Happiness? It’s not what you think it is


Do you know what makes you happy?

How about what it would take to make you happier?

Dr. Ken Harmon tells us that some of the most popular answers to the first question are:

  • Helping other people
  • My kids
  • A day at the beach
  • Being by water
  • Hanging out with my dog

But popular answers to three things that would make you happier may not be what you think they are, and they may change with time. Young adults tend to say getting out of debt, buying a house, starting a family and finding a job would make them happier. Later in life, though, people say being healthy again is what would make them happier. They also cite more days at the beach, more time with family. Really, just having more time in general.

You have to practice daily to retrain your subconscious to be happier. It’s simple. But it’s not easy.

Dr. Ken Harmon

Article (con't)

The reality about happiness, as Dr. Harmon told a rapt audience of advisors recently at Schwab’s annual IMPACT conference, is about learning to love where you are. It’s about learning to overestimate the good that happens in our lives, and underestimate the bad. But, because we don’t really understand where happiness comes from, we often work against ourselves.

So, would you rather win the lottery or be diagnosed with a serious illness? The data shows that if either one of those happen to you, you’ll be back to your same level of happiness 18 months later.

That’s because just 10% of our happiness comes from our health, our relationships, or material things like money or a house, but 90% of our happiness comes from within ourselves.

You have to practice daily to retrain your subconscious to be happier. It’s simple. But it’s not easy. It’s really about two words – thank you. You have to practice. But the trick is this, you have to     mean it.

Smiling guests at a party.

Here how you do it: for the next 20-30 days, take every opportunity you have to say ‘thank you’ to someone. Be real. Say thank you, even for the smallest things – express it, don’t think it. Within 3-4 weeks you will be measurably happier. See, while you’re busy thanking people, you’re also training your brain to look for things to be happy about.

A few other tips: be genuine, be caring and be optimistic. Those traits work with anyone at any time.

We look forward to sharing some of Dr. Harmon’s insights on increasing happiness in the workplace soon.


[1] Dr. Ken Harmon is an executive coach, motivational speaker, consultant, and founder of Harmon Consulting. Much of his work focuses on the research of happiness and how the results can be deployed to help people’s personal and working lives. He is also a professor of accounting at Kennesaw State University, where he served as dean of the Coles College of Business.