sucessful self improvement

The Four Principles of Happiness

There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to decide if they are where they want to be or if they want to work towards getting to where they want to be. They also have to figure out if they even know what success truly is. I’ve had to examine these questions myself. Let’s talk about it.

How do we get to be where we want to be? What is success? Success is a subjective subject for most people. Some people consider success, having a job and being able to pay their bills, while others consider success, having a lot of money and other material things. Others, still, consider success living a social life with friends and loved ones.

Success is none of those things and all of those things, all at the same time. Real success comes in the form of happiness. Simply, if a person isn’t happy, they aren’t successful. One could even say that success is a byproduct of happiness. What is happiness, you may ask? It took me a long time to figure out the answer to that question. Like most things in life, discovering the answer was a process, it didn’t happen all at once.

It was six years after I graduated college. Up to this point, I had worked every miserable and, to me, demeaning job, I would want to work in one lifetime. Call centers, delivering pizzas, retail; jobs that made me want to tie a rope around my neck and step off of the bar stool. I had just been released from a big box retail chain and was in the job market for about two or three months. I happened upon an ad for a Network Administrator position. So, I applied for the job and got called for an interview. By this time, in my life, I had mastered how to do an interview, so I wasn’t nervous. Long story short, I got the job. It took me six long years to get a job in my field of study, but I did it.

This job came with it all. It was decent pay, I was doing what I wanted to do, and above all, I had my own office. I tell you what, it may not seem like much to some, but having your own office is where it’s at. Despite this, I still wasn’t happy. Sure, I enjoyed my work and didn’t have to worry about money, but these are external things. Happiness isn’t external, it’s internal. Discover the internal and it will become eternal.

I had to take a step back and stop looking at the outside circumstances and material aspect of life, and look inside myself. Most days, I hate myself. I don’t hold myself in high esteem. As a result, I hate everyone around me. Sometimes, I look at others and become envious of what they have, whether it be looks, money, power, whatever. This mentality, obviously, is the antithesis of happiness.

In order to be happy, you have to understand a number of things, I’ll call these The Four Principles of Happiness:

1. Life and being are two different things.

Being is a constant. We are human beings. This means that we will be who we are, no matter what happens. Life is a variable. In our lives, unexpected things happen all the time. We can’t prepare for everything. What we can do is not let life affect our being. When we do that, we upset the applecart and everything becomes frustrating. Life is the waves in the ocean of being. Sometimes, that ocean is calm and other times there are storms brewing. Keep yourself calm and take those waves until waters are calm again and continue to sail on.

2. You can only control yourself.

This might seem like common sense, but to some it’s not. Namely, me. For a lot of people, a huge amount of stress can be alleviated by understanding this principle. If someone spends their life trying to control someone else, they are living a life of futility. When I came to realize and accept that I can only dictate my own actions and not somebody else, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. This can come in many forms: spouses trying to control the other spouse, parents trying to control children, friends trying to control other friends. At the end of the day, people are going to do what they are going to do. Only you are going to do what you want to do, so just focus on that and really, that’s all that is important.

3. Understand stress.

Notice I didn’t say avoid stress. In a fantasy world, there is no stress and everyone lives happily ever after. Here’s something that will blow your hair back, though, we don’t live in a fantasy world. Also, avoiding stress will just end up causing more stress. The key to stress, is to understand it and embrace it. When you are at the point of knowing what stress is, accepting it, and being able to deal with it accordingly, it no longer feels like stress. If you want to talk about bliss, some would consider not feeling stress, pure bliss. I’m saying this matter of factly, in truth, this is a hard concept to master. Buddhists spend their lives practicing this philosophy of nirvana, so don’t expect it to come easily. I’m still learning how to deal with it.

4. Happiness is for everyone.

Some people think that they will never find happiness. As long as someone thinks that, it will be true. Everyone should know that they are entitled to happiness and if they follow the guidelines that I’ve talked about and numerous other people have talked about, they can achieve it. It’s not easy, and it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to keep working at it, like anything. Just like those six years I kept trying to get a job doing what I thought I wanted to do, keep chiseling away at the things that keep you from reaching an understanding and happiness that few people know exist.

Happiness is not always having a smile on your face, but a complete understanding of self and the surrounding. Achieving this kind of happiness that I have described, true happiness, will lead you on a path of assured success. It is a powerful realization. One that is synonymous with understanding yourself and everything around you. I think that meditation is a great tool for attaining this universal consciousness. Reading and being open minded are another set of great tools. Whatever you choose to do on your journey is up to you, just know that anything is possible if you wish it so.

Fred Smith is one-half of The Bodhi Tree Show podcast with Joseph Whitis. The same duo was also responsible for the now legendary Iron Sloth and Jewbacca Show podcast. The Bodhi Tree Show is a Kickstarter project that will hopefully entertain and enlighten many. You can follow Fred and The Bodhi Tree Show at and receive news when the Kickstarter is launched.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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