How to Find Your Formula for True Happiness

Come into my office… Take a seat in the comfortable armchair, also known as the hammock… Let’s talk about what truly makes you happy and how it relates to your life’s purpose…

What is it?…

You have no answers to those questions?

In that case, let us start with the basics.

Have a seat in the comfortable armchair AKA the hammock.

You’re not alone if you find yourself saying these things while sitting in the “chair.” When I ask my friends, family, and coworkers this question, most are stumped. I believe the main reason is that people are so busy that they don’t take the time to think about it.

Let’s change that, shall we?

I’d like to share with you my journey to understanding myself and discovering what truly makes me happy, as well as how I discovered my life’s purpose.

A trip on the time machine

Let’s take a trip on the time machine…

It’s March 2005, and I’m standing on the 11th-floor balcony of my Valencia, Spain, apartment. I’m studying abroad in Spain, honing my Spanish and falling in love with the culture.

It’s about 3:30 p.m., and it’s siesta time, which means most of the city is closed. People are eating lunch and napping at home with their families before adults return to work and children to school. (As a side note, this siesta thing is a fantastic concept, but I’ll cover that in a separate post.)

I’m on the balcony while my roommates nap. Since most businesses close for siesta, I’m bored and lonely without much to do. I’m missing my friends and family. I’m out of my element.

That is when it occurs. I begin to reflect on my life and how I can be truly happy. I don’t know how to express it at that point, so I start recalling memories from my past that stand out for me.

Dancing, great gatherings with family and friends, waking up from a well-rested sleep, and so on come to mind. I begin to notice patterns and compartmentalize my memories. Realizing that I’m only remembering recent events, I dig deeper and try to recall my early childhood memories, followed by my adolescent years. I completed the puzzle after two hours of uninterrupted thought.

I give it a title, as I do with all of my creations that mean a lot to me: ” My Top 5.” I’m surprised to discover that they’re mostly simple things that don’t require any money, which is great news for my meager college student budget. In fact, the majority of them are what I call “natural highs.”

So, are you ready for the big reveal?

Here are my top five things that make me truly happy, in no particular order.

Sleeping long and well

I love sleeping, and how well and how long I sleep has a direct correlation with how happy I am that day. Since comfort is important to me, I am generous with the quality of the items I purchase to enter the amazing world of dreams every night.

2. Eating and drinking food and beverages that truly hit the spot

I’m not one of those people who eat simply to satisfy their hunger. I wait to see what I’m craving, then do my best to satisfy myself by eating exactly what my body craves.

Children have this instinct from birth, but parents suppress it by feeding them what they want rather than what they need. I’m not even talking about candy. When a child is in need of vitamin A, he will reach for a carrot. It took some time for me to rediscover my taste buds and understand my cravings.

3. Having sexual fulfillment

I know this is a popular hobby for many people, but realizing that this simple and easily accessible activity makes me truly happy was liberating. Furthermore, if you are not paying for services, it is quite cost effective. 🙂

4. Establishing meaningful relationships

Building meaningful relationships, however, includes family and friends by choice. That is, I went through my circle of friends and consciously chose which ones brought me happiness and which ones took it away. When I returned to the United States from Spain, there was a massive “layoff,” but I also deepened my relationships with the key people in whom I chose to invest.

5. Engaging in adrenaline-pumping adventures

This includes things like traveling, dancing until I need a towel, trying things out of my comfort zone, such as rappelling, and so on. I’m in if it gives me a rush or a natural high.

So there you have it.

My top five are not particularly unusual, I believe, but the important point is that I am aware of them. Since I know what truly makes me happy and satisfied, acknowledgment on its own helps me be happy and satisfied. It also allows me to budget for the things that make me happy and use my life energy wisely.

How does knowing my happiness formula benefit me in everyday life?

For example, when I get home from work, I only have three hours of free time. I have a few options for how to spend my time: watch TV, clean the floor, call a friend and meet up, or take advantage of my husband. I make a mental comparison and choose one or two things that would truly make me happy that day.

You can bet that the last two options have a much higher appeal on a happiness scale, so I make a wise choice. As a result, I am satisfied knowing that I make every day count by doing at least one of the items on my Top 5 list.

The bottom line is that knowing what truly makes you happy frees you from making decisions to please others. Of course, we sometimes do what we have to or need to do rather than what we want to do. However, a large portion of our time is spent on voluntary activities, and you have the ability to choose.

So, which are your top five?

Here’s a quick exercise I do with some friends and family to determine their top five.

A quick exercise to help you identify your top 5

  1. Find a quiet place away from distractions. Bring your favorite beverage. For many people, a little wine or beer helps get the creative juices flowing, so have at it.
  2. Bring a pen and post-it notes.
  3. Take into account what makes you happy today. It could be activities, hobbies, physical objects, or people.
  4. Write one happy thought on each post-it note and arrange them in a random order. Make sure you can see all of the post-its, as one thought may prompt another later.
  5. If you’ve exhausted your list of recent or current happy thoughts and activities, go back in time. You can begin with early childhood, then early school years, then adolescence, college years, and so on.
  6. You may be surprised at this point by the differences between your happy items today and what you wrote down from your childhood. Don’t think about it yet; just keep going.
  7. When you’ve exhausted your list of happy thoughts, take a step back and look over your notes. Some people may find that an hour or two is enough time to complete the brain-writing exercise. However, if it helps, you can spread this out over days or weeks. You should have at least 20 post-its in front of you. Reread them all again to see if any new ideas emerge.
  8. It’s time to affinitize after the brainstorming session. That is, organize things according to common themes. If you see volleyball, rollerblading, and running on your post-its, you could group them together in one area. There are no rules here; simply affinitize things that seem related to you.
  9. After you’ve finished affinitizing, examine your clusters one by one. Try to give it a category or a title now. You could call the activities in the preceding example “Exercising.” Place a post-it note with the category name around the cluster. Repeat for each cluster.
  10. If you find that you have a substantial number of categories, you may need to affinitize them again into higher level categories. For example, the categories “Exercising” and “Gardening/Nature” could be combined to form “Movement outdoors.” For the sake of simplicity, the goal is to end up with about five high-level themes.

Final thoughts

This exercise may not necessarily reveal something you didn’t know you already like, but it will provide you with the satisfaction of knowing and being able to articulate what truly makes you happy. Please let me know how you find this exercise and whether you find it useful.

I believe that discovering your happiness formula is a prerequisite for discovering your purpose. Let’s first take some time to solidify your happiness formula.

Please schedule a follow-up appointment at the front desk in two weeks to discuss part two of this discovery journey – how to find your life’s purpose.

It was great to talk about it. Until our next meeting!

Do you have a top five list?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary K
Mary K
7 years ago

Haha, how is it that this MD never heard of your LD degree? The truth is, your love of life and embracing of all its beauty and potential saved me during my years in the meat grinder that was my education. It still does today, and you deserve credit!

7 years ago
Reply to  Mary K

Hehe, Mary, this LD degree cost me a few sangrias while pondering about life in Spain. Pretty FI-friendly, huh? 🙂 I am glad I was there with you during the tough times and got to see the wonderful doctor you have become. XOXO

Tonya@Budget and the Beach

Great ideas! I think deep down in our souls we know what make us truly happy, but most of us are not even close to living that. I mean shit happens like life, jobs, kid’s activities, sickness, etc. But it’s not the end goal and getting there that is important, but tiny daily habits that are our five things (or less or more) that take us just one little step forward toward that life we truly want.

7 years ago

I completely agree with your perspective, Tonya. Life is a series of small events, made up of seconds and minutes, not months and years, so making every day count is key. I often hear older generations say with a tone of regret: “My life just flew by.” That’s because it does, which isn’t bad. The trick is knowing you live every day according to what makes you happy. At least, as much as you can. That alone can bring peace and calmness, and there won’t be any regrets in old age about how we chose to live our daily lives. I just saw an old episode of Dr. House, and the patient he treated said something along the lines of “Life is just a series of rooms”. We can choose which rooms we are in, with whom and what we do in them, but if you zoom out, it’s nothing particular. Carpe Diem!

Bladimir Mercedes
9 years ago

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony
It’s all about like discovering yourself and your true passion. Happiness comes from within.

9 years ago

Very true, Bladimir! Whether it’s work or your personal life, it’s all about being honest with yourself and having the courage to do what makes you happy and marching to the beat of your own drum. Cheers to true happiness!

9 years ago

Life Doctor! Priceless! So true that we should do more of the things that truly make us happy.

9 years ago
Reply to  LM

Haha, it took me 19 years of self-study and assessment to arrive at my formula, and the L.D. degree came with it on the same day, at no additional $ cost, of course. Do you! Cheers, and thanks for reading, LM.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x