What Is Happiness?

By Leo Gura - March 5, 2014 | 19 Comments

An advanced definition of happiness that just might transform your approach to life.

Video Transcript

Show Full Transcript Minimize Transcript

Hey, this is Leo from Actualized.org, and in this video I want to talk about what is happiness.

Welcome back, and let’s crack into this topic. What is happiness? Happiness is something I’ve covered in other videos. In fact, I’ve got a great video up there, How To Feel Happy, where you can take a look at the specific things you can do in your life, changes you can enact, put into place, that will actually generate real happiness for you, versus the kind of happiness you thought you would get, or the thing you thought would make you happy but won’t.

True Understanding

That one’s more of a practical video. This video, I’m going to give you some really deep understanding of what happiness is. This one goes deeper. We’re going to the core. What we’re going to do is say some things that are going to undermine and undercut and really contradict some of the stuff we talked about in the previous video.

This is going to take a little bit of intellect on your part, to work through some of these concepts, because there are many layers to understanding happiness and actually getting it working in your life. Let’s crack into this.

What I really want to talk about here is, I want to get some definitions straight, because when we say happiness, that can be such a generic term it loses sight of anything real. It’s kind of like the world love. It tends to be so overused, we say “happiness”, we say “love”… Who the hell knows what these words mean anymore, because of the willy-nilly way in which we use them?

The Definitions

I’ve been studying this stuff a lot, and I’ve been clarifying definitions in my own mind, and I’m not saying my definitions are the right ones, but I’m saying there are these concepts out there and whatever you choose to label them, these are the concepts.

I’m going to go through them to get you a really good sense of what happiness really means. I’m sure that right now, your understanding of what happiness is is drastically different from what it really should be. That is why you don’t have happiness. That is why you don’t have fulfillment.

This is why you’re out there looking for something more, and wondering what more is there? Something must be missing. What is missing? You’re looking for that missing piece. Here is the missing piece, and this is deep, and this is not something you’ll be told almost anywhere else, so listen up, and have an open mind about this.

Some of these ideas are very likely to shatter your ego and really bruise it up. Some of these things are not comfortable. Some of these truths are just not comfortable to come to adopt and understand.

Happy Or Just Excited?

Let’s make a distinction right now between happiness and excitement. Two very different things. What you call happiness, when we just say happiness in our common parlance, what we’re really talking about there is a form of excitement. We’re going to make this distinction between being happy, as in just fulfilled, calm and peaceful, just having a very mellow, even-keeled state of mind and being. Calm, peaceful, imperturbable. You feel like everything is right. You’re in the moment.

That is more of the true definition of happiness. That is not what we say when we talk in everyday terms. In everyday terms, when we talk about happiness, usually what people mean is excitement. Let me give you some examples here to make this concrete.

You’re happy when you go have a nice meal at some expensive restaurant. You have that seafood, or that lobster, or that steak, makes you happy. What is that? That is stimulation. That’s titillation that you’re getting. That’s a form of excitement.

It’s nothing crazy. Eating a nice steak is not some crazy form of excitement, it’s not like going on a rollercoaster. You don’t really get adrenaline rushing through your veins, but it’s still a form of excitement. It makes you happy, we would say. Eating a nice steak makes you happy, or whatever your favourite food is.

Then, having some nice sex, some amazing, mind blowing sex. That tends to be a little bit more towards what we would consider excitement. If it’s mind blowing sex, then it’s orgasmic, it’s excitement, it’s crazy, a lot of emotions. You’re filled with chemicals and hormones. That is a form of excitement, but we also say that makes you happy. Having great sex makes you happy.

How about going on that rollercoaster? Obviously, that’s a form of excitement. It makes you happy if you like those kinds of things. Going to amusement park rides makes you happy. This is what we generally would say happiness is, and we tend to look for happiness in that way.

We look for stuff that will stimulate and excite us. We want to get into a stimulating relationship, we want to do stimulating things. We want to be doing stimulating hobbies, we want to be entertained in ever more stimulating ways. We want more stimulating movies, we want a more stimulating book, something that’s got drama to it.

We want stimulation at work, we want to be working on some exciting project. We want stimulation with our friends, we want to go out and do something fun, maybe get drunk, have an adventure.

We want stimulation and excitement in our travel, even when we go traveling we want to do something exotic. We want to do something exotic, we want to do something new, something unique, something adventurous and exciting there.

We tend to think all of those things makes us happy. We tend to think that if we had more of those, and we had them more consistently, then we would be on a more consistent level of excitement and we could just, instead of the mundane life we’re living, we could have these peaks of excitement, and then we’d just somehow lock those peaks in.

If we had more money, we’d be able to lock that peak in and continue that excitement. Or if we were able to marry our dream partner, then we would take that amazing sex and take that amazing spark that we have and lock it in, and keep that going with marriage.

This is the common sense, intuitive notion of happiness. The problem is that it doesn’t work. It’s not real. What that is is not happiness. Let’s classify that and label it as excitement. Excitement is there. It’s definitely the case that our brain loves excitement, it loves variety, likes to go out there and look for these sources of stimulation.

An Unconscious Life

It’s very convenient, because it’s an unconscious form of living. When you’re engaged in all these things, really, you’re behaving in an unconscious way. You’re just getting pleasure, you’re feeding off the pleasure, and it makes you feel so good that it basically acts like an addiction.

You might think of doing drugs, for example, as a huge form of excitement. If you do a hard-core drug like heroin, that gives you a big rush of excitement. What you also get when you do that is, you get the highs, but with the highs come the inevitable lows.

That’s basically what’s happening with your life. You are going out there and seeking stimulation, in not as destructive ways as a heroin junkie, but actually, we might say, in equally destructive ways. You might not be destroying your body and brain quite as badly, although many of you are with the food you’re eating, but you are destroying the potential and the arc of life, the growth of your life.

You’re destroying that by all this stimulation you’re plugged into, from TV news to internet, to movies, to hanging out with your friends, to partying, to drinking, to even that job you’re really excited about. All that stuff, in a sense, is limiting you.

The reason that is is because you’re trying to get stimulation from it. That is different than real, genuine happiness. Let me talk about what genuine happiness is. This is not something I would talk about with a newbie who’s just being introduced to personal development.

I would say, if you’re just getting started, and right now your life feels pretty miserable and you’re having trouble paying the bills, you’re having trouble at work, trouble in relationships, you’ve got emotional wounds that need work.

Genuine Happiness

If you’ve got these problems, work on those first, rather than going after genuine happiness. Genuine happiness is going to take you some time to really wrap your brain around and to get it working in your life. Genuine happiness is this:

It’s a feeling of peace and calm and contentment. That means that you are content with whatever is happening in the moment. You’re not thinking about the future. You’re not thinking about the past. You’re not plugged in to any particular source of stimulation.

You’re not watching TV, you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. It’s just — you’re happy right now, as you are. You’re just content. You’re content and you’re peaceful. Nothing is really disturbing you. More so, you’re so at peace that you don’t even imagine that anything could disturb you.

Basically, it’s the elimination of any form of suffering. You might say “OK, that sounds nice. I’ve had moments in my life where I felt nice. How can that compare with the excitement I get when I go watch a blockbuster movie and it blows my mind? Or when I read some amazing, thrilling book? Or when I go drinking with my friends, we have a crazy night out on the town? Or we go shopping and it’s so fun to go buy stuff. I get that new gadget, I open it up — it’s like Christmas morning.”

Isn’t that what we want, that excitement, rather than this fulfillment? Here’s that problem with the excitement paradigm. Really what’s happening here is that it’s and egoic paradigm. You’re operating from your ego.

Hamster Wheel

What your ego is doing is, and this is a very apt metaphor I’m going to use, is keeping you trapped like a mouse in a hamster wheel, going after a piece of cheese. What you’ve got here is this situation where you’re going through life chasing after things, thinking external things will make you happy.

They don’t, and you keep failing to find that. You go and look for another source of stimulation thinking that will be the answer. You go and bounce from source of stimulation to source of stimulation, hopefully improving the quality of the sources of stimulation.

You might start off with hardcore drugs and eventually realise that’s not doing it for you, so you wean yourself off those, and you might just go to drinking and smoking. Then you might wean yourself off those, because you see that that’s not healthy. Then, it’s like, you’re watching TV and you’re screwing around on the internet.

Eventually, maybe you’ll realise those aren’t doing too much for you either and maybe you go and find a good relationship. What can be wrong about a good relationship? Nothing really, except that again, you’re looking for that relationship, you’re looking for stimulation from it. It’s going to fail to do that for you.

Let me tell you what you’re really after. Right now, you’re probably sitting there, thinking “What you’re talking about, Leo, you’re talking about this Buddhist, zen idea of happiness where you’re just calm, content in the moment, not really seeking anything, not striving for anything. First of all, that’s going to lead to a boring life that’s not exciting. I don’t want that kind of life.”

Then, you’re also probably thinking that that’s not what happiness really is. Here’s what you’ve got to understand, and really ask yourself this, the whole life that you’ve been living so far — what has it been, twenty years, thirty years, forty years, fifty, sixty years? — have you actually gotten what you wanted out of life? Have you actually gotten it?

You have it right now. You’ve chased many things. You’ve been a hamster in that wheel your whole life. Have you gotten in? Have you gotten that cheese? Have you gotten what you were really after? Let me tell you what you were really after.

What you were really after is that moment of peace that happens after the stimulation ends. That’s why you’re pursuing that stimulation. Let’s say, for example, a new movie comes out. You’re really excited to go see it. That moment, in that whole arc of going to see the movie, watching the movie, coming out of the movie and going back home, the point where you’re really happy and fulfilled is at the end of it.

If you were so excited for something that you get it, it’s at the end of it that you get a little bit of a release. It’s like “That was nice. I’ve been waiting for that movie for months. I saw it. It was nice.”

Now it’s a little bit of a release. Notice yourself. What’s going to happen is maybe within a few minutes, an hour, maybe the next day — it will vary what the period is going to be –but within a relatively short amount of time, your brain is going to say “OK, what’s next? What is next?”

It’s going to look for the next source of stimulation. What’s going to happen is you’re going to start feeling empty inside. It’s going to feel like “OK, I’m was stimulated by that movie, and that was a nice experience, nice two hours in theatre, eating my popcorn, sitting there with my friends, laughing or crying or just enjoying it, whatever. I want more of that.

What you do is, now when you’re alone and by yourself and just kind of quiet, you don’t feel happy because you’re kind of addicted to that original source of stimulation. You brain says “What’s next?” You’re only going to be happy for a short period of time until your brain says “Next! More stimulation! More stimulation! More stimulation! Another hit of heroin! Another hit of heroin!”

That is exactly what is happening. What this does to your life is create this roller coaster. This roller coaster you have in life, you right now think that “Well Leo, you can’t be happy all the time. This is life. In life, you’ve got happy times, you’ve got sad times. Life is supposed to be like this. There are ups, there are downs, everyone says there are ups and downs.”

No Newbies Allowed

This is the point here I come in and tell you that this was supposed to be an advanced video, advanced ideas. This is not for the newbie. For the newbie, this is way in over your head, you go watch the other videos where I tell you how to be happy right now by tweaking a couple of variables in your life.

This is for the advanced student of personal development. Here’s what I’m going to tell you: That’s actually not true. That rollercoaster ride is created by you, and all the suffering in your life is created by you. This is a hard idea to get your head around.

What you do is not get your head around it because your ego prevents you from doing that. Your ego will not allow you to understand this idea. This is where enlightenment work comes in. This is when you start to really research enlightenment, and you start to experience it for yourself, and you start to do the meditation and contemplation work that really takes to start to dissolve your ego.

What you do is undertake this journey of working on yourself on very deep levels, where you start dissolving your ego to the point where eventually, your ego fades away and this excitement you were after, you no longer seek. You see that it doesn’t make you truly fulfilled.

You become as happy as humanly possible, by yourself, without needing any stimulation. Just because that is your natural state. Your natural state is a hundred percent peace and calm and fulfillment. That is your natural state, but you are so far removed from that, because you’ve been so addicted to this stimulation and your ego cannot even fathom anything else and is so set on your survival and your reproduction, that it’s not going to allow you to do this.

It’s not going to allow you to actually experience this in your life until you go through a rigorous process of dismantling your ego. That is real happiness. It’s happiness in the moment. It’s happiness by yourself. It’s getting rid of that roller coaster ride. Every excitement you’re after, that’s the peak, and that peak is necessitating a down.

Sometimes you can mitigate those, and sometimes you can get away with the peak and the down, you can minimize so that the down is not quite so much. Still, that rollercoaster ride is your life, has been your life up to this point. You’ve been creating that because you have an ego that is out there looking for sources of stimulation, which it ultimately doesn’t need, and which ultimately never will fulfill you.

Fulfillment In All The Wrong Places

You’re looking for psychological fulfillment in the external world and it simply does not exist. What you are is literally a hamster in a wheel, chasing after a piece of cheese. That piece of cheese is an illusion, it doesn’t exist. Therefore, you will never be fulfilled. You will never be truly happy.

You can be stimulated, but you will never be truly happy in your life if you operate from this egoic paradigm. I’m calling this the old paradigm. This is the paradigm you are operating on. It’s the paradigm ninety nine percent of every human on this planet is operating on.

I’m still operating on it, but I’m making roadway. I’m making some changes right now to start getting rid of that. This is advanced stuff, and I’m going to bring you more videos on enlightenment and how you can go about doing that process.

Practical Advice

To end on something that’s very practical, if you want to start experiencing this, then here’s how you can do it. Just a little idea for how you can do it.

First of all, unplug yourself from as much stimulation as possible and start to meditate. I would even encourage you, beyond just doing meditation, I have videos on that, but do twenty minutes of meditation every day, for the rest of your life. I recommend you commit to that.

The second thing I recommend is that you do this exercise, which is: I want you to lock yourself in a room — your bedroom, your living room, wherever — where nobody can disturb you, where there’s no stimulation, and I want you to set a timer — an alarm clock, whatever — for two hours.

I want you to sit in a chair, comfortably, for two hours without doing absolutely anything. I want you to watch what your mind does. I want you to watch what your body does. You’ll literally start to have withdrawal symptoms. The same symptoms a heroin addict will have when you take the heroin out. If he doesn’t get his heroin for a few days, for a week, he starts getting sweats and chills and his body starts shaking, his mind’s going nuts.

That is what’s going to start to happen to you if you do this exercise. This is going to be the first taste for you, of starting to realise there’s something here. Right now, you are of two minds. You are probably either thinking “This is crazy. This guy is wrong. I’m already happy in my life. I’m already fulfilled. I know that if I just get that one last missing piece, that boyfriend or girlfriend, that weight I want at the gym, that career or that car that I want, then I’m going to be fulfilled. I just know I will be.”

That might be you. The other alternative here is that you’re sitting there and thinking “You know what, there’s something here that is true. I don’t know if I totally buy into what he’s talking about here. It sounds a little bit far out, but something here is true. What he’s describing is the psychology of my entire life. This idea that I’ve been running around a hamster wheel, that’s actually what I’ve been doing, if I’m honest with myself.

I don’t really want to admit it. I’m afraid of what that means for the direction of my life, to admit that. If I’m really honest with myself, I have to say that last boyfriend, he didn’t do it for me. That car I got, it was nice, but it worked out the way Leo is talking about here. I got that car, I had it for a few weeks, and I was feeling great. I felt really nice. I felt calm and at peace, and then that peace went away, and I totally forgot I even had this car. Now I take it for granted and I’m chasing after something else.

The same thing with that promotion I got at work last year. I don’t even feel it anymore. I’m just at this new level, and now I want something more, and I’m still not fulfilled.” If you do that exercise where you sit for two hours by yourself, in that room, that will further give you more evidence to start building this case.

That’s really what has to happen here, for you to actually start to even get on the path towards true fulfillment in life. You have to start building a case. You ego doesn’t want to accept this. Your ego wants you to keep doing what you’ve been doing.

Your ego wants to preserve itself. It doesn’t want to die. You’re putting it on a path towards killing that ego, and your ego does not want to die. Your ego is you. Your ego thinks that you are important, you are precious, and if it were to die, then your whole life would collapse. That’s what it wants you to think.

It’s really hard to get your mind around that. One of the ways to do it is to actually start to gather more evidence, to build the case here. One of those is to just watch your mind do what it does. Watch your body do what it does, when it’s just by itself. Just watch it. Notice that. Is there something wrong there?

Is there something wrong about how you’ve been living your life, your whole life up to this point in time, by being that hamster in the wheel? It was OK, but now you know better. Now you know that there’s something more out there. The question is, are you going to be bold enough to inquire into it any further.

Wrap Up

This is Leo, I’m signing off. That’s what happiness really is. Go ahead, post me your comments. Like this, share this. I really want your comments because I look at the comments, I read all of them and it gives me ideas for new videos to shoot. I try to respond to the ones I can.

Post some comments, I love to really use it as feedback to help me improve my videos. Of course, go ahead and check out Actualized.org, where we’ve got a free newsletter you can sign up to. We’ve got some free, amazing, exclusive bonuses — a nineteen part video series about busting your limiting beliefs and we’ve also got two hours of live coaching that I give away every month to my subscribers.

Go ahead and sign up for that for a chance to win. You’ll just be getting more updates, more information on how to really get fulfillment in your life. I’ve got a lot more info coming to you specifically on this topic of enlightenment work and really understanding yourself on a very deep level, understanding these concepts on a much deeper level.

I also have just practical tips. If you just want more stimulation and titillation in your life, oh man, that’s even easier. This stuff is hard, this enlightenment stuff, this is hard. The titillation stuff? I can give you tons of tips, techniques how to create a super exciting, titillating life for you, so don’t miss out.

Tip Jar
Tip Jar
Like this video?
Leave a tip
Come join the Actualized.org Forum! Meet like-minded people & transform your life.
Denyta says:

I jumped off the roller coaster some time ago and can relate to what you are saying. I feel though Leo, that there is something more at least for me, to realise about the contentment that you speak about when the ego has gone due to withdrawal from all the stimulation. It is possible that my ego has not entirely disintegrated as I do not feel the contentment, in the moment, that you speak about. I would enjoy seeing more of your videos especially on delving deeper into this subject and any related matters.

What a great thought realiser you are. Thankyou!!

Leo Gura says:

Of course, your ego is fully alive and kicking. To dissolve the ego is a very serious undertaking. You haven’t even started on that path yet.

MountainMan Dan says:

Wow. After a recent crisis in which my failure to deal with my depression led to the loss of the love of my life, which sent me into a deeper depression, I have been pursuing treatment, seeking help, and re-evaluating my life. I have recently recognized that I need to try to reduce my stress and get more out of life by doing less. Hearing this description of the hamster-wheel-roller-coaster is like hearing a description of my life. I have been doing everything wrong, which helps to explain why despite trying so hard I have still been unhappy. Leo’s illumination of this concept is extremely helpful in guiding and affirming the new course my life has to take. I wish I had known about actualized.org sooner, but I am very thankful for having access to this resource.

Leo Gura says:

Good realization to have. Just start building yourself up one baby-step at a time. Focus on the long-haul and you’ll do great.

Ashray says:

You are THE real deal Leo.
Leo, what is love?

Ashray says:

Love Vs Want or Fulfilment

Val says:

Hi Leo,

I really like the way you put ego on our way to happiness. I knew that ego is harmful for the soul, but I didn’t really know the exact mechanism. Now I know why I always get depressed after moments of exaggerated ego.

I’ll do the exercise of two hours sitting still hoping to get more emotional strength.

Let me finish with a quote once I read about ego:
“A person with ego is like a very fat person trying to get through a very narrow door, possible but painful.”

Kristin Reichborn Kjennerud says:

Can you combine longterm happiness with getting your kicks? Certain kicks you can only have before you get too old. Are you going to sacrifice that then? To have the true happiness?

Arber Shabani says:

Leo is not saying that you must not do those things, but rather eliminate the addiction first, and after that, continue doing those things, but don’t expect those things to make you happy, and be careful to not get addicted to excitement again.

David says:

This is best video I’ve seen in a while. It inspires me to find that inner piece and finally get off the hamster wheel. Not that I will give up on my life goals, but just that I can have inner peace even while I pursue them.

Eve says:

Hi Leo, I have been listening to you for a while now through Youtube, recently subscribed to your newsletter and have heard hours of your videos, some over and over again :-). I must say that today was my AHA moment! I want to express my deepest gratitude for what you do and the exceptional way in which you do it. It is truly a gift. I have been with several coaches in my life and never have topics like true happiness ever been explained the way you have done it. I appreciate your brute honesty, your soft demeanor and your method in a whole. Because of you I finally truly see that my future endeavors are possible, attainable, and finally tangible with your help and guidance of finding my true self. Thank you from the most inner part of me. A faithful subscriber jumping off the hamster wheel… Eve

ali says:

Hi .i know what true happiness is and I am having it right now but give me a reason to work hard enough to be a hero. If we can have happiness with just taking care of our basic survival needs then why should we even chase the stimulating stuff or being a hero specially ?
I know I should move myself towards something but after finding true happiness it doesn’t seem necessary anymore…

ISIS says:

Great video… The way you talk about our life being a roller coaster is something I always thought! Didnt know about the Ego though.

Can you talk about What is (real) love ?
or How to find out if we NEED something or WANT something ?

Thank you!

Angela D says:

This is great realization for me! Someone in above comment asked if you could combine being happy with the emotional kicks? But surely both must be possible as long as you recognise the kicks for what they are, short lived bursts of excitement, rather than relying in them to bring you happiness?

Definitely going to try the sitting quietly for 2 hours exercise. Will be a real challenge for me because I’m such a fidget!

AMORIO says:

Thanks Leo for your debate of What’s happiness.

Through listening to your video for three times, and reading the subcription twice.
In the last reading I deleberately stopped from time to time to look for moments of my previous life. I find that mostly I’m addicted to only stimulations, short excitements, through dowing something I’m waiting for, living moments of success at the end of my life school, after as you say it comes what next, what next. That what next is looking for a job, and so on. TO SUM UP REAL HAPPINESS IS COMPLETELY ABSENT.

But by the time I began to practice my dream hobby (painting). over the years many things have been changed in my life. especially when I began to live alone.
My life twisted to a stable one I became free of what next, I work for the same painting for a non fixed time, I planned nearly all my stuff.
I feel calm, peaceful, far from both the stress of modern life and people annoyance.

I have just finished a painting her draft is done it’s 5 years, very beautiful, I ‘m going to visit south korea this july and august.

I hope to continue with your videos with the aim to visit you and why not visit me.

I’ll tell you Leo something I have never told. My best friend is Baudelaire a dead friend, and you a living friend Ihave just discovered , you encourage me by making me discovering other things that I needed to be more comfortable more orgonized more peaceful, selfless etc.

Excuse me for my simple English.


Caelis says:

Very interesting how you explained this!
A few months ago, I had this intense spiritual experience.

I was standing in front of the lake in our garden, facing my own reflection in the water.
Several thoughts passed by about who I was. I thought about people asking, “who are you” but I was sure that answering with my name, didn’t tell who “I” was. Because, that is just a word.
And I slowly started realizing that, this reflection I was staring at, was nothing more than my ego. My perception of me, how my reality, combined with the realities of the ones around me had formed this picture.

And thatis where I knew that I had to look THROUGH the reflection.
So without hesitation, I jumped through “my ego”, eyes wide open, facing all that was really “me”

Really everything that forms the outside world, lives inside of us.
I looked at the beautiful koi fish, the plants, felt the calm water around and inside of my body. And I understood everything.

Everything was me. And I had to accept and respect it. Understand it.
Understand that the present moment was always there. Like the beginning of excistence, the point where we all come from.

We are the creator and the creation itself !

I experienced how the 3 “worlds” the spirit, the mind and the body where reconnected.

So my answer to the question “who are you?” Is, I am.


Leo Gura says:

Good! But there is still much more to realize. You’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg. Keep investigating deeper.

Tom says:

Awesome video. Hits home

Ryan says:

So would it be possible to be truly happy from within, with out neglecting the joys you might find in the outside world? Or would you lose motivation to hold a job, maintain a house and friends. Maybe it’s all about balance. Contentment/ motivation don’t really work well together.
I guess to enjoy the thrill of life’s experiences without relying on them for happiness, you would have to master the art of mentally resetting your perspective all will. Almost a default state of mind if you will.
Not sure, but I need to put more thought into this.
Thank you for this insight!

Leave a Comment
What color are lemons?*