Last time, I wrote about my hypothesis that true success depends on “long-term sustainable happiness” – a positive and balanced relationship between six categories or “essentials” needed to live a healthy and rewarding life. Today, I’d like to explore the relationship between these essentials and happiness in our daily lives.

I have never met anyone who did not want to be happy.

You can be happy in the short term if you make tradeoffs between the different key parts of life. There are many “successful” people in the world who are financially doing well but have lost focus on the other important parts of their lives. Many have terrible relationships and emotional health, or are blindly focused on wealth, or feel trapped by their job, or have developed bad health habits. There are many “unsuccessful” people in the world who are struggling with the same things.

If you have made tradeoffs and are unhappy, then you likely aren’t giving one of the essential parts of your life the care or attention it needs. In the long-term, ignoring these symptoms leads to problems.

My Path

At various times in my own life I have made some big tradeoffs between the key parts of life and it has always ended terribly. For example, a few years ago I was spending too much time working in a job that was not fulfilling. I was balancing two different roles at the company, neither of which were well-defined, with numerous bosses each with their own set of expectations. While the money was good and I was in an influential position, I was far too focused on wealth and was ignoring the other essentials of life.

I was grinding through every day to push forward work that I didn’t feel made a difference. I was ignoring the essential of purpose while focusing on wealth. My emotional health was also taking a beating as I kept getting competing feedback from my various bosses, didn’t feel the support of anyone working around me, and was seeing the work that I really cared about (investing and writing) suffer as a result. All of these combined with the hours I was spending on my job began to stress me out, and took a significant toll on my relationship, my health, and my emotions.

I was exhausted and in terrible shape. I felt lost, unappreciated, useless, and had a sinking feeling deep in my mind that I had wasted years of my life. Worst of all my relationship came crashing down as all the anxiety and stress I was bottling up came to weigh on it.

I quit the job, picked myself back up, refocused on what is important, and learned a great deal. Since then, I have spent my time digging into the research on what makes people successful.

Long-Term Sustainable Happiness

Long-term happiness is the ideal that I am striving for.

My research, based on the study of positive psychology, decision making, social neuroscience, rationality, and other disciplines, has led me to propose that there are 6 essentials for long-term sustainable happiness in life. People who are truly successful are those who are growing and getting better in each of the different key parts of life. The dictionary defines an ideal as “an idea or standard of perfection or excellence.”

Ideals aren’t goals, they are beacons to guide your way.

To be clear, I’m not talking about eternal bliss. This is not something that you achieve and then check off your list. It’s a constant process of being self-aware and truthful about how things are going, adjusting your priorities to make time for what’s important, and constantly refocusing on what inspires you. It is a journey and a struggle to stay on the path. You need to recognize that obstacles and setbacks are a part of the process. By deconstructing long-term sustainable happiness to its various components you can see where you are lacking and need to better yourself. The essentials act as a litmus test, they identify pain points and help you focus on the areas that need attention so that you can develop long-term sustainable happiness.

A successful life

Sunrise in DC Dan Dzombak

I have found that you stay on the path to long-term sustainable happiness through developing and living a life of positive habits, what the ancients called virtues, bettering yourself and the lives of others. As the famous saying goes, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

By focusing daily on the 6 essentials of long-term sustainable happiness, over time you see meaningful changes that compound. These habits lead to positive life changes that grow larger and better as time passes, to the point where you feel great every day about the path you are on.

Importantly, developing good habits in each of the separate areas leads to mutually reinforcing feedback loops amongst the various key parts of life. Research has shown how

  1. Exercising and positive health habits leads to better emotional health and less stress.
  2. Better emotional health leads to better decision making, physical health, and mental fitness.
  3. Better social health leads to better mental fitness, health habits, and emotional health.
  4. Better emotional health leads to better performance at work.

The list goes on and on but one thing is clear, when you develop better habits and get stronger in one part of life other parts will improve at the same time.

Only you can say if you are truly successful or not. By focusing on the path to long-term sustainable happiness, you are setting yourself up to thrive in this world.


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