What Makes A Man Happy?

If you were to ask a man to describe briefly what they’d want for their lives, what would you expect from their answer? What do you want to become or have happen? I think you would find most people want a happy life. Happy and happiness are going to be in almost everyone’s description of a life well lived.

And that, of course, raises the question, what does that mean exactly? What is happiness? How would you define it? At some level we all know what happiness is. In fact, it’s so obvious we have long since stopped explaining it to each other or ourselves. It’s happy, you know, just happy. It would be like explaining to a normal person what a cupcake is. Please stop, I’m familiar with what a cupcake is. We are all very familiar with the concept so, ‘happy’ doesn’t need definition. Or does it?

You may be thinking, ‘please stop’, but I’m not going to. In fact, this might be good for you. This is something men need to understand about their own personal needs and ambitions before they go off chasing mermaids and unicorns in search of something they know of only know from legend and mythology and the childhood glee over a day at Disneyland. As adult men, we’re largely left to discover such secrets on our own.

What Does Happiness Mean To You?

If you were to actually try to put it to words, what would you say? I mean, if this is what you want out of life, you should be able to pin it down within some degree of certainty. Go ahead, try it. See if you can write something about what might be one of life’s most universal goals that doesn’t sound like it came from a 12-year-old.

And tell me you didn’t just try to put the word happy into your own definition of the word happy.

If you can’t actually describe what something is or what it takes to find or create it, then how are you ever going to have it in your life? We assume it is a simple concept, and we know what it is and how to attain it, but I don’t believe that is at all true. It hasn’t been my experience.

This was my first stab at defining happiness. ‘Happiness is doing things I want to do and enjoying myself, or being with people I want to be with and enjoying being with them’. Of, course I did have to edit the word ‘happy’ out a couple of times. As you can see, I am not a happiness expert. When I was a boy, James Taylor had a song lyric that says ‘The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time’. I remember being somewhat unimpressed at the time, but as life flows along, I have increasingly come around to his simple mantra.

Could that possibly be enough? Enjoying the passage of time? That’s not a terribly high bar, we should be able to do that real easy. Can people really be happy simply enjoying the time we have been granted here?

Does happiness have to be a holiday or special event? Could happiness be as simple as hanging out and watching movies with your girlfriend? Perhaps that’s a mild level of happiness we should call content.

How Happy Do You Need To Be To Call It Happy?

That moment you touch down in Cabo with a cute girl for a week of R&R is pretty good. You have the whole week of sun & fun, drinking & dancing…and stuff. It’s like that has a really good vibe to it. I am definitely happy at that moment with the whole week ahead. A crystal clear example of happy. In fact, really happy!

A collection of moments like that make for a life with some really great memories, but it isn’t normal life. I wonder if it would be as exciting if that’s all we did, or if that might start to feel routine and unimpressive with time. We’ll put a pin in that for now.

Let’s put some scale to our happiness as some things deliver more happiness than others. Picture a line graph (XY Axis) and chart from zero up to ten in happiness levels with ten being super happy and zero is simply neutral, but not unhappy either. Below this baseline you’ve got unhappy, which is zero to minus 10 with minus 10 being very unhappy.

Now, I would give my Cabo trip a plus 8, I have had some fun excursions with lovely women. With corresponding happiness levels being very high.

Is that the goal? Do you want to have a life perpetually that happy before you are willing to consider yourself happy? Is that even possible? Aside from needing the time, freedom and money, would that be as fun as a way of life as it was for a week? Or would it simply become the new normal? Lots of men would certainly say, they would truly be happy if they were only blessed with a life of freedom, independence and wealth to be able to do whatever they want. That sure does sound pretty good to me too.

How Little Happiness Is Still Happy?

Neil deGrasse Tyson described how remarkable it is that atoms and molecules that have been around for billions of years are now within us. The physical structure of our body is made up of material that’s been travelling the universe for billions of years. Wow, that’s a big thought. And the fact that of all the material that exists in the universe, that this collection of ancient matter came together to form you, with life, with free will, with intelligence. I’m not a man of great faith, but that is miraculous.

To simply be alive, to exist, is essentially winning the intergalactic lottery. And we have been granted one shot to do, be and have just about anything we want. Or at least the opportunity to try. We get a period of time that we get to dream up stuff and then do it. That’s kind of fortunate. What’s more, you could have been born a bug. So not only are we alive, but we’re at the top of the food chain. Have you ever seen a video where they show a close up of a bug eating another bug? It’s still alive! It’s just eating another bug like it was a french fry. You know, being at the top of the food chain is not something you should overlook. I think maybe we take that for granted, because out there, everything is eating everything else. We don’t worry about getting eaten. I guess people get eaten occasionally, you know, by a shark or mountain lion. And that’s not good, but most of us don’t even think about it. Because, it’s not really a threat in this day and age.

In fact, when you get hungry and want something for dinner, you just dream it up and go to the grocery store, buy stuff and come home and make it. Or maybe just order it and have it delivered. Did you know that for most of human history (around 6 million years) if you wanted something to eat, you had to go out and find it and pick it or kill it. And, it hadn’t yet been determined that were truly at the top of the food chain. People used to get eaten more in the old days. So, ‘OK sweetie, I’m going to go pick up something for us to eat, be back soon…unless I get eaten’.

So, here we are with time and freedom with a roof over our heads, a cozy little place to sleep with heat and air, a stocked fridge, the new Xbox, a Netflix account and the entirety of the knowledge of man in our pockets, so I would ask, are you happy? Because most of the things that have ever lived in the history known to man would give just about anything to have the wealth, independence and freedom that you are dismissing as just ‘OK’ right now.

If you were willing to trade places with Ugg from 20k years ago, he would be out of his mind happy with your life. At least for a little while.

It’s funny how easily we adapt to an awesome life and then want more.

Do You Need More To Be Happy?

For me, I’m happy down to a minus one. I call the range between a minus one to a plus two, ‘content’. Am I giddy? No, but I don’t have any major stress. Nothing is wrong. And I’m alive, most of my needs are more than satisfied. Admittedly, I may not have achieved Maslow’s ‘self actualization’ but I don’t know what that is and have found myself distracted by funny videos on the few occasions I tried to learn more. Now, you might wonder about the minus one. Why is minus one still considered happy/content? Minus one is so little unhappy, that if you can’t pull yourself out of that, you’re you’re a pain in the ass. That’s princess and the pea level delicate. You’re probably just hungry or bored. Go and do something.

People who can’t shake off a little bit of unhappiness are hard to be around. Now if something’s really bad, that’s a different deal. You have cancer or lost a parent, OK, you get a pass for a while. But if you just got a little mood going, you need to learn how to shake that off. Nobody wants to be around that. Nobody wants to be around a guy who is saying, ‘well, I’m a little tiny bit unhappy’, and they mean it literally.

Now, worth noting, when your girlfriend tells you ‘I’m a little bit unhappy’, she’s not a little bit unhappy. She’s angry and your in trouble. That’s code, just so you know. So a whole different set of rules apply.

So, minus one to plus two is content. All your needs are met and nothing is wrong in your life. Can you enjoy that? If you want more, you can chase it, but you don’t have to. You can enjoy your climate controlled comfort without any viable threats to your health and well-being, have a snack and entertain yourself in an unbelievable variety of ways. You can chase more tomorrow and just chill today. I find that to be an attractive option.

And if you can learn to enjoy being ‘content’, then you can plan a little time going to four or five or six? You know, make some memories. Why would that not be a great life? How happy do you have to be to consider yourself happy?

My life is pretty good. I’ve got a cozy home, I’m traveling around and I’m not going hungry. Plus, there’s nothing trying to eat me. There are mountain streams with trout everywhere (yes, I do carry bear spray). I own some big rubber pants and a fly rod, so I can spend days on end wading cool waters and casting to rising fish. I have all the opportunity in the world to do just about anything I want and I have finally discovered what ‘perfectly happy’ means.

Wanting More Is Not The Absence Of Happiness

Where people get stuck in everyday life is with routinely wanting more. We have grown accustomed to life, health, safety, comfort, food, technology, blah, blah, blah. It’s the next thing that consumes our thoughts. Newer car, bigger house, prettier girlfriend…generally speaking, bigger, better and more.

Wanting more than you have can easily be mistaken for unhappiness. If only I had this new thing, then I would be happy. That’s the mistake. So you want to have a million dollars. You will enjoy your first million, until you realize that ten million would offer quite a lot more comfort and security. Perhaps that’s the nature of our species and why we have survived and created a great civilization with art, music, medicine, technology, blah, blah, blah. And we still want more. Good for us!

But maybe it’s time we reap the rewards of our hard word and rest on our laurels a little bit. Not give up or stop charging forward, just recognize this is a great time to be alive and that an ordinary life could be truly extraordinary.

I wonder if we slowed our hard charge towards awesome everything, we might discover a subtlety of life we have been racing past for most of our lives. A gust of warm air on an otherwise cool evening. How amazing the kindness of others can be. Holding someone’s hand. A good piece of music. An amazing array of things I have spent most of my life racing past, too busy chasing more to really appreciate how magnificent something simple can be.

A Happy & Healthy Relationship

Experts that research more specific understanding of what makes men happy will tell you happy relationship in your life is a big contributing factor to your overall happiness. Conversely, an unhappy relationship does just the opposite as you can imagine, or probably know by now. Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a crap shoot, but perhaps you have more power and influence than you think. I find a great deal of satisfaction in helping people discover the happiness they possess and routinely overlook. You might be surprised that the guys you aspire to be like are also disappointed with their achievements. You might seem wise beyond your years to help them to appreciate all they have, how much they have achieved and how you admire that about them. I know, that’s a lot, but maybe consider the idea that good men can have meaningful impact in the lives of others. Perhaps that’s what good men are.

Girlfriends chasing happiness are a whole other ball of wax. I have come to know women in search of bigger, better and more as a perpetual way of life. And in a committed relationship, it is likely to become your way of life as well. A perpetually disappointed romantic partner is a misery worth avoiding. I will cover this in substantial detail in future discussions, but for now suffice it to say this…

  1. Run Forrest Run!
  2. Introduce your vision of happiness to those you care about

But, not in that order. Most of us have no master plan for creating a life. We show up and do our best and on occasion we stumble upon people with a vision that resonates, and we look to embrace. Find women that admire your vision for life and want to be around you because that is new, refreshing and uncommon. It’s not just about a positive mindset, this is how otherwise single people learn to look more deeply into each other’s true needs, emotional and mental health and keep their relationship alive.

Concluding Thoughts

Your happiness is simply a choice for you to make. Absent any meaningful illness or suffering there really is no reason that anyone alive today isn’t living a life of great comfort and contentment. And for those that are expecting more, the brochure specifically says “Pursuit of happiness”. There was never any promise of actual happiness, a lot of people miss that.

Takeaway #1: If you aren’t happy now (without a darned good reason) then you don’t know how to be happy. But, you can learn.

Takeaway #2: Don’t mistake wanting with the absence of happiness. Learn to make the distinction and avoid the fleeting happiness of constantly acclimating to an ever improving life.

Let’s come to a place where happiness and wanting can comfortably co-exist. Happy with your life just as it is, while taking advantage of a wide open playing field allowing you to chase your dreams. Where happiness is not contingent on the next big thing your’re chasing, simply an appreciation of all that you have now and the ability to chase all the next big things that catch your fancy.

Let’s do that.

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