Strengths and Personal Happiness: Why Happiness Alone is a Moving Target


January 20, 2016

5 Minute Read

(450 Words)

When we say that we want to be happy, we are wise to get clear about what we are signing up for exactly.

Saying to life that “we want to be happy” is like saying to the drive-thru window that “we want food”. Sure, we might get something out of the deal, but is that truly the best approach?

Obviously, not.

Getting specific about what we mean by happiness is the quickest way to determine what we can do to be proactive about achieving it.

For most of us, lasting happiness will not just happen to our lives. Instead, it will be the result of specific actions we’ve taken to position ourselves in situations that are fulfilling and meaningful. These actions will also generate positive forward momentum.

If we are too general about happiness, we risk setting ourselves up for dissatisfaction and frustration; because, how can we find something when we don’t know what it is?

We might adopt an attitude of “I’ll know it when I see it” and, sure, maybe we will find it that way. But, again, is that really the best approach?

Think of it like going to the grocery store without a list versus going there with one.

Without a list, we’re likely to make impulse decisions based on instant gratification. However, when we shop with a list, undoubtedly, we have given forethought to our actions and taken into consideration bigger pictures like our bank account, our health commitments, and our schedules.

Getting clear about what happiness looks like and putting it into concrete terms allows us to live our lives with a “shopping list”. This is because we have an idea of what we are looking for and we can strategize ways to achieve it. More than that, we know it when we find it and can, therefore, acknowledge its presence with gratitude.

Crucially, how one defines “happiness” is in a realm of its own, in that it is highly personal and nuanced. What is joy to one person is torture to another. Consider the bagpipes or skydiving or living in a tiny house.

So, as we pursue a greater sense of aliveness, we must be willing to part with others’ ideas of what “should” make us feel one way or another, and get honest about what we truly want. This is what’s called defining our personal happiness. And we can jumpstart this process by writing for five minutes a day about what we want from life.

Because our strengths are the best indicators of what our best self looks like, when we frame our thinking around their attributes, we are driving toward that greatness.

If happiness has a recipe, our strengths provide the ingredients. This is because happiness isn’t likely to be found in what we have, instead it will be found in who we are.

And, the more we are embodying who we are, the more likely we are to be curating our personal happiness.

Three Questions

What does society say that happiness should look like?

Is this my definition? If not, what is my definition?

What is one action that I could take to experience more of that in my daily life?

5 Minute Action

Write in response to the following question for five minuets without putting the pen down:

What is my most recent happiest memory?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Strengths Consultant.

Connect with him:


Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zachary Carlsen

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