The School of Happiness

Hosted by Dr. Robert Puff

Happiness Podcast

Dr. Robert Puff

You may be wondering ‘what is the school of happiness? And if such a school exists, how are we graded and how can we excel?’ The school of happiness is different from other schools because there is no graduation date. We’re used to attending school and eventually completing our grade, degree, program, etc. so we can go off and live our lives. The school of happiness is a lifelong program, and it doesn’t matter if we live 10 or 100 years, we attend this school forever.

Most of us associate school with good grades, shiny accolades, and awards. However, the school of happiness is not about success because if it was, people who were deemed ‘successful’ would automatically be happy. But we know that this is not the case. There are plenty of people who are very successful and are also unhappy. Perhaps doing well at the school of happiness is about dedicating your life to helping people and being of service to others. This is not necessarily the case either, because there are plenty of people who have dedicated their lives to serving others who are still deeply unhappy. Well, maybe it’s about the amount of people who think highly of us - the more people who look up to us and think we’re great, the better we’ll do at the school of happiness! Unfortunately, this also is not the case. In fact, many people who are loved by many succumb to their own darkness through suicide or drugs.

So what is the school of happiness and how can we perform well there?

External things are not a good measure of happiness. WE are the judges who decide if our lives are going well. The best part about this school is we’re the students and the teachers because we give ourselves a ‘grade.’ These grades can be a tad complicated - our grades don’t come from a performance average, meaning one day you had an A day and the next you had a C day so you average a B grade. We perform well at the school of happiness if we focus on improving ourselves every day and finding new ways to fill ourselves with peace and happiness. The folks who don’t perform well struggle through life and may find ways to numb themselves from the pain. This happens more frequently than we think because life can present many challenges.

My belief is that no matter the challenges we face, we are still capable of performing well at the school of happiness. There are people who have easy lives and they’re not happy, while there are people who have lived through tragedies and have come out very happy and full of peace. Take Hellen Keller or Stephen Hawking for example - they had very challenging lives but were still able to find happiness. We’re capable of doing this too, but it might take some work. The people who sometimes perform the best at the school of happiness are those who have suffered deeply. This is because they have developed resilience and are now able to overcome future challenges.

Sadly, many people don’t perform well at the school of happiness. In the famous words of Henry Thoreau, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation.” I believe that the purpose of life is to live well while we’re here. This belief spans across any religion - the meaning of life is to end each day and say “that was a good day” so we can string our many days together to say we lived a good life.

Since we’ll all be students in the school of happiness until our last breath, why not do exceptionally well? We can all achieve this! Before we review how to do well, let’s look at what doesn’t work.

We receive messages all day long through the media telling us that in order to be happy, we need the shiniest and newest thing. If only we had more beauty, fame, etc. then we’d finally be happy with ourselves. These messages can instill a false sense of what it takes to fulfill our lives. If we’re able to look past these messages and focus on what really matters, then we’re able to receive validation and happiness from within, not from external things.

Now let’s take a look at what we can do to be excellent students in the school of happiness.

First, it’s important to start each day and say “I’m going to make this a good day, and the way I’m going to do this is by changing the things I can control and accepting the things I can’t.” This may mean that just for today, you choose to accept certain things that make you uncomfortable - loneliness, lack of fulfillment at work, heartache, etc. That doesn’t mean that tomorrow you’ll have to accept them as well because all we’re focused on is today. If we’re able to accept feeling uncomfortable and let go of our expectations of things being a certain way, we can achieve peace even during tumultuous times. Some of us don’t excel at the school of happiness because we hold on too tightly to our expectations and then feel disappointed when things don’t go our way. And this is not to be confused with wanting to improve things in our lives. It’s the belief that when we can’t, we can choose to let go of our expectations so that we may realize it feels good to not give energy to things that are out of our control.

The focus is not necessarily on feeling good all of the time, but rather feeling peaceful during times of difficulty. Once we’re able to do this, we can be at peace or happy regardless of what we’re feeling. For example, a top athlete can be in a lot of physical pain, but not mind it because they’re a top athlete and used to this feeling. Life can be like this too. Things can cause us to suffer and feel happiness at the same time. Think of a mother giving birth - the experience is both brutally painful and extremely joyous.

We can learn to suffer less, even when we endure loss. Suffering is something we experience when we want things to be different. The key is to accept, rather than to fight the things we cannot change. This gives us the opportunity to focus on the things that bring us joy in our lives. And this doesn’t mean that we can’t grieve loss, in fact, grieving can be very helpful. It teaches us that no matter what life throws at us, life can still be good and beautiful as long as we don’t give up.

The main reason I created the Happiness podcast is to provide tools that can help anyone get through anything. When we refuse to give up, we can get through the hardest of times. We may not solve our problems today, but if we keep chipping away, the thing that was once so challenging becomes less noticeable. The school of happiness is about learning to overcome challenges, to do well at life, and live one day at a time.


About the Happiness Podcast:

Do you ever wonder what it takes to lead a peaceful, happy life? Are you curious about the specific steps involved in a self-actualized, limitless life? Are you struggling with anxiety or depression? Or are you just plain tired and want some help? We explore all these concerns and more every week on the Happiness Podcast, which has been downloaded over 9 million times since its inception. Happiness does not happen by chance, but because we take specific actions in our lives to create it.

Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D., author of 13 books, TV show host, Psychology Today blogger, and corporate trainer, has been studying the actions it takes to reach the highest levels of human achievement for decades, and he wants to share what he knows with you. Come and explore, along with millions of others from the Happiness Podcast, Dr. Puff books and Psychology Today blog, private clients and corporate workshop attendees, the specific steps to take so that you can soar in your life.

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Happiness Podcast
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