How To Be Happy Even Though Your Life Sucks

November 2nd, 2010

Can you be happy no matter what happens to you? We think so.

The problem is that most of the crap you read today equates happiness to getting what you want.

They call that “real happiness”.  But the problem, as the philosopher Jagger once said, is you can’t always get what you want.  Furthermore, you shouldn’t always get what you want.  Sometimes the things you want aren’t the things you need.  Or sometimes the things you want are downright bad for you. And most of the time your desire to get what you want only makes you more unhappy.

So, what happens now?  Well, the things is: there are some things you can’t control and some things you can control.  And your reaction to how things turn out is well within your control. Is this revolutionary? Heck , no.  Epictetus said that in his Handbook way back when.

Let me give you an example   Some guy is born without limbs.  Most of us think that would suck.  But that guy instead says that he is happy and he loves life.  Being born without limbs becomes something positive for him.  Some might argue that he is not really happy, but just making the best out of his situation.  But I don’t think so.  Being happy is being happy.  Oh, by the way…. the guy born without limbs…that’s a real guy. His name is Nick Vujicic and we’re huge fans.

If the goal is to be happy, then it is achievable.

You don’t need a million dollars to be happy.

You don’t need a bigger car to be happy.

You only need to be satisfied with what you have.

Photo by Jason Ignacio.

9 Responses to “How To Be Happy Even Though Your Life Sucks”

  1. Carlon Haas says:

    New blog post: How To Be Happy Even Though Your Life Sucks #behappy

  2. jmallinson says:

    "You only need to be satisfied with what you have…"

  3. "You only need to be satisfied with what you have…"

  4. I think that you hit the nail on the head except for a couple of minor things.One is that I don’t think you can be happy if you personally think your life sucks. That’s sort of the opposite perspective of loving and being grateful for life. (I mean this as a general trend in your thoughts, not as a temporary frustration, of course. Everyone has their days.)However, I think it’s definitely possible to be happy if other people think your life sucks and/or they think their life would suck if they were in your position.To me, this latter point is why the examples of optimists like Nick V and Sean Stephenson [1] are so powerful – out of their admittedly challenging life situations they demonstrate for other people an unbreakable spirit and drive.Also, I think with the emerging popular literature about happiness (e.g. Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling Upon Happiness in particular), I think there’s a rising understanding that “getting everything you wanted” doesn’t always lead to bliss, and “facing tough setbacks” doesn’t always lead to misery. Lots of people (me included) seem to quote his example of the lottery winners and the paraplegics both more or less regressing to their baseline level of happiness a year after their respective “incidents”.[1]

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great commentary on the post.
    Yes, you’re right. If YOU think your life sucks then you can’t be happy.

    But it;s .like Epictetus said in the Handbook, “wish for things to happen as they do and not for how you want them to be.”

    This view of changing your mind to be happy is generally attacked as not “real” happiness.
    It may have to do with the modern consumer ideal of “things-happiness”. That is for a different post, I guess.

    But when you see guys like Nick V. who find happiness WITHOUT getting what they want but through the mind’s natural power (we all have it), it is powerful indeed.

  6. This view of changing your mind to be happy is generally attacked as not “real” happiness.
    It may have to do with the modern consumer ideal of “things-happiness”. That is for a different post, I guess.

    Could be. Professor Gilbert picks this error apart explicitly in his TED talk, which is where I first heard this idea that “synthetic” happiness was subjectively equivalent to the happiness that comes from getting what you want.

    The description says: “Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.”

    Maybe because I’ve been marinating in this specific idea for many years – and pursuing happiness through other (but related) means such as Zen practice for much longer – that this concept that one will be lastingly happy through consumption feels so strange and foreign to me.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is funny because I watched that TED talk right after originally replying to you.
    I thought it was good, but I didn’t like the word “synthetic happiness”. I think happiness is happiness. But I understand why he uses such terminology. I really enjoyed the lecture.

    I’m with you in that the things=happiness feeling foreign.
    I’ve practiced Vipassana mediation for years now. Seeking happiness though material tings just doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe, it never did.

  8. Yeah, I think he uses the “synthetic” term to distinguish it from the happiness that we associate with way most people expect to get happy – i.e. by getting what they want.

    The interesting thing is that both forms are synthetic – they are both created (synthesized) by the mind in response to circumstances. One is created when the mind gets what it wants, and the other is created when the mind doesn’t get what it wants. (And I suppose misery and attachment are synthesized when the mind clings to impermanent things.)

    I’m a relative newcomer to Vipassana but definitely enthusiastic about it. It’s been valuable for me.

  9. Ppoppo says:

    If your life sucks, it sucks… I mean losing a girlfriend can be sad, but it’s just one person, you love and lose, life moves on. It sucks when it truly sucks, insufferable disease/illness, bodily disability… these things can make life truly challenging and certainly put you in a different position with friends/work/family/life.

    Take me, at 18 I sustained a spinal injury helping a friend of a friend move house (no ability to claim for bodily injury whatsoever), for years I’ve had problems, had terrible trouble sleeping, my motivation died down and now I’m in this position (have worked simple jobs all this time) several years of strong pain medication, and over time with bad physio treatment/continuing spinal damage, I am now mostly numb from my lower back to my feet, and to top it off I’m completely impotent, my schlong doesn’t even feel like it’s mine.

    I’m 27 going on 28… my life was ahead of me and now a big part of my future with a woman, and my personal enjoyment/lack of bodily ability…. yeah it sucks majorly!

    I came across this posting hoping to learn a thing or two about feeling better no matter what… but each day feels like a year, sometimes I just wish I would die painlessly and for it all to be over. I will have dreams about my life being relatively ‘normal’ from time to time, then wake up and start crying because I realise I’m living a nightmare.

    Anyway, that’s my story…. life can suck pretty badly, no matter what pep talking you give yourself.


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