What is Happiness? Definition of Life’s Ultimate Pursuit

If you want to be happy, you need to know what is happiness. Most people can’t answer this concept properly, and as a result, they search for happiness in all the wrong places. This leads to feelings of unhappiness, depression, anxiety, and a host of other problems that are common in today’s world. However, all of this negativity can be avoided if we can answer the question, “what is happiness?” correctly and fully.

Indeed, most people never properly answer this question and misattribute happiness to things like money, cars, family, parties, etc. As we will see shortly, this materialistic approach to modern-day happiness works, but only to a limited extent. Indeed, this definition of happiness is only partially correct and complete, which is why it is creating as many problems as it solves.

Instead, a true definition of happiness should be universally applicable to individuals, governments, corporations, and all other life situations. Following this definition and formula for happiness would lead to the maximum amount of happiness for everyone in any scenario. I call this Optimal Happiness.

By the end of this article, you will learn the happiness formula that answers the question of “what is happiness?” You will understand why the definition of happiness is specific and not something else. You will learn why so many people are unhappy and how to solve their unhappiness. Lastly, you will be able to apply the happiness formula to your personal life, happiness at work, and even to the political situation of your country. This will allow you to be happy today and forever, without any further need to contemplate what happiness is and how to be happier.

The Universal Search for Happiness

Happiness is a universal pursuit, which is another way of saying that everyone is looking for happiness in one way or another. Aristotle stated that happiness is actually the number one goal in life, and everything we do is for the sake of being happy.

If you were to ask people “what is happiness,” it is likely that you would hear different answers. For example, some people may say that happiness is:

  • Being married or divorced;
  • Being employed or unemployed;
  • Having a lot of money or just enough;
  • Having many friends or a few good ones;
  • Living in a big city or in the countryside; or
  • Eating ice cream or forgoing all milk and sugar product.

As you can see already there is:

  • A lot of confusion about what happiness can be;
  • People often have completely opposing points of view regarding what happiness is; and
  • The list of things that happiness can be is as long as the list of human desires – in other words, it is infinite.

It’s almost as if there are 8+ billion definitions of happiness, as many as there are people on Earth today. It is not surprising that we consider happiness “subjective” and unique to each and every one of us.

However, Leo Tolstoy once said that:

All happy families are alike, and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I agree with his statement, as “all happy families are alike” because all truly happy families are doing very similar things to experience happiness. They are following one overarching definition of happiness and optimizing their lives around its elements in order to be happy.

In this way, this one overarching definition of happiness contains all 8+ billion definitions of happiness. Every other definition of happiness is contained within this overarching definition, as if the 8+ billion people are trying to complete the same puzzle, but they have some, but not all, of the puzzle pieces.

However, “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” because if we disregard or violate even one part of this happiness formula, that happiness becomes that much more difficult to achieve. Unfortunately, most people disregard or violate several parts of the happiness formula. As a result, people feel unhappy and try to fix their unhappiness by doing various things, once again looking for happiness in 8+ billion different ways.

This is when we start to hear people say things like “happiness is elusive” and “no one can truly be happy,” when in reality they are just following wrong or incomplete definitions of happiness.

What is Happiness: Short and Easy

Happiness is a positive emotion connected to our overall long-term sense of well-being. It is the difference between what we have and what we want to have. To feel happy, we need to sufficiently address all of the Six Pillars of Happiness (Emotional Intelligence, Money, Relationships, Health, Productivity, and Spirituality).

The definition of happiness by Roman Russo at Optimal Happiness

As mentioned above, this definition of happiness is short and easy, so next we will unpack why happiness is this and not something else, why I used these specific words, such as that happiness is:

As mentioned above, this definition of happiness is short and easy, so next, we will unpack why happiness is defined this way and not something else. We will explore why specific words were used to describe happiness, such as happiness is:

  • An emotion
  • A positive emotion
  • Connected to our sense of well-being
  • Best experienced over the long-term rather than the short-term
  • The difference between what we have and what we want to have
  • Defined by the Six Pillars of Happiness

The Components of Happiness

1. Happiness is an Emotion

When I say that happiness is an emotion, I contrast the feeling of happiness with logical and rational thoughts. As such, we can’t just say “I’m happy.” We actually need to feel it!

In this way, buying a brand new car may sound like a great idea because we believe it will make us happier. However, in practice, the positive joy that comes from owning a brand new car can subside as soon as we get used to having a new car, with studies concerning hedonic adaptation are now saying that this process can be rather fast, so be careful!

2. Happiness is a Positive Emotion

When I say that happiness is a positive emotion, I am contrasting it to a negative feeling. In this context, happiness can be defined as a range of positive emotions such as fun, excitement, and tranquility. On the other hand, all negative emotions, such as boredom, annoyance, and hatred, fall under the category of “unhappiness.”

This often confuses people because they believe that happiness is somehow different from all the other positive emotions, and unhappiness is different from the negative ones. But it’s not. When we say “I want to be happy,” we are referring to the fact that we want to experience different positive emotions and avoid the negative ones. There are three levels of happiness that are possible:

  • Increase positive emotions
  • Less negative emotions
  • Optimal Happiness – to feel as happy as we can feel for as long as possible. 

3. Happiness is What We Have

In this modern consumption-driven world, we are often told to aspire towards certain materialistic achievements. However, our desire to have “more” can get us into trouble as it is limitless, inconcrete, and often unrealistic.

As such, when we want something, but we don’t have it we experience a negative feeling of lack of that something we desire. Respectfully, when we buy what they want, we close this gap in desire, which makes us, by this happiness definition, happy. 

As such, when we want something but don’t have it, we experience a negative feeling of lacking that desired something. Respectfully, when we buy what we want, we close this gap and feel happy according to this definition of happiness.

However, the problem continues when we realize that we don’t just want one thing in life, but a range of things. In fact, we want improvement in virtually every area of life. By having all these desires, we doom ourselves to feel unhappy, which is a defining characteristic of our consumption-based society.

On a positive note, the remedy for our unhappiness can also be found in the definition of happiness. Simply put, we need to stop desiring “more” and instead become satisfied with what we already have today. This mindset will make us feel like we have enough and therefore we are enough. This leads to instant enlightenment and consequently, happiness. From this point on, any additional achievements are desired but not necessary for the sake of our happiness. Ultimately, we already live in the most technologically advanced society the world has ever seen, and it’s likely that most of us already have enough, so we can allow ourselves to feel happy.

4. Happiness is Experienced in the Long-Term

Many people try to maximize their short-term pleasures and minimize short-term pain in an effort to find happiness. However, true happiness is a long-term emotion that cannot be achieved through temporary satisfaction. In fact, this pursuit of short-term pleasure often leads to unhappiness in the long run.

For example, let’s say we indulge in eating junk food today. In the moment, this may bring us a lot of pleasure. However, if we continue to make a habit out of eating junk food, it will eventually lead to health problems and ultimately make us unhappy in the long-term. On the other hand, if we make the effort to avoid junk food and work out on a regular basis, it may be challenging in the short-term but it will ultimately lead to a healthier body and therefore long-term happiness.

In this way, temporary pleasures are fleeting and easily forgotten, while having a healthy and fit body is a lasting achievement that can bring long-term happiness. This is why happiness is not a short-term goal but it is best experienced continuously over the long-term.

5. Happiness and Well-Being are Connected

When talking about happiness, we often refer to our sense of well-being. By this, we mean that our general sense of happiness or unhappiness is connected to how good or bad we feel about our lives overall, such as from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day, and year to year. In this way, we could for example say that, generally speaking, we feel good, great, bad, or horrible about our lives.

We can even quantify this by giving it a percentage, such as feeling happy 99% of the time. Yes, this number is realistic, and we teach ways to achieve these levels of happiness in our happiness courses.

6. The Six Pillars of Happiness

When I first asked myself, “What is happiness?” I didn’t know that the Six Pillars of Happiness theory would be a part of this definition. Indeed, I didn’t even know that happiness had six components:

  • Emotional Intelligence,
  • Money,
  • Relationships,
  • Health,
  • Productivity, and
  • Spirituality.

However, today, I know that in order to be happy, we need to sufficiently address all the Six Pillars of Happiness. Otherwise, it is unlikely that we will be happy. As such, I came up with the following definition of happiness by following these steps:

  • I read every possible book on the topic of happiness that I could find.
  • I read other professionals’ definitions of happiness.
  • I interviewed some of the happiest people alive.
  • I talked to everyday people, asking them what is happiness for them, what makes them happy or unhappy.
  • I put together all of the above information into a pile and made sense of it.
  • I personally tested everything to make sure it works.
  • I put it all together into a methodology I call Optimal Happiness.
  • I successfully coached 100s of clients, helping them reach their Optimal Happiness.

Overall, I cannot fully explain the Six Pillars of Happiness in this brief passage, as I have written an entire book called Optimal Happiness to explain this concept. However, some people find it sufficient to just know the names of the Six Happiness Pillars: Emotional Intelligence, Money, Relationships, Health, Productivity, and Spirituality.

However, the true essence of happiness is found in breaking down these pillars, and I invite you to explore this further in a one-on-one coaching call. The first coaching call is FREE, so I invite you to book it today!

The Ultimate Happiness Formula

Overall, we not only want to understand what is happiness, but we also want to be happy. Ideally, we don’t want to just feel a little bit happier or less sad. We want to become as happy as we possibly can, achieving our Optimal Happiness. We want to optimize our personal lives, work, and environment to ensure that we are living our best and happiest life.

The first step to achieving this is dream is to understand what is happiness on a deep level. If we can’t understand this, we won’t know what to aim for. Metaphorically speaking, any road will take us to Rome, but some roads will get us there easier and faster. So why waste time, money, and energy pursuing the elusive goal of happiness when we can choose the best and fastest road to this universally desired state?

That’s where Optimal Happiness comes in. We offer great content that we sincerely hope you like, but we also provide coaching to help people become their happiest selves. As part of this, we offer a FREE 30-minute coaching call to anyone who wants to be happy. Try it, and it might just change your life!

Stay positive and test negative!

Roman Russo

Roman Russo

Roman Russo is the visionary founder, senior happiness coach, and Chief Happiness Officer of Optimal Happiness. He has written the revolutionary Optimal Happiness: The Fastest and Surest Way to Reach Your Happiest Potential, a must-read book about achieving our happiest potential. After researching this field for over eight years, Roman is confident that anyone can become happy and invites us to undertake this transformation. Are you ready to start living the life you always meant to live?

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No more excuses. Here is your ultimate formula for happiness today and forever. Discover it today in our book: Optimal Happiness: The Fastest & Surest Way To Reach Your Happiest Potential (www.amazon.com/dp/9083101010). 

This book presents the quickest and surest way to go from whatever state of happiness or unhappiness you have today to your Optimal Happiness. Stop suffering and start living. Stop unnecessary negative emotions and reach your potential. Happiness guaranteed! 

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