Strengths and Personal Happiness (Pt. 2): Why Happiness Alone is a Moving Target

MysteryAndAweLifeEDITJanuary 22, 2016

5 Minute Read

(425 Words)

Saying that we want to be happy is like saying that we want to be wealthy or healthy or wise.

All admirable concepts, to be sure.

We can say it all day long, but until we put actions, intention, and energy behind it, happiness is just a word. And, words themselves are not things, they are representations of things. Symbols.

This is true in the same way that numbers are not things, in and of themselves. After all, we cannot touch, hold, or even see a literal one or a two. No. We can only see what is represented by these numbers, but not the numbers themselves (i.e. one glove, two hamsters, three slinkys).

Likewise, there is no such thing as an inch or a kilometer—they are ideas used to represent and measure real things, but we cannot hold an inch, literally, in our hand. We can only hold inches of things.

In exactly the same way, when we say we want “happiness”, what we are really saying is that we want a specific set of things and experiences, which we chose to represent with that word.

After all, we cannot, literally, touch happiness.

For this reason, it is absolutely essential to get clear about what we mean when we use words like happiness, health, and wealth. Because, if we do not define them they will remain amorphous, slippery, and impossible to identify. When that is the case, it is unlikely that we will ever feel like we’ve truly achieved these things.

More than that, no two people have the exact same definitions of the terms.

This is to say: We use the same words to address different ideas. Given that everyone wants to be happy, that can be a scary concept.

A dynamic like this makes it easy to get confused along the way. We might find ourselves chasing someone else’s happiness, or thinking that someone else’s path to fulfillment must also be our own.

We might think that because someone else has found the “secret” in one place, that we, too, must find it there.

But the secret is likely that the path to true happiness is found within our individual truths. These are the ideas and ideals that we live by and live for. They are the philosophies that we test in real-time by interacting with others and with the world. And our revelations from and evaluations of these experiences, little by little, form and reform our definitions of words like happiness and freedom and success.

When we are living from our strengths, we are living from places that we have clearly defined within ourselves. These are our qualities that we have refined the most, even when it was uncomfortable. Above all else, when we pay attention to them, they are the areas that we have the most pleasure in cultivating further.

Three Questions

What role do my strengths play in my life?

How proactive am I about going after what I want in life?

What holds me back from taking greater action? Specifically, what are the thoughts and messages that keep me from diving in?

5 Minute Action

Set the timer on your phone for five minutes.

Sit with your eyes closed and envision the perfect day.

Go through the day in as much detail as you can from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep (that is, if sleeping is a part of a perfect day).

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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