When We're Happiest
Earl Nightingale


Quite often we hear people say, "I'm unhappy," as though happiness were the object, or purpose, of life.  It isn't, nor can it be.  Happiness is an effect, a by-product, a symptom of something else.  Therefore, seeking happiness directly must always result in failure.

Happiness comes only to those who have done something to cause it. It can be meeting the so-called "right person."  Falling in love brings a euphoric, giddy kind of happiness which, if the love is real and lasting, can settle down into a kind of permanent state of happiness.  There will be ups and downs, of course, so-called good days and moments and bad days and bad moments, but if the relationship is sound and satisfying, having the right person can bring a kind of joy for many, many years.

Happiness generally comes most often to productive and creative people when they have found and are engaged in work in which they can lose themselves.  When the work has been completed, they must then, after a while, find more.

For the author, it can be a book or a story; for the painter, a subject, an idea. And it's the same with architects, engineers and all the rest of us. 

We are usually happiest when we are unaware of our happiness.  We'll be busily engaged in something that demands our full attention and best talents and suddenly discover, during a pause in the work, that several hours have passed in which we've been completely unaware of the passage of time and our surroundings.  

And, if we think about it, we'll realize that we were living close to the peak during that time and that we were in a very high order of happiness.

Happiness comes when we are doing something for others, too.  On Christmas morning, our joy or our happiness can be at a very high level, not because of our anticipation of what we might receive but, rather, in anticipation of watching our loved ones open our gifts to them.  In fact, if we're not careful, we can fail to register sufficient excitement and joy upon opening the gifts we receive from others.  We must remember that they are happiest at that time and to give them top billing, to stretch their happiness to its full length.

Sometimes we're so anxious for them to open something we've given, we'll tend to pass over the things they've given us.  Have to watch that, especially where the children are concerned.  They've spent days, perhaps weeks, thinking of the moment when we'll finally open the present on which they've lavished so much thought and love and care.

So if we remember that we are happiest when we are doing things for others, when we are busiest, and after we have accomplished something worthwhile, we need never be unhappy again, at least not for long.  We need only find a project on which to work, or put in a good hard day doing those things that need to be done, or find a way to do something for others.  Then happiness, like a butterfly, will come and land on our sleeve.

Happiness is not the purpose of life. It is a by-product of keeping busy, of losing ourselves in our work and of doing things for others. Knowing that, we need never be unhappy again.


Who are the happiest people on earth?  A craftsman or artist whistling
over a job well done.  A little child building sand castles.  A mother,
after a busy day, bathing her baby.  A doctor who has finished a difficult
and dangerous operation, and saved a human life.  Happiness lies in
a constructive job well done.  Get your happiness out of your work
or you will never know what happiness is.

Elbert Hubbard


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