very good at that one. I always want bigger and better things, especially when it comes to my creative pursuits. No accomplishment is ever enough. I always want more. I’m not sure it that’s good or bad.

I always think things will be better if I reach the next goal. Then the next goal and the next goal. It’s really never-ending.

But I wonder if my ambitions are just a distraction from everything else going on in my life. Sure, I love to write and create art, but am I missing something else? Do I have a relentless drive or am I actually unsatisfied in other areas?

I just feel it (or I) will never be enough. 

Helping Others

Does helping others make you happier?

I work in a helping profession and I have made some connections that are very meaningful in my life. But helping others also brings up some questions. What’s your motivation?

Ultimately, are you serving yourself or others? Which makes you happier, helping others to feel good or to look good?

I bring this up because I’ve always been disgusted at Christians who help others “in the name of god.” “Helping others in the name of god” is code for I’m trying to score points to get into heaven. Sure, they’ll give you free food from their pantry, but they’re going to make you sit through a sermon first. They’re taking advantage of vulnerable people for what is ultimately their gain.

I’m getting off my soapbox now.

In my case, it’s both – I serve myself as well as others. I facilitate art and writing groups for people struggling with mental health issues. I love creating art and writing poetry but it’s even better getting to share that passion with others. In our groups, I grow as an artist and writer along with everyone else. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the group and I hope they feel the same way. Sometimes we collaborate and it’s amazing what we can do together. I don’t even know how to put it into words. The atmosphere just feels magical. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved. 

My job makes me happier. It’s a noticeable difference between when I work and when I have days off. Not only does it feel good helping others, but also just feeling productive in general.

Do you notice that, too?

Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is probably at the top of the list, too – going for walks, eating enough food, seeing your doctor, taking medications as prescribed, etc. These are definitely things I need to work on. I take my medications on schedule every day but I tend to blow off appointments and not get enough physical activity.

But this goes beyond a physical sense.

Are people who set boundaries and say “no” happier? I’d like to think so. Standing your ground and sticking up for yourself and your needs shows you know your worth. 

I think knowing that you have worth is key.

Knowing how and when to ask for help has been important to my happiness. My life is intense and I mostly blame my mental illness. But through medication and therapy, I’ve learned to cope with my symptoms. Had I never asked for help (or continued to ask for help when needed) I would either be in a very dark place or dead. 


I’ve told you a little about my gratitude journal before. Every few days I make a list, usually of ten to twenty items, that I am grateful for that day. I know it sounds corny, but it really does help me. I learned this coping tool last year during my training to become a certified trauma support specialist. According to my instructor, there are studies that show that happier people tend to feel more gratitude than others.

Have you ever tried something like that? Do you journal?

Writing in my gratitude journal definitely helps me keep a positive outlook, and while I never actually looked up the studies, I believe my instructor. I think gratitude can play a big role in happiness.

My husband and I struggle financially and when I feel like I don’t have anything, my gratitude journal tells me otherwise. I know money isn’t everything but it’s hard to tell that to someone who has trouble keeping up with their bills. But on the other hand, I don’t need money to know how grateful I am for my family as well as many other non-materialistic things. 

I have a lot of good things in my life despite my troubles. Maybe this realization is important in my quest for happiness.

I know we all feel a range of emotions and that’s healthy, so maybe “satisfied” is a little more descriptive and accurate than “happy”. But I’m sure you know what I mean.

How do you feel about happiness and the ways to go about attaining it? We all have our ups and downs, but would you consider yourself happy? Or something else?

Things are definitely not perfect, but they probably never will be. Is happiness living in the moment or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?


  1. John Morales says

    For me, happiness is something that sometimes happens.

    There are times when I’m happy, and times when I’m not.

    Can’t expect to be happy all the time, or even most of the time.

    Ongoing contentment, well… maybe. Just maybe, one can hope for that.

    “Is happiness living in the moment or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?”

    Can be both or either, but I do think that appreciating the little things and the things one takes for granted sure helps.

  2. lorn says

    Formulaic, but true;

    Happiness is simple:
    Know and be known. (If they don’t know you as a human; they can’t love you as a human.)
    Love and be loved.
    Perform work that is useful for yourself and others.

    The requirements (above) are simple. How you get there is decidedly not simple, or easy, for most people.

    A good example are the good school teachers that can be themselves, love the kids(and be loved in return) and know they are doing important work. They may never get rich, or have power, but they can be happy.

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