2,134 Ways To Be Happy: Confessions From The Functionally Unhappy


This post contains a BIG BOLD STATEMENT.

It seems like a lot of people are looking for happiness. Walk through any bookstore and count the number of times you see the words “happy” or “happiness”. If you had $5 for each time you saw those words you could probably make a mortgage payment. Just for fun, Google the word “happiness”. The last time I did, Google came back with over 75,400,000 entries. I found sites about happiness quotes, happiness poems, happiness articles, happiness blogs, happiness affirmations, happiness posters, happiness videos, even happiness retreats. I found happiness everything.

I can’t help but wonder…with such an overly abundant supply of happiness support materials, are we in the middle of some sort of unhappiness pandemic?

THE SMILE FACADE We all know unhappy people, the ones who are so unhappy on the inside that their unhappiness bleeds through to their outside. But there is a second batch of unhappy people. I call them the Functionally Unhappy.

The Functionally Unhappy show no signs of unhappiness on the outside. They smile. They laugh. They can even be successful by traditional societal standards. But in the moments of silence and reflection in the course of their day, they are reminded that something is missing. Something just isn’t right. The Emptiness Demon is whispering not-so-sweet nothings in their ear.

The Functionally Unhappy are thrilled to be distracted by the busywork associated with the daily activities of life. The distractions allow them to not have to face the unhappiness perculating just below the surface. Distractions can also take the form of retail transactions, bigger houses, and exotic vacations. As the distractions fail to produce the desired result of real happiness, that frustration is often muted with comfort food, alcohol, and in some cases, drugs.

The Functionally Unhappy are also searchers, always trying to find that one key to happiness that has to be lying around somewhere.

I am a recovering Functionally Unhappy person. I have lived what I speak of. Despite all the good things in my life, I just wasn’t happy. I was always searching for whatever it was I thought I’d need to find my happiness. The unhappiness was always present at various levels of intensity. It was like walking with a pebble in your shoe. No one knew it was there, but I could feel it with every step.

YELLING AT GOD There was, and to this day remains no logical reason why I was unhappy. I had everything I was supposed to have. Nothing was holding me back. Nothing was in my way. Yet something was missing. When you spend all your time searching, you spend no time being present. There was a gnawing clash between my expectations and my reality, even though I could never clearly define my own expectations. It was a time of great frustration.

Next time you talk to God, ask Him about the time I was yelling at Him during a long, lonely walk on the beach.

My quest to “find” happiness lead me in many directions. Usually it led me to Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble became my happiness methadone clinic. I knew that the answers I was looking for were to be found within the pages of some book on some shelf somewhere in Barnes & Noble. Or so I hoped.

I bought a lot of books.

MOMENT OF CLARITY Everyone seems to have a theory on attaining happiness. The theories range from the spiritual to the scientific and everything in between. Even after reading all those books, I found nothing in and of itself was the “cure” to my condition. The One Man Army of Misery marched on and on.

In my search for real happiness, I eventually came to understand that I had a vision problem. It wasn’t my eyes. It was what I was seeing.

A significant moment of clarity came my way when I stumbled upon a quote from Wayne Dyer: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It sounded physically impossible, even illogical, that simply seeing things differently could change what I was looking at. But somehow it did. Those fifteen words challenged me to look at everything from a different perspective. Most importantly, I was challenged to look at myself and my life through a different paradigm.

Which has lead me to the BIG BOLD STATEMENT: Happiness is not something you attain, it’s something you realize.

I’ve never found happiness. Yet I am extremely happy. More peaceful than I can ever remember being. But I never found happiness. Finding happiness implies that it is located outside of you, over there, somewhere else. Like finding your car keys or a great parking space at the mall.

Happiness only comes from looking inside. I was already happy, I just didn’t know it. I needed to change the way I looked at my life, and that change enabled me to slowly begin to appreciate all the wonder I had been surrounded by all these years.

ROOT OF ALL HAPPINESS As money is the root of all evil, the root of all happiness is appreciation. It was only when I began to allow myself to fully appreciate who I was as well as all the dormant greatness that was bestowed upon me did the sunshine of happiness break through the storm clouds. Only when I allowed myself to begin to fully appreciate the family, friends and relationships I already had in my life was I able to walk away from my darkness. The same eyes that once only saw what was missing now only saw what was. The same mind that stewed in impossibility and scarcity now celebrated all that I was and all that I was capable of becoming.

The pebble was no longer in my shoe.

No one is born unhappy. That’s something we unknowingly and gradually bring upon ourselves. And that comes from us forgetting about who we really are. We focus on attainment and fitting in, we enter the realm of status and ego, even at the unintended expense of squelching the greatness and purpose that lies within us. I don’t fully understand how I got so lost, but I do understand how I got back. Changing how I thought about myself and my life allowed me to regain the appreciation that I once had for myself and all that is in my life. Only with the foundation of appreciation was I able to realize the happiness that I spent years trying to find outside of me.

Happiness is not something you attain, it’s something you realize.

Living Half Full is all about appreciating the greatness of your life. And only from that authentic appreciation can we ever expect to make the most of the unique combination of talents, gifts, and abilities that dwell within each of us. There very well may be 2,134 ways to be happy, but no one will ever know true happiness without first appreciating the greatness of the life they already have.

Celebrate all that you are and all that you are capable of becoming.

Regain the reverence and appreciation for all that you are.

Realize your happiness!

It’s a great day to be you!

4 thoughts on “2,134 Ways To Be Happy: Confessions From The Functionally Unhappy

  1. Hi Peter,

    This is my first visit ever to your blog and I think that you’ve got some interesting points.
    In some aspects you remind me of my friend Brett Hagberg from daretoexpress.com, you might want to check him out.

    Regarding your post.. I think that even if many people act like they are seeking happiness.. when they could realize their happiness, they often back off. Being sad and blue is quite often easier than being happy. These people live of the comforting from the other peeps that always ask them what’s the problem, who are sorry for them, etc. You want to be happy for happiness, not just act like you do. 🙂

    Take care,


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