This morning was tough. There were a lot of thoughts I had, and I am surprised even now that I’m standing here in my office here writing today. Thanks to my routine, I’m here. But I didn’t want to write. I wanted to go to war. There are so many things wrong with the world today and so many things to feel bad about; finding happiness seems like an impossible task. I wanted to go to war against the unseen dilemmas, the esoteric reasons that we are unhappy. But, I know that war is something we must all decide on fighting, internally, and only if we choose to do so. I’m not sure the Great Society is truly ready to embrace all that is necessary for each one of its members to find true happiness. I’ll leave the details about exactly why I think that for a later article at a later time.

I used to think that I had happiness figured out. I even wrote about it last year in an article that focused on gratitude and purpose as being the main catalysts to happiness. I don’t think the same way today. I agree that gratitude and living with purpose can be a path that leads to happiness, and I’ve experienced many happy days recently and in the past because of my dedication to gratitude and staying productive. But here comes the but. Happiness isn’t just being grateful–it’s not a natural state of being that we find via some sort of cosmic equilibrium. Happiness is diverse and different to each of us personally. It truly is a choice.

Do this experiment next time you’re at a large community picnic, a buffet, or a smorgasbord. Someplace where there are lots of different dishes that people can choose from. If you stand by the plates at the end of the line, you won’t find two plates that have the same colors, foods, or proportions. This simple display of human choice is a testament to the diversity that we all share. We all love different things in different amounts.

Today, I spent some time thinking and reading about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Something I haven’t looked at since I took the mandatory Intro to Psychology course at university years ago. It didn’t mean as much to me as it does today, especially since a large portion of my time now has been focused on working on what Maslow called “growth needs.” It’s notable to mention that this pyramid model below wasn’t found in his original work that was published in the 1950s, and there are alternate visual models that might more accurately describe his work, and also how even he made changes to the model later in life to better define the top layers of the pyramid.

Look at this model. It shows an alternate presentation of how as we develop as humans, our needs and values change in relation to our happiness.

Let’s look at these things in a different way. I want to rewrite Maslow’s ideas into something a bit more ingestable for us and to define a way that we can diagnose and even help us define what we need in our lives to find happiness and fulfillment.

Dan’s New Recipe for Happiness: Sacred Ingredients

  1. Peace of Mind. This covers things like physiological needs, our personal safety, and survival. COVID has really impacted this for a lot of us. But let’s not put our finger on one issue; personally, my piece of mind is greatly affected by issues surrounding racism that are still pervasive and incredibly painful. Just a couple of weeks ago, my son experienced racism in a place where you wouldn’t expect it; I won’t go into the details here because that’s not the point. The point is that our peace of mind can’t be defined by others no matter how hard we try. We get peace of mind based on what we need, by what we put on our plates when we walk through the smorgasbord of life.
  2. Health and Energy. Being physically healthy is important–this is also something that I’ve been spending a lot of time on. Feeling good, having a good diet, proper levels of exercise, enough rest, and above all, a proper attitude are all critical to happiness and living well. Interestingly, I had to make changes to all of these things to get where I am today. The cliche is true in this area of our lives; without our health, we have nothing.
  3. Loving Relationships. This area is especially important to me. Being adopted and abandoned as a child really hurt and impacted my ability to engage in healthy relationships for a long time in my life. I was lucky to find a wife and a family that loves and accepts me for who I am. My wife taught me a great deal about not just having loving relationships but also healthy, thoughtful, and complete relationships. Losing the most important relationship with my natural family has shown me the true value and benefits of having strong, loving relationships in my life. My inner circle of friends has also taught me to trust them and to help them when needed. Without loving relationships and interaction with others, happiness is and was impossible for me.
  4. Financial Freedom. I used to think that financial freedom was making a six-figure income. After achieving that goal in my life, I found that financial freedom isn’t about having a number–each of us will come up with a different number as we grow older. Financial Freedom for me is now about having enough money to protect my family, my friends, and my interests. It’s about not having strings attached to my income and assets. When we have enough money, we barely think about it. But when we don’t have enough, it might be the only thing we can think about. Money is strange that way. What I appreciate about money is that when I practice proper stewardship, accountability, and responsibility with how I use my money–I always seem to have enough. I trust that God, or whoever is out there (for you atheists), has my back in this regard; I don’t worry about not having enough anymore; I trust. I’ve always had enough money, sometimes I didn’t know it, and I wanted more, but I’ve never been hungry–haven’t paid my bills or wanted for much. I’m grateful for what has been given to me.
  5. Worthy Goals and Ideals. This is something that took me a long time to figure out. It’s a key piece of the happiness puzzle. I didn’t realize until listening to my mentors and coaches that there are a lot of people who operate without specific goals–or at least not worthy ones. I’m not judging anyone here except myself. Some of us just don’t know or haven’t spent the time to figure it out. Now, today, I don’t have goals that are casually defined like, “I just want to get by.” A large portion of my time recently has been spent figuring out what is worthy to me and getting those on my “dinner plate” and in my life. I have spent a great deal of time and energy retooling my philosophies and ideals to make sure that I know specifically what I want and what I believe in. For me, helping my son live well and to design his life in accordance with philosophies that resonant with him is my number one goal. If you find yourself in a rut or extremely unhappy, you might want to check out your goals and your philosophies.
  6. Self-knowledge and Self-Understanding. Knowing oneself has been a maxim that has truly lasted the test of time. Most of us attribute the saying to Socrates of Athens, who wrote about it in the late fifth century BCE. Even earlier, though Heraclitus of Ephesus wrote about this concept earlier in the fifth century. Both men were referring to “Know yourself” (Gnôthi sauton), which was inscribed at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi – arguably the most important Panhellenic sanctuary – and thus somehow represented a core Greek value. This idea predates both men and therefore has been something people have considered for literally thousands of years. Getting to know yourself requires an in-depth study of truth. It requires personal integrity and acknowledging that we have blind spots and areas that we need to work on. Specifically for me, this area has been particularly hard because I don’t know my natural parents, but after careful and constant reflection and study, I’ve learned more about myself and my emotions. I’ve worked to educate my feelings and create an identity that I can relate to and accept. I know myself better today, and my relationships and life are better because of it.
  7. Self-Fulfillment. “What is it we are questing for? It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself. There is nothing you can do that’s more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, become a realization of your own personal myth.― Joseph Campbell. I believe that self-fulfillment is something that we have to seek inside of ourselves, and I love the quote by Theodore Roosevelt where he makes it our personal responsibility to demand it, and with that, I’ll end this list of ingredients.

“The joy in life is his who has the heart to demand it.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Wow, I made it. I had to actually go back to the beginning of this article to remember what I named it. I’m not sure if it fits anymore, but at the moment, it’s the best I can come up with. I hope that there is something in this that helps you. I feel better, and I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe it’s the act of writing that helps me release and channel some of the discomforts that I felt earlier today. In any case, I hope that you have a great day!

Let’s saddle up and get busy. You are amazing people out there. Thank you for all the good energy you’ve shared with me since I’ve started publishing these notes! I appreciate all the love I’ve gotten back. I love you people. You are the best.

Featured Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash