Wright Foundation | April 6, 2017

How To Be Happy (Really!)


We all want things, and we all think things can make us happy. But the real truth behind how to be happy is to realize that you deserve happiness.

how to be happy

When I was younger, I was overweight. I longed to be thin. I thought that if I could just get skinnier, I’d be happy. If I could just get the body I wanted, I’d be desirable. I’d feel great and confident.

So I dieted. I lost the weight. I worked hard at it. I became thin and I looked hot! I was proud of my work and I felt good about it…but I STILL didn’t feel happy. I wasn’t “blissed out.” I wasn’t going around with a big grin on my face.

I was okay. My clothes fit better, but I didn’t feel like I got what I really wanted. I still felt unfulfilled.

Even after losing weight, I wasn’t truly happy because I didn’t address my underlying yearnings. Yes, I wanted to be skinny, but it wasn’t what I truly YEARNED for.

Why We Want the Wrong Things

We all want things: a bigger house, a newer car, thicker hair, or a better sex life.

Wanting fuels us and inspires us. We work for the things we want. We fantasize about our wants. We believe if we could only somehow obtain what we want, then we’d be happy, right?

Well, what’s stopping us?

If the only thing in life standing between you and happiness is a new car, better hair, or a roll in the hay, then go out right this minute and get what you want. Whip out your platinum card if you have to—go for it!

You know why you won’t?

Because you know it won’t really bring you happiness. It might bring you a temporary high. You might feel great when you get behind the wheel of the car or when you start turning heads, but it won’t lead to true happiness.

We might think we want something, but without addressing the underlying yearning, it’s a hollow victory. Weight loss, hair plugs, Viagra or a Lexus won’t fix the problem. We’re wanting the wrong things.

Identifying your yearnings can be challenging at first, but we all have them. They run much deeper than wants. These are the things at our very core that we NEED emotionally. They’re bigger than simple desires. It’s not something someone else can fulfill for us. It’s not about a car, or a house, or even a relationship. WE are the only ones who can reach our own happiness.

If you’re trying to unlock your yearnings, try applying the “so that” method. For example: I want to be skinny so that I feel sexier. I want to feel sexier so that I can go on more dates. I want to go on more dates so that I can fall in love. I want to fall in love BECAUSE I want to be loved and cared for. My yearning is to be loved and cared for.

We can yearn for many things—safety, respect, to be understood, or to be connected with others. We might yearn to be acknowledged or for validation. We may yearn to be heard or seen by others in a real, honest way.

Yearnings are what speak to our soul and the fiber of our being. When our yearnings are met, we feel warm and wonderful. We get a little tingle in our heart and butterflies in our stomach. We feel amazing when our yearnings are met. We get that “blissed out” feeling that doesn’t come from anything else.

Yet…for many of us, we have a hard time fulfilling our yearnings because we block our own way. We have that little voice inside our head—you know the one—it says, “You don’t deserve this. You always do this wrong. If you just X, THEN you could have Y.” It’s the little voice that instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” says “I’m stupid.”

That little voice is damaging. It’s harmful. It’s the voice of our limiting beliefs about ourselves and the things that hold us back. It’s our inner pessimist. It’s what we call Stinking Thinking.

Overcoming Stinking Thinking

Stinking Thinking comes in all kinds of formats, but most stinking thinking falls into six main categories:

  1. Overgeneralization
  2. Jumping to Conclusions
  3. Emotional Reasoning
  4. Should Statements
  5. Blame/Shame
  6. Looped Thinking

When we overgeneralize, we think things are ALWAYS going to be a certain way. We break things down into “all or nothing” statements, like when we’re dealing with a bad situation and we think, “That’s it. Everything is awful.” When we say we can’t do something, when we say we’ve lost all hope…that’s overgeneralization.

Jumping to conclusions is another rampant symptom of Stinking Thinking. It’s when you walk into a situation assuming people already think something about you. It’s prejudices. It’s magical thinking. It’s thinking you can somehow control or predict the future.

When we jump to negative conclusions, we falsely think we have a crystal ball or some psychic ability to foresee what’s coming before it happens. But guess what? None of us have that (and if you do, let’s go to Vegas)!

Another type of Stinking Thinking involves emotional reasoning, like “If I feel like a failure, I must be a failure.” If I feel stupid, I must be stupid. We are not what we feel. We all feel down sometimes or we get into a bad mood. That doesn’t mean it’s what we ARE. It’s just how we feel.

Other Stinking Thinking involves “should-ing” ourselves to death. It’s when we keep thinking about what we SHOULD have done, what we ought to do, or what we “have to do” out of some perceived obligation. We blame ourselves for things that aren’t entirely our fault or we blame others completely without acknowledging it takes two to tango. We might get stuck in looped thinking and ruminate endlessly on a situation. We become obsessed with a perceived “wrong” or misstep and we just can’t stop thinking about it.

If you find yourself engaging in this type of Stinking Thinking, give yourself a kick in the butt. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t start telling yourself, “Well great, I’m a stinky thinker and there’s no hope for me!” Just allow yourself to reset.

Say to yourself, “Nope—this is Stinking Thinking.” And stop.

Sound overly simplistic? Guess what? When we identify our Stinking Thinking and call ourselves out on our own B.S., we can stop it. Simply identifying it is the first step. Call it out and let it go.

Stinking Thinking prevents us from realizing our yearnings. We think we don’t deserve happiness. We think we don’t deserve to unlock our innermost desires. We think we’ll always be the way we are. We think life has dealt us an unfair hand.

How freeing is it to realize that YOU are the navigator of your own life! It’s like in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy realizes the answer was within her all along. She could get what she wanted the whole time…even though she was searching for other things and asking people to help her and rescue her. She didn’t believe in her own capacity to get home, yet it was right there in her hands (or rather, on her feet).

When we let go of our Stinking Thinking, the world is open to us. We can reach for our yearnings because we realize we deserve them. We deserve the things that make us happy—not on a superficial level, but deeply and within our hearts. We deserve the things that speak to our souls and nourish us as human beings.

Today, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you deserve happiness. You deserve to have your yearnings met. You’re not going to stand in your own way with stinky thoughts, but you’re going to get to the heart of what you really need.

Ready to ignite your world? Ready to live the life you WANT to live and find your own true happiness? To learn more about how to live your best life, please visit us at the Wright Foundation website.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.