Bill Cottringer

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama.

Happiness is the end game goal of living. Whatever it is you are doing, it is to secure happiness. In a paradoxical way, how you define happiness determines how much or how little of it you have. One of the easiest and best ways to define happiness is by identifying the things you can do to get the most of it. Here are five pillars the experts agree on:

1. Purpose.

Having the “right” purpose in the happiness quest will generally result in a longer term, more productive and satisfying “happy” outcome, whereas the opposite is just wandering around aimlessly in between moments of ephemeral, mediocre happiness. And as Michelangelo wisely said in regards to his paintings, “What starts out right has the best chance of coming out right.”

Getting the right purpose in mind has to come from within, but it can easily be facilitated by embracing one or more of these other four pillars below. Defining purpose is certainly the best known start in anything, just like having good timing.

2. Curiosity.

Curiosity leads to creativity, which opens the door widely to more opportunities for happiness. And in the meantime we often learn the hard way that the accumulation of knowledge from curiosity leads to much more authentic happiness than does the accumulation of material stuff. Things are only temporary signs of success, offering fleeting moments of flimsy happiness.

The attitude of innocent, child-like awe about everything being new, bright and shiny rather than just old and retold, quadruples your amount of happiness. It makes better sense then to fight against the inertia of ordinary complacence, which only results in more non-happiness whatever that is. But we know both when we see them.

3. Flexibility.

The one thing we know for sure is that life and people constantly change and if we aren’t flexible enough in adapting to these changes we are going to become a lot more uncomfortable and unhappy than we would prefer. Simply put, the more mental flexibility you can manage to muster, the more the opportunities for happiness there are.

But, keep in mind that this takes an open wiliness to suspend negative expectations of what will happen, if you do take a chance and change your goals, approaches or needs in what does or doesn’t make you happy or unhappy. In essence, you probably can’t ever have enough flexibility.

4. Balance.

A very important skill to learn early on is the one of becoming more sensitive to when you are getting too close to the point of no return at the cliff’s edge before you fall off. In doing many things, you can become dangerously out-of-balance before you realize it, and then your way home is further out of sight than you would like it to be.

However, it is equally important to not let the lure of moderate “balance inertia” hide the few “all-or-nothing, jumping in with both feet and eyes closed” things you should be approaching with reckless abandon that bring pure joy. True and lasting happiness comes from being able to distinguish the two and building your lifestyle around them both—in balancing the balancing act so to speak.

5. Optimism.

If there is one perspective about life and people that gets better results in bringing about more happiness, it is leaning towards a positive and hopeful outlook. One relevant law of life in this regard is you generally get what you expect. If you expect to be happy from what you are doing, then you probably will be; if you don’t you won’t.

Now, if you aren’t lucky enough to be born an optimist, the trick then becomes to improve your brain management by strengthening the feedback loop in experience between what you do and what you feel from doing it and what that leads you to expect the next time around. Yes, it is easy to allow subtle doubt to creep in and negatively flavor your expectations and so that will always be a road under construction for most of us. Remember—just leaning in the right positive and hopeful direction is a better start than trying to invent eternal optimism overnight and ending up disappointed and empty-handed.

I would be amiss to not mention the one caveat to this advice--always understand the importance of using these five pillars with loving thoughtfulness, which is the best purpose of all. Consider embracing any of these five pillars in your own life and watch your happiness index soar off the charts.

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” ~John Barrymore.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President of Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc. in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers) Reality Repair Rx (PublishAmerica), and Reality Repair (Global Vision Press) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067, 425-454-5011 or or