Girl Running on Trail

A little over six years ago, I wrote how I thought the single greatest key to happiness is novelty. Perhaps that was a little naive of me.

Novelty is still something that I feel we all want in our lives. We value our stability and predictability, to be sure, but we also want to sample new foods, explore new lands and experience new adventures. Even so, if you lead a life of nothing but novelty, all of those “new things” may start to get a little old after a while. There has to be more to it. On this blog, we’ve also explored the Law of Jante and how lowered expectations could lead to greater happiness too. There might be some truth there, but it’s also incomplete.

More and more, I’m coming to understand and appreciate the complexities of life such that I’ve come to a new conclusion, one that is simultaneously very simple and even more complicated than ever. Assuming all of your basic human needs are met, like food and shelter, the key to a happy life is a complete life.

The Key Factors to Happiness

No one aspect of your life can suitably make up for deficits in other areas. This list is anything but exhaustive, but it’s a decent start:

  • Professional Success: Considering how much time we spend working, it makes sense that “doing well” at your job comes with a certain level of satisfaction. We want to feel that sense of accomplishment, even if it does not necessarily result in any kind of monetary reward.
  • Family and Friends: Humans are a social species. Even if you are mostly introverted by nature, as I am, we still have this in-born desire to belong. We want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, that we have people who count on us just as we count on them.
  • Creative Fulfillment: Perhaps you call these hobbies and interests, but humans are also a very expressive species. We need to have some sort of channel where we can explore this creative energy. For some, it might be writing or painting. For others, it might be restoring classic cars. You just want to find an outlet.
  • Health and Wellness: It can be incredibly challenging to stay happy when you’re riddled with all sorts of health problems. When both your mind and your body are in better shape, you set yourself up for a better shot at being truly happy.
  • Purpose and Meaning: At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we find self-actualization. Going along with this sense of realizing our full potentials, we want to think that what we do actually matters. We want to have meaning.

All of these factors are incredibly important and they are all deserving of your time, attention and dedication. It may be argued that you must sacrifice meaning to achieve happiness. There is a definite struggle there, but perhaps it is through this pursuit of meaning and purpose that we are able to create happiness.

The Big Picture

Maybe it’s because my perspective on life and my view of the world is changing again. Maybe it’s because my priorities are shifting, because we are expecting a child. Whatever the case, I think we all need to realize that focusing exclusively on any one aspect of our lives, at the expense of neglecting another area, could prove to cause more harm than good.

We need to take a far more holistic approach, as a complete and whole life is far greater than the sum of all its parts.