Blueprint >> Happiness

Disclaimer: This document is in raw form as I process and distill 4 years-worth of my personal development notes. Expect some typos and cryptic language for now. I will be updating frequently and polishing up.

Prescription: Understand what will and what won't make you happy. Create happiness habits. Related Concepts: Top 5 Feelings, Top 5 Strengths, Gratitude Log, Integrity

What is Happiness?

A feeling of satisfaction or joy, more even-keeled than pleasure. Happiness is what we all want to feel and what we ultimately aim for with every one of our actions.

Why is it Important?

Happiness is what you ultimately want. It's not money or fame, it's happiness. But happiness is a psychological state. It helps to understand which things are effective at increasing happiness and which things aren't.

We care about creating strategies that maximize long-term, sustainable happiness. It's easy to get a quick hit of happiness. The trick is maintaining consistently high levels of happiness independent of external circumstances.

Happiness Videos

[coming soon...]

Coach Leo Gura
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Happiness: Key Points

Definition of happiness: "the experience of joy, contentment, and positive well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile."1

Happiness is counter-intuitive. We tend to pursue things that can't make us sustainably happy and we over-estimate how much happiness achievements like money, fame, and beauty will bring. Happiness needs to be pursued more subtly. It's not about acquisition of bling, or even achievement of goals. Happiness is living your day to day in alignment with your deepest values.

Happiness does NOT equal success, and success does NOT equal happiness. We want both, but too little of one will limit the other. Happiness and success need to be brought up together. You should specify for yourself how the two relate for you. Define what success means to you, but make sure it's linked to your happiness.

Happiness is a set of habits, not a destination. When planning out how you will increase your happiness, consider the crux of the problem: "Hedonic adaptation — The human tendency to become rapidly accustomed to sensory or physiological changes." 1 You become accustomed to new stimuli, hot/cold, marriage, divorce, promotion, and even death. A strategy that takes hedonic adaptation into account will focus more on "soft" forms of happiness like cultivating good habits, personal development, making deep social connections, gratitude journaling, finding more fulfillment at work, etc.

Being happy is ultimately just experiencing a consistent string of happiness hits throughout your day, your week, your month, your life. If you buy a new Jaguar, that is one hit of happiness. If you meditate every day, that is a hit of happiness. If you could generate big hits all the time, that would be great, but in practice you can't, so the better strategy is to focus on small, steady hits of happiness. And that's why happiness activities need to be habitualized. The key question is, what things are you doing on a regular basis that give you hits of the happiness drug? Working your ass off towards one grand goal that will takes years to complete just to get one big hit of happiness is poor strategy because no matter how big the hit is, it will wear off within weeks, and then you'll be back at your baseline.

Identify your values, identify how you want to feel on a consistent basis, and then come up with practical ways to honor your values every day. For example, if you value knowledge, you should be learning something every day. Create a habit of reading one book a week. Or, if you value love, you should be expressing love every day. Create a habit of holding a dinner with your best friends once a week. Or, if you value excellence, you should be acting on it every day. Create a habit of giving your work everything you've got. Or, if you value health, you should be acting on it every day. Create a habit of going to the gym.

Happy people tend to:1

  • Devote a lot of time to family and friends, building great relationships.
  • Comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  • Yearn to help others
  • Optimistic about their futures
  • Savor life's pleasures and live in the moment
  • Exercises weekly or daily.
  • Deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions

The foundation for happiness is pretty basic, even in our advanced modern society. If you ace the following 4 areas of your life, it's really hard to be unhappy:

  • Career: Have an awesome career that's really meaningful for you. Make it your life calling. This will handle your finances automatically.
  • Love: Have a high-quality intimate relationship
  • Connection: Have 5-7 high-quality friends who to converse with frequently
  • Health: Take care of your body with proper diet and workouts.

In addition to the core pillars of happiness, you could work on the following areas:

  • Family
  • Personal growth, education, spiritual development
  • Environment
  • Hobbies and recreation

According to Sonja, happiness is determined by: 50% biological set point, 40% intentional activity, 10% circumstances. But this is deceptive. The biological set point is irrelevant because you have no control over that. So that means, in practice, 80% intentional activity, 20% circumstances. This sounds about right. Intentional activity means how you think and how you behave. And the key here is behaving in alignment with your values.

Techniques for increasing happiness from Sonja. Make sure you pick ones that fit your lifestyle and personality:

  • Practice gratitude
  • Practice optimism
  • Stop overthinking
  • Practice acts of kindness
  • Cultivate social relationships
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Increase flow experiences
  • Savor life's joys
  • Work on your goals
  • Practice religion/spirituality
  • Practice meditation
  • Exercise

Strive to be the source of your own happiness. Don't rely on external circumstances, stimuli, or people to make you happy. You should be fairly happy simply being by yourself, running your regular routine. Then everything else added on top of that is a bonus. Food, drugs, sex, TV, gossip, etc. should not be the foundation of your happiness. Nor should adventure-seeking. You should be relatively happy sitting by yourself, alone, in an empty room. If you can't do that, something is wrong.

Happiness Minutes. If you want to be happy you have to invest your daily minutes into activities that make you happy.4


  1. The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky
  2. Optimal Living 101, Brian Johnson
  3. Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  4. How To Be Rich and Happy, John Strelecky & Tim Brownson
Coach Leo Gura
Hire me as your coach. Super-charge your life. Email me now!
  • Redesign your life to align with your purpose
  • Mindsets and tools for exceptional success