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When You’re Happy, You Don’t Have to Tell Anyone

Happiness-alt

“If you really want to be happy, no one can stop you.” -Anonymous

As I was editing a new book manuscript, one story caught my attention. A man makes a lot of changes in his life. He adopts a new lifestyle, sells his possessions, and spends his time on intentional experiences. So far, so good.

But then, he doesn’t just make the changes—he wants to tell people about them. He tells everyone he meets, even people who are busy with their own lives and don’t want to hear about it.

He’s so happy!

Finally, his mother says something to him in a phone call. “John, when people are happy, they don’t have to tell everyone about it. They’re just happy.”

The man realizes that she’s right. He doesn’t need to persuade anyone to adopt the same lifestyle. He doesn’t need to scold or criticize anyone who doesn’t think as he does. He just needs to live according to his ideals.

***

There’s a wonderful freedom in living life by your own design and making choices for yourself. When you first create this freedom—for freedom is usually created, not merely found—you may find yourself like John, wanting to tell everyone about it.

You become an evangelist for this way of life. You want to show everyone that you’re happier. You want to help them to be happy too.

Yet you may discover, as most evangelists do, that the rest of the world is not always eager to hear your message.

Your happiness may lie in going against the grain of opinion or preferences. But sometimes, you should just go with the flow once you’re there. Let it settle in. Enjoy it for yourself.

Those who long for the same discoveries will seek them out. Those who are envious will never understand anyway. Everyone else can just live their life as they see fit.

If you’re happy, you don’t have to tell everyone about it. You’re just happy.

###

Image: Mathias

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67 Comments

  • I was like this when I first discovered Stoicism. I wanted to tell the world. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that people aren’t as excited as you are to hear about how to be happy. It’s like telling people you think they’re wrong and that you’re somehow going to lead them to salvation.

    If people want to hear about it they will ask and make sure you know they have open ears. Forcing your opinions down someone’s throat, regardless of your intentions, will never be good.

  • Jesse Barger says:

    Just living your life this way will draw the people that truly want to make these changes. Telling people about it will fall on deaf ears about 95% of the time, living it reaches a more targeted audience. The old lead by example cliche. Great post!

  • Rebecca says:

    It is so true that it seems that we are not supposed to tell others of our happiness. it always seems more ok to tell people of our miseries or what has made us mad. In a way it is really sad.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Micheal says:

    I have managed to live on my own terms for most of my life. It has cost me a lot though as well. Family think i am crazy and tell me how they worry about me. It has cost me relationships of all kinds.
    However i get to live how and where i want. I owe no one, anything. I feel freedom and enjoy an active meaningful life to me.
    I stopped preaching about this many years ago. But i love this life and have had many wonderful adventures and experiences that i could have never had otherwise.

  • James Tyler says:

    Ahh, so refreshing to hear, Chris. This post actually solved a problem I’ve been grappling with for years now.

  • Grace says:

    Nicely said, Chris. Thanks so much for sharing. I totally agree. It’s sort of odd, but the less I feel that anyone needs to make any changes, or “get” anything, or improve in any way…the more people want to work with me (I’m in the mental health field which sort of addresses unhappiness and how to work with it).

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for this. There’s also the irony of how trying to spread happiness can incite exactly the opposite feeling in others. I’ve never quite understood how that works, but have always found it unfortunate. So I guess that’s another reason to just feel your feelings without trying to spread them around.

  • I’m glad you posted this article. This is the way I live my life. When I’m interested in something, I seek out more information; I ask questions. When others ask me questions, I share what I can. I don’t welcome proselytism, and try to refrain from imposing my views on others.

  • James Pond says:

    The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

  • I loved this, thank you. When I see this in other people (and perhaps myself once!) I wonder if the desire to share comes from an aspect of ego – a bit of pride, superiority, that kind of a thing? So easy to fall into the trap!

  • Curt Keisler says:

    Self-Reliance . . . Emerson . . .

  • CYNDI says:

    When I’m happy & I know it . . . . I kayak.
    I kayak a LOT!!!
    Therefore, I’m happy!
    My motto: ~~~Paddle~~~Drift~~~Repeat~~~

  • LeAnna says:

    This happened to me on Saturday of this week. I had a panic attack at work because my mom always questioned my religious beliefs and I just said I was agnostic, don’t talk to me about it. Well, my best friend and I were talking about religion and I was having a panic attack that day due to a new job situation. I called her, asked her to calm me down, and she did. She saved my life. Of course, then when I calmed down, she tried to tell me the reason why I was having a panic attack. Which she shouldn’t have done. I had another more severe panic attack the next day, and I went crazy. I’m ok now. I’m happy now, but when I had that attack, I went literally crazy.

  • Laura says:

    Excellent post, Chris – thank you. Perfect timing, too 🙂

  • Patricia says:

    Just perfect! Live and let live. Be happy and just enjoy it. There is no need to tell.

  • Esther says:

    Wow! What a great, simple insight. As I’ve been experiencing a lot of change in the things I believe about life and discovering how to live a fulfilling one out of the confines of conformity, I find myself also wanting to share these wonderful ideas with other people. But I have felt that not everyone is so receptive of them, even the simplest ones. Thanks for reminding me to lead by example and action, not by words.

  • Not only do you not have to tell anyone you’re happy – you can also be happy for no reason. You can be unreasonably happy. We don’t need reasons or justifications for being happy. And since you don’t have to tell anyone, you don’t have to explain it – just BE.

  • I have a finished blog post, sitting in draft status, that opens with “I just realized I’m happier than I’ve ever been.” It goes on to talk about how strategy and goal-setting (what I’m known for writing about) got me to this place — but I’m still not sure I need to share it as it is now. You’ve given me more to think about.

  • Sandra says:

    I totally agree that we don’t need to say out loud about all the new changes and we are happy and so forth. I understand the urge of telling everyone why and how we’re happy. People will notice we had changed. When we are happy we shine and empower those around us. And can cause transformation 🙂

  • A great reminder: thank you 🙂

  • Vee Somphon says:

    When I have that moment of clarity or grasped a hard-earned lesson, I want to share it in order to save others the painful trial and error of getting there. I’m definitely guilty when it comes to giving unsolicited advice – it’s the curse of a first-born 🙂 But I have to come to recognize that a wise teacher understands timing as well. The student has to be ready.

    I remember too, being the “student” who was open and eager to learn but all too often came across those who didn’t wish to share their wisdom because they wanted to see others pay their dues. I never understood this lack of generosity nor their lack of desire to spare others the pain. For those of us eager to learn, please continue to share in your wisdom.

  • Andi says:

    Brilliant, and frighteningly timely. (As in, nearly to the minute – whoa.)
    Cyndi: hear, hear! Kayaking is bliss.

  • This post make me think of a evangelist guy we met named William during our trip to Uluru in Australia. He was a nice guy but on every occasion during the trip he was talking about how Jesus saved his life and how we should repent from our sins and such. The bus was full of young tourist backpackers, some barely speaking English and many from different country and different religion. The tour guide explained on many occasion to cut this sort of speech but the guy couldn’t resist and understand other were not into this and that he won’t make friend with anyone. Some way, I was happy for him that he found himself but he was so annoying!

  • dan says:

    I’m all for this! I’m curious about the man’s mother’s comment though. It’s absolutely true that you don’t have to tell people that you’re happy, but I wonder what her intent was in making the comment. Was she threatened by his happiness? Was it annoying to her and she wanted it to stop? Or was it simply a free-spirited and well-meaning comment? I’m just as struck by her comment as by the thought of not having to tell everyone.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Jo Bordonaro says:

    I feel so connected to everyone. People in elevators, on planes, in restaurants — like we’re all living in the same web and I am jumping up and down on my strand. Happiness is infectious.

  • Martin Pigg says:

    Or if you’ve discovered something that you want to share with the world, you can live by the philosophy I tend to gravitate to:

    A third of the people will love you, a third will hate you, and a third won’t care, so focus on the third that will love you (and your message).

  • Mary says:

    You know, I completely agree with this article, but I have found over the past year, as I have changed my lifestyle to suit me, I have often had to offer up an explanation to people for why I am not as available as I used to be. I do have to mention that I have changed my lifestyle to make me happier, because without mentioning this others can’t really comprehend why things have changed so much. I wish I didn’t have to offer up an explanation at all, but I guess I have made some dramatic changes and people are struggling to adjust. Any thoughts on this?

  • Sandra says:

    Good point, Mary! That happened to me as well.

  • Great post, great timing 😉 (how the f*** is the great timing possible ;-)? over and over again)

    Well… I agree. Thnx for reminding.
    One question… What about ‘To have joy, you must share it?’ Wouldnt it be lonely to keep it for yourself? And… Now I start to volunteer for Greenheart Ibiza who wants to educate and spread good words… I’m thinking…: When will spreading and sharing be good? When or in which way is it nice and non-ego? That would be the best way!

    For example… When I read (real) stories about Nike, from Nike, and the lessons are inspiring… I am welcome to here them… So therfor my thought of this post: where to share and where to stop?

  • Brooks Spangler says:

    Enthusiasm is contageous – something I’ve lived my life by (as well as many of you I bet)!

  • Thus, my Twitter tagline…

    “Confidence is usually quiet. But it sure knows how to party!”

    Substitute happiness for confidence. Come to think of it, they’re pretty darn similar.

    Thanks for the fun post, Chris. 🙂

  • Really loved reading this today! So true, you don’t just find your freedom or happiness, you make it. People often tell me how lucky I am ~ they don’t know how much went into the process of creating it 🙂 Thank you, Chris.

  • Linda G. says:

    AMEN!

  • Lucy Chen says:

    I did seek you out, didn’t I?
    Thanks, Chris!

  • christl says:

    I’ve recently discovered the business of just being happy in my skin, and not needing to tell everyone. If I sing when I garden the right people will notice. I don’t really care if they do or don’t.
    Reading your post today made me realize how this is. It also made me see how much lighter it feels just being me, without seeking others’ input. Kind of freeing, isn’t it! Thank you for your writings, Chris.
    Cheers!

  • Sujit says:

    Dear Chris,

    Nice thought. Feeling happy is indeed a personal experience. No doubt.
    However, I would like to add that telling people about that doesn’t always mean that you are being a show-off, or that your confidence in your happiness is in anyway lacking. It may just mean that you are merely chatting about a good experience you had, just like: ‘I visited this nice restaurant. If you go that way, do consider visiting it.’ It may be useless for most. But there may be some who will profit. Frankly, I have been a listener to many such shared experiences, and have profited in ways probably even the author wouldn’t have imagined. If a word of wisdom comes to me without any cost, I lap it up without second thought. And I am sure there are many others like me. Your blog is one such source. 🙂

  • Wise words Chris.

    Happiness is always an internal happening. It’s never dependent on others or situations to happen. Happiness arises in response to your thoughts or you simple presence to what is.

    You cannot recruit people to make you happy or teach others how to find happiness. Joy naturally exists in each moment if you are receptive to it.

    Yes life can be difficult but those difficulties never have to get in the way of your joy and happiness.

    Don’t worry, be happy and have a fun Halloween.

  • You’re exceedingly wise, Chris. I also remind myself of two powerful words: “…for me.” When I’m convinced that my way of living, or views about religion, or my attitudes about anything are RIGHT, I stop and remember to add, “…for me.” The way I live, think, act are all perfect…for me.

  • Josh says:

    My experience so far is that people seem to struggle to keep everyone at whatever level of happiness they are at. Misery loves company… I imagine the same goes for happiness.

  • Amardeep says:

    True..

  • Diara says:

    “Those who long for the same discoveries will seek them out. Those who are envious will never understand anyway.”
    I need to remember this quote when I want to evangelize around me ! We can only share with people interested in what we have to say.

  • Maria Thompson says:

    Once again you stroke a chord Chris! I feel the same, as i am making a lot of positive changes.
    I hate to admit that i have always tried to please others at the cost of delaying fulfilling my own dreams. I live in a very small community and people tend to criticize (even good-naturedly) practically everything, even the mere fact that you can be happy about something which does not “fit” in their own little book of norms!

    I started keeping a lot to myself, although i do agree with Mary’s comment above, that sometimes you do end up giving an “explanation” (although not as such), NOT in order to excuse yourself but to politely clarify that some people won’t be seeing you at their service anymore!

    I already feel free and much more content! 🙂

  • Thanks Chris. One of my favorite happiness quotes. Reminded me of your blog post:

    A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

    —LP Jacks

  • Mike Rudd says:

    Great post Chris! Very interesting process, I find myself doing both at times. Because part of my books is about finding something you love and discovering passion for your career. I don’t myself talk about how sweetly happy I am all the time but I do give people tips in my books about how to find something worthwhile in their life…whatever it may be! Hope that’s not too much happiness for them haha…
    Thanks for good words!

  • Great insight from his mom! I think, too, there’s something to the notion that happiness is not a destination. Being happy takes constant weeding/tending of emotions and circumstances as they arise. It takes work to be calm in the midst of life’s upheaval. What I’m getting at is that being “happy” is a moment by moment thing, even for the most stable people, so it’s hard to claim “constant” “perpetual” happiness. I’m sure this man still has his ups and downs, even if they’re more up than down. It’s (beautiful) part of being human.

  • Joe Flood says:

    Very true. I think happiness is a kind of quiet contentment. It doesn’t shout out at the world. It doesn’t need to convince you of anything. It just exists. It’s part of living fully in the moment. It’s taking in the small joys of the day and living life in alignment with your values and goals.

  • Steven says:

    Good article. Point taken. 😉

  • Eirini says:

    Hi there,
    I don’t actually agree with this.
    People always seem to share only the sad part of life, only the stories of deceipt, lies etc….
    I think people are OBLIGED to share their happiness so that they spread the message. So that they kindle other people’s hearts.
    I feel like we need to be apologetic if we are content because we annoy people. I don’t like that one bit.
    I was having a conversation with my sister, she lost faith in love. Of course she did! No one shares their success stories! All you hear is cheating partners and single mothers.
    If you are happy, tell the world. If people don’t want to listen, they can hang up.
    Thanks,
    Eirini

  • ARMEN says:

    I open this comment with the fact that I very recently had some pretty traumatic and life changing things happen to me. It has taken me the good part of 6 months to gain an upper hand on what has been lost. After many months of reflection, I have come to realized that even before this loss I had long ago misplace a great part of who I was when I was younger. This realization was brought about by opening myself up to now a very dear friend who helped me to see the following: Despite the fact that the trees are in the way and that you might not be able to see through them, it’s really about the way the moss has grown around them, and how the light hits the leaves, and when the branches sway in the wind. That beauty in just in that moment in time is all that is needed to see past the trees! It isn’t a goal, or a dream, or even a push that was needed to overcome the gloom and doom of our society. It was the realization that no matter what happens around us, and no matter what others are going through, and no matter how dark it might get, that the sun rises in a spectacular splendor, and it sets in just the same fashion. To be alone with ones thoughts on just these kinds

  • Glori Surban says:

    Timely and true. I think that because it’s so easy to share your happiness today via social media and technology, you “feel” obliged to share it. It’s almost a contest of sorts, which diminishes the whole idea of sharing happiness.

    The manner of sharing is also important, I think, because you have to be considerate of others who may feel that you’re rubbing your happiness in their faces.

    You don’t really have to “tell the world”, unless it is to reassure someone you love.

    Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but I like to keep some tings to myself. 🙂

  • LeahOh says:

    I couldn’t agree more!!

  • Great article – extremely insightful!

  • A well-written article, but I don’t share its views. Happiness is greatly increased through communication with those we love. We enjoy our favorite books more when we talk about them. We love great movies more when we watch them with our friends. We feel happier when we can express our views, feelings, and enjoyment. Silent happiness is hardly human. Maybe Robinson Crusoe was happy, but most likely, he was bored.

  • tarsem says:

    Happiness is the feeling for me only but when shared with the world it increases many folds.But it should not be a source of ego and a show of superiority over others which in turn may feel envious of our situation. Thanks for good and timely article.

  • Mervi says:

    Interesting point. I think going overboard with the whole “I’ll tell the world how happy I am” is the problem. Some people will be happy to hear you are happy. And some may want to know how they could be happy like you.

    But when you start to force your ways to others, criticize them for not doing what you do, telling them how they SHOULD be and just being way too enthusiastic about your happiness, then you are doing it wrong. There’s a difference between sharing your happiness and forcing it to everyone.

  • Carmella says:

    Wow…I have no clue how I came across this article. I’m searching for answers and BAM I read this. It makes sense. I’ve had a lot of changes in the past year. Divorce (3yrs) jew job, new home, double mastectomy (5 surgeries) complete hysterectomy and a great new guy for 11 months. It seems your right, people don’t need to hear “your happy”. They don’t like it. I never went to extreme on how happy I am, or am I? Who treats me with respect and is kind to who he meets. I don’t feel anyone is really happy for me, it’s like their waiting for it to fail. Example when I went though divorce I made sure we were amicably and society was not happy. I build great friendships male (my guy knows them too) and women who I think are great friends (I thought)and for some how they leave me. Today I just wanted to let go of everyone. I’m an outgoing person and when I’m in a great mood or kind, helpful the pull away. No, I’m not annoying or too much. I’m a nice person. Why is it when I was Cancer I had everyone. I’m a strong person. IT’s almost like they want me to be weak and unhappy.

  • Nuria says:

    ”Happyness is real when shared ” that was what Christopher McCandless realised when he was living his dream isolated in Alaska ‘magic bus’

  • Grace says:

    It seems a natural reaction for some people who are struggling about something to feel bad when you tell them how happy you are. It’s not that they are envious nor selfish. It’s not that they wish you should be as unhappy as they are.

    That why we may need to think again before telling others how happy we are. It’s means being a bit more sensitive.

  • So, so true. Thanks for this one, and the site update wonderful.

  • Alex says:

    Good Post.

  • Jacob D.V says:

    I discovered true happiness when I had no desire to tell people. Going on social media, for example, to boast about happiness; or getting a tattoo to prove that I am happy actually displays how insecure one is.

    Happy people are just happy. Being content means being comfortable and confident in your own skin. The second one has to show someone they are contradicting themselves. Happy people have no desire to extenally validate themselves.

  • JCDH says:

    True happiness comes with humility.
    When someone needs to impose their views on others they are displaying false humility, which is the opposite of happiness.

  • Linda says:

    sometimes I wish others would mind their own business I mind mine for instance my nephew thought I was gng to start eat just because I got a coffee early from sum place like he was & he starting early I just said yes if he asks a stupid question he gets a stupid answer I go for an hours walk to distress if I don’t I have ended up on alcohol & drugs to cope so he can mind his business just because he doesn’t like walking

  • Taha says:

    i say whatever comes to my mind. I’m not thinking about the words per se, more like it just comes. i agree with everyone here. People are happy for their own reasons. I’m living my life according to my terms and conditions if you want to put it that way. Life is the best gift to have. to be honest. and to be completely honest with myself and others, being able to share happiness is the best thing. it’s kind of like winning the lottery as people say, it’s rare but if and when it does happen, it’s good to give. so i see happiness as being better than all of that. better than having millions of dollars or whatever. you can be rich and sad. or you can be happy with what you have. Happiness is in the heart and in the mind as well. so I say to everyone, just live your life and be happy.

  • Taha Abumaye says:

    I am happy to be alive. And life is full of surprises. Just remember to believe in yourself and anything is possible.

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