Thoughts On Your—and My—Capacity for Happiness

Ah, happiness. It’s one of life’s holy grails. Right?

Yep, we often seek happiness. Like distant treasure we’re determined to find. Someday, somewhere, off in the hazy future, where the grass is greener and all our wishes and dreams have been fulfilled, then we’ll “be happy.”

But what do we really need to be happy?

When my oldest son went off to college, I realized that my dream for him was the capacity for happiness. Indeed, as I was letting go of my first little guy who had grown into a fine young man, nothing else I could want for him even came close. The truth is that I learned something about myself that day. So today, what thoughts do you have as you consider these questions:

On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your capacity for happiness, without conditions?

What will it take to move that needle?

What, exactly, makes you happy?

How can you live your life to fit that truth?

What’s first, the chicken, or the egg?

So what really comes first, my dears? Happiness, or the conditions we think we need to meet to have it? And a bit more truth-telling from me will take us deeper.

Before my beloved mother got so ill in the fall of 2018, and Hurricane Michael struck as she was recovering from surgery, and Panama City, Florida’s medical community was decimated by hurricane damage and my mother went weeks with little care, and then died in January, I was really still putting conditions on my own happiness. In truth, I was driven! Always striving, working, and thinking. Planning and assessing. Improving.

Getting hip to happiness

These days, on this side of that life crisis, the truth is that I’m hip to what heartbreak taught me:  It’s all about love for me these days.

All about beauty. About kindness and connection. All about gratitude and wonder at the magnificent journey of life we’re all living.

In fact, these days my new projects are joys like using my intuition and being empathic. Getting ever more present to mystery and synchronicities. Less late-night writing. More stretching and walking. Way more meditating. Way more sleeping! These days I see happiness, like the journey of life, as its own destination. After all, living—with all its twists and turns and ups and downs—is so precious. I just want to take it all in.

The journey these days

These days I say, with more passion than ever, the journey really is the destination. And more, our capacity for happiness doesn’t need conditions. In short, I say snag happiness. Own it. Sing it! Be it. Then, by all means, with its glow shining around you from deep inside you, go out walking the path toward what you want most.

Yep, reach for it all from there, like that. Be you from there, like that. Day by day, step by step, on the wild, wonderful journey of life.

Yin to yang and back again

And lastly for now:

To me, happiness doesn’t mean no pain. No sorrow. Instead, these days I say being happy without conditions means accepting what is while we move through it.

Because we know living brings with it the whole range of experiences and emotions, from bright to dark and agony to ecstasy. From yin to yang and back again. In truth, my dears, that’s the gig.

These days I say happiness is ours for the taking, while the great pendulum of life swings as it will. So once again now, with feeling, consider what, exactly, makes you happy. Then build whatever that is into your life, from the sweet inner space of your capacity for happiness. You deserve that deliciousness.


Teresa Young
Teresa Young
TERESA YOUNG is a certified professional coach with a central passion: the human journey. She says the ways we connect with life keep evolving as we do. The point is balanced personal, creative, and professional satisfaction that morphs with us throughout our lives. So flexibility matters. Our willingness to allow ourselves to change matters, especially if we want healthy longevity over the long haul. We deserve nothing less. But it's up to us to accept nothing less, working through seasons of confusion, dissatisfaction, exhaustion, or ill health as needed. Best of all, the payoff always begins right away, because the journey really is the destination. Think about it. "If you're on the path, you're at the goal." — Carl Jung

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  1. I love this. I agree with Len the older I get the less I worry. I get up every morning and embrace life. I will say that without the pain,sorrow and sadness I overcame in life I would not be who I am today. In the end I am happy with that.

    • Exactly, Larry. I agree with you completely, and I just got a rush of energy as I read your comment and got to experience your perspective. Thank you!

  2. Of all the great things that I have learned in my interactions on LinkedIn and reading what so many smart people think about and write about is this one that stands out, though none of what I have learned would I ever think of as inconsequential or unimportant: time is a non-renewable resource. We can’t get time back that we waste, we can’t get it back when it is misspent or we can’t borrow it from some great Time Bank, we can’t draw it out from somewhere when we finally get to Where We Are Going. I love that you have grasped that happiness is ours for the taking, and it can reside in the warm, rich moments as well in the small things. It’s the recognition that for whatever reason, we can’t forego happiness until just the right moment or just the perfect setting. It is the journey that truly rewards us with so many opportunities to smile, to have our hearts sing, and to just be. Peace on your journey, and thank you for sharing this chapter in yours.

    • So beautifully said, Tom. I’ll share in kind that I actually believe time can be rather malleable as we engage in the sweet discipline of living within elevated emotional states just because we choose to. That good energy can affect the past as well as the present and future. It affects the ways we interpret our past experiences and choices, our relationships, what we’ve learned and gained, how we’ve deepened and grown, while walking our particular paths during light and dark times. Thanks so much for your comments and your kindness. I’m wishing you peace on your journey, too.

  3. In my life journey, everything I think and do is for the purpose of having good feeling experiences and being happy with the results of my efforts. A gratitude attitude helps to offset any struggles, disappointments, trials/tribulations and “failures” along the way. Agree…happiness is not something to find, rather a way to be… “In short, I say snag happiness. Own it. Sing it! Be it. Then, by all means, with its glow shining around you from deep inside you, go out walking the path toward what you want most.” Thank you for an uplifting article! Cheers!

  4. There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” We embrace the notion of working for a cause, not for applause. Living life to express, not to impress. And not striving to make our presence noticed, but rather our absence felt.” … And among other ways and means, we give back via our global GoodWorks 360° commitment.

  5. Teresa – Love this article – my secret to happiness is quite simple. If I open my eyes in the morning, I get another day to touch someone’s life, bring a smile to someone’s face, let someone feel loved, bring joy to someone’s day – how can I not be happy? ?

    • Absolutely, John. I agree with you that there’s big-time power in considering mindset, without conditions, one key to the happiness we deserve. And in terms of sustainability over the long haul, I also believe it doesn’t work to in effect try to “bypass” our pain, disappointments, anger, all that human stuff, in the process. That’s why I feel that an element of surrender to the yin and yang of it all is important, too, so that we’re able to accept and experience all the uncomfortable and just straight-up difficult moments and seasons that life may bring us, while staying highly attuned to the beauty of being alive. Thanks so much for your insightful comment.

  6. Oh, Teresa, this article rings my chimes! I love what you’ve offered here about happiness. I agree completely that this is an inside job, a clear commitment that has nothing to do with outside circumstances and everything to do with a shift from the very core of ourselves. Living grateful for everything can become a sound practice, a “game-changer.” To cultivate that witness consciousness from deep inside, the one that’s watching our thoughts, feelings, actions-that’s listening to others with presence/silence/non-judgment, that’s adapting/flowing experiences through an open heart-that essential self seems critical to an experience of an enduring, dynamic equilibrium of “happy” that may not look like smiling constantly, but a deep, unwavering sense of grace that lives at the core of who we are. Connecting with this part of us and allowing it to grow/expand seems to me to be the most joyful, sacred journey ever. Thank you so much for this article, your insights. I’m right there with you in the meditating, trusting, moving through all that we experience. There’s something very profound about living open-hearted, grateful for all that happens including the heartbreaking and the hilarious.

    • Laura, I’m shaking my head at the beauty of your comments here. In fact, “a deep, unwavering sense of grace that lives at the core of who we are” wins the prize for the most inspiring thing I’ve read today. Thank you!

  7. I am so with you Teresa in that all of us do deserve that deliciousness in life of being happy. I loved how you put that. I find happinesses in just accepting what is and letting whatever is happening flow and move through me as you stated. This can look like a wide range of scenarios that actually end up with a feeling of real rich emotion and joy within as various situations unravel. I now live my life trying out various things that look good to me, see if they fit, and if they don’t I Course correct and do not look back. For example swimming in the evenings seems to help my sleep and so it is a keeper! Your article keeps me reminding that staying fluid is what brings me and allows me the greatest happiness of my life. Thank you Teresa for your helpful insights.

    • Maureen, I love your use of both “course correct” and “staying fluid.” Thanks so much for your eloquent comments!