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  • Bob Burg

“[Burg] has demonstrated that adding value to people's lives is the way to climb the ladder of financial success.”

~ Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame Quarterback and Founder/CEO GoSmallBiz.com

Happiness: It’s Really A Personal Thing

February 28th, 2014 by Bob Burg

happinessIn a recent post, we explored happiness as being a person’s main motivation. And, that it can only be attained by acting in accordance with one’s values.

I then posed a few questions and received some excellent responses. I’d like to restate the questions here, and answer them per my own understanding.

1. How do we define happiness? One of my earlier mentors, Harry Browne, defined it as, “The mental feeling of well-being.” I agree, but take it just a bit further and say, “A genuine feeling of ongoing joy and peace of mind, the result of living in accordance with your values.”

The key in both definitions is an overall feeling rather than something temporary, though every decision we make in the moment is based on seeking happiness whether it be short or long-term. Which leads to the next question:

2. Is “a sense of” happiness different for different people? Absolutely! As Harry wrote in his wonderful book, The Secret of Selling Anything (which was as powerful a “life lesson” as it was a sales lesson), “Happiness is relative. People experience happiness in different ways. People place different values on different things. What brings happiness to one person is meaningless to another.”

This is why a big mistake leaders and salespeople make when desiring to influence others is to assume that what brings us happiness will necessarily bring them happiness. It is also why influence is always about them, not about us.

The final question was:

3. If one’s main motivation is happiness, then why do so many otherwise-intelligent people seem to make decisions that are obviously contrary to their  happiness?

While I’ve never been a big fan of cliff-hangers, let’s discuss this one in the next post. Any additional thoughts based on the above?

14 Responses to “Happiness: It’s Really A Personal Thing”
  1. That’s quite a cliff hanger of a question Bob!

    I’m sure there will be a whole host of insightful reasons suggested by others but the big two in my view are:

    first up too few people have a conscious handle on their personal priority values and become side tracked into trying to live values of other people (often for highly laudable reasons such as loyalty and admiration) but doing things according to the values of others somehow leaves us feeling empty in the end

    second it is hard to manage the competing demands of the ‘now@ – instant gratification such cookies, chocolate, maybe even another beer or glass of wine – with the longer term rewards of the future – a good nights sleep, healthier body and mind and so on

    Really looking forward to the wisdom of your other readers on this topic.

  2. Bob Burg said at 7:29 am on

    Jackie: Thank you. Yes, knowing our community of very insightful people (such as you!) I expect there to be lots and lots of great thoughts and opinions on this question. Thank you for sharing yours!

  3. Samantha said at 8:20 am on

    LOVE this post today Bob! :)

    Cliff hanger question: 3. If one’s main motivation is happiness, then why do so many otherwise-intelligent people seem to make decisions that are obviously contrary to their happiness?

    Several reasons Bob. And I’ve done or believed many of them:

    1. We don’t know/understand/realize that we have choices or options (at least MOST of the time) in a particular situation.

    2. We have internalized a false belief that says we MUST endure at all costs despite the fact that everything inside of us is screaming NO! We don’t like this! Let me get off this ride! We’re taught to press on. Drive on like a good soldier. etc etc..

    In my experience though…there’s times where our situation will NOT improve if we keep on keeping on at all costs. It’s actually moving us further away from our source of happiness. And often, so called ‘duty’ and tradition trumps integrity and truth. People are conditioned to give more weight to the false beliefs then to their own personal truth. Keeps many people in a prison.

    3. Sincere ignorance. We don’t know what we don’t know!

    Just a few off the top this morning.

    Great questions!

  4. Bob Burg said at 8:35 am on

    Samantha: Thank you. Greatly appreciate your feedback. So glad you enjoyed the post. And, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Life is a constant growth process for us all, isn’t it?

  5. Robert Putt said at 10:55 am on

    Wonderful post Bob. As for your cliff hanger question – I have met many people who forecast unhappiness in their life because they feel unworthy of enjoying true happiness. Negative thoughts bring negative life experiences = unhappiness.

  6. Bob Burg said at 11:57 am on

    Robert: Thank you for adding to the conversation. Indeed, the worthiness issue is so very important, isn’t it?! If we don’t feel worthy on the inside, it puts true happiness somewhere behind the 8 ball. I appreciate you sharing with us!

  7. Dixie said at 1:13 pm on

    Wonderful observations. And a good challenge to think on. I believe Samantha has shared some valid truths here. The idea that our choices are limited, and that it is actually better (more moral, righteous, brag-worthy) to endure, suffer, sacrifice, that it is to seek joy and pleasure.

    I might add to that another thought – that people are often making choices based on what they BELIEVE will avoid unhappiness rather than looking within to find what really makes them happy.

    But, most of the time I think people do make the choices that make them happy, or less unhappy AT THE TIME.

    Perhaps being seen as a martyr makes them happy, perhaps bragging on their ability to endure makes them happy, perhaps wallowing in victimhood makes them happy. As you say, happiness is relative and personal. So until we learn to redefine happiness we will continue to buy into choices that put our happiness in the hands, judgment or praise of other people.

  8. Bob Burg said at 3:16 pm on

    Dixie: Thank you for sharing. Many great points and observations throughout your comments. On another note, I’ve got to say that, as impressed as I always am with the comments we receive, I’m just blown away by the deep-thinking in all of these comments today. I had a feeling they were going to be special, and I was correct.

    I hope all of you know how much I appreciate ya’!

  9. Erin said at 8:42 pm on

    I agree with what Samantha said, especially the second point she made. So many people are determined to simply endure, as if doing something different makes them weak. People don’t want to take the risks that are required to achieve happiness, probably because A) they don’t know if the change they make will make a situation worse; or B) they don’t want to be judged by the new direction they choose to take.

    Something my mom has always said (and that she learned from her boss many, many years ago) is, “If you’re not happy about something in your life, change it.” Once I started applying that to my life, I realized how often I wasn’t making changes that could make me happy. It seems like a simple statement, and it is, but I think it’s a really powerful one.

  10. Bob Burg said at 8:59 pm on

    Erin: Thank you. All certainly terrific observations. I appreciate you sharing with us and adding to the conversation!

  11. Esther said at 10:21 pm on

    Is happiness something we “seek and find” or does it “find us” when we live the life we want to live? And secondly, does it come and last forever or does it come and go?

  12. Bob Burg said at 10:41 pm on

    Esther: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! Unfortunately, one thing I neglected to say in these two posts (which I will clarify in the next one) is that it isn’t so much that we necessarily “consciously” seek happiness; only that everything we do is intrinsically motivated by such. As human beings, we do what we believe is most likely to bring us happiness, based on how we perceive happiness, and within the confines of available options. So, when you say, “when we live the life we want to live” we actually are seeking happiness in everything we do…even if we don’t consciously realize it.

  13. […] main motivation is happiness. Defined by Harry Brown as “the mental feeling of well-being” it is understood differently by each individual. […]

  14. […] shared previously, human nature is that we all seek happiness as we individually understand it, and within the […]

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