Is your idea of “perfect happiness” based on a myth?

Nearly all of us buy into what we call the myths of happiness—beliefs that certain adult achievements (marriage, kids, jobs, wealth) will make us forever happy and that certain adult failures or adversities (health problems, divorce, financial struggles) will make us forever unhappy. Overwhelming research, however, reveals that there is no magic formula for happiness and no sure course toward misery. Rather than bringing lasting happiness or misery in themselves, major life moments and crisis points can be opportunities for renewal, growth, or meaningful change. It’s how you greet these moments that really matters.


A very famous study was conducted by David Lykken, at Minnesota’s University who in 1990 studied 4,000 pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal twins, who had been educated in the same way and with equal opportunities. Lykken was the proponent of a set-point theory of happiness, which argues that one’s sense of well-being is half determined by genetics and half determined by circumstances. His research findings suggest that a person’s baseline levels of cheerfulness, contentment, and psychological satisfaction are largely a matter of heredity.

Then, saying that genetics determined your happiness, it’s half true.

Specific Achievements

Many of us fervently believe that, if we’re not happy now, we’ll be happy when we’ve finally made it—when we have reached a certain level of prosperity and success. However, when that happiness proves elusive or short-lived, we weather mixed emotions, letdown, and even depression. When we’ve achieved—at least on paper—much of what we have always wanted to achieve, life can become dull and even empty. There is little around the corner to look forward to. Many prosperous and successful individuals don’t understand this natural process of adaptation, and may come to the conclusion that they need even more money to be truly happy. They do not realize that the key to buying happiness is not in how successful we are, but perhaps what we do with our success; it’s not how high our income is, but how we allocate it.

In her book “Myths of happiness“, Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, says that the idea of ”I will be happy when… ” is a false promise.

What happens is that once the euphoria passes, the feeling of dissatisfaction will appear again. Then we spend our whole lives chasing an achievement after another without enjoying what we are. The same author notes that another myth equally widespread and harmful is the belief “I will not be happy if… When you suffer a change of adverse fortune, our reaction is usually oversized” says Lyubomirsky. “So we feel that we cannot be happy again, and life as we know it has already finished”.

We must understand that personal fulfillment cannot be subject to conditions, because life is changing and we will always swing between positive and negative experiences. By accepting the ups and downs of existence, we can ensure unconditional welfare and the capacity to face the inevitable hardships of life.


One survey of 1,000 Americans, conducted in 2010, concluded that money does make us happier – but only up to a certain point. The findings, by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton, both from Princeton University, showed that self-reported levels of wellbeing increased with salary up to $75,000 (roughly £50,000) a year. But after that, increasing amounts of money had no further effect on happiness.

However, a more recent study, published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2013, challenged the idea that the positive effect of money plateaus. After comparing life satisfaction and happiness levels in both rich and poor countries, and rich and poor people within a country – with “rich” being defined as an income greater than $15,000 (roughly £10,000) per person – Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers concluded: “The relationship between wellbeing and income … does not diminish as income rises. If there is a satiation point, we are yet to reach it.”

So does money make us happier? Well, yes and no. We need enough to cover our basic needs, and a rising salary can impact our wellbeing, but we also need to remember the positive effects of generosity and building relationships. Perhaps our focus should be less on how much money we have, and more on how we use it.

Stop waiting for certain things to happen is a good key to be happy. By releasing beliefs about happiness, we will be closer to get it on our own, encouraging a lifestyle that allows us to be at peace with ourselves while we are useful for others.

The good news is that there are no magic formulas to reach happiness. Each of us must discover our own recipe.