The five secrets to happiness

What are the secrets to happiness and meaning? Why do some people find a deep sense of purpose while they are here and die with few regrets while others end their lives bitter and disappointed? John Izzo, Ph.D., author of The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, asked several thousand people to identify the one person they knew who had lived a long life and found true happiness. He interviewed over 200 of the nominees and discovered five clear themes – or secrets – that embody a happy and meaningful life. Here is how you can incorporate these five secrets into your life and live an enriched and fulfilling existence.


Happy Woman

1. Be true to yourself

Izzo explains, “Being true to yourself often means drowning out other voices that would ask you to live their dreams instead of yours.”

Knowing what brings you happiness and focusing your life on what matters to you is essential in living a life that sates your soul. In your daily life, it means you know what brings you joy and you live your life to ensure that you follow your joyful destiny.

Izzo says, “One of the people I interviewed was a Latina woman who talked about the importance of following our ‘destina.’ He adds, “Destina is the idea is that each of us has a path that is most true to us, which is not so much a destination as a way we are meant to be in the world. For example, I am a teacher and philosopher by nature and when I stay close to that path I experience true joy.”

According to Izzo, to find genuine happiness and experience true joy, you must follow your heart – have the discipline to listen to your heart and the courage to follow it. This means asking if the life you are living is true to your deepest sense of self. Ask yourself, Are you being true to yourself right now?

2. Leave No Regrets

One of the most interesting things that Izzo learned from talking to the 235 wise people he interviewed is that almost none of them regretted risks they took – even if the ventures did not work out – and most even said they wished they would have risked more.

Izzo says, “It seems to me that what we fear most as we age is not death, but rather it is to come to the end of our life feeling that we never truly lived. The saddest words ever spoken at the end of life are ‘I wish I had….’”

Izzo suggests that one of the keys to moving towards what you want instead of what you fear is to focus on the best possible result and not the worst. Ask yourself, Are you going for what you truly want in your life or acting with fear?

3. Become Love

Izzo says that, according to the wide variety of people he interviewed, the greatest source of happiness for them and the largest place of regret had to do with other people.

He says, “What I discovered is that those who made people a priority in their lives and who developed deep personal relationships found true happiness. Many of them told me that ‘things’ rarely brought true joy, whereas family and friends brought lasting happiness.” He suggests, “One way to focus on relationships is to get intentional goals for our personal relationships just like we do in our careers.”

Another interesting thing Izzo gleaned from his interviews was that the choice to give love is even more important in determining happiness than getting it. He says, “These people talked to me about the importance of choosing love and kindness as your way in the world. They taught me that when we choose to be a loving person we find a deep sense of meaning in life.” Ask yourself, Are you choosing to love or fear it?

4. Live the Moment

“One of the most common things people told me was how fast life goes by and how important it is to enjoy each moment,” says Izzo.

Among the secrets Izzo learned from the people he interviewed was how they placed great importance to live in the present. Living in the present means to fully enjoy whatever experience you are having (and not to wish you were somewhere else), and to live with gratitude focusing on what you are grateful for rather than what you don’t have.

Izzo explains, “They told me that we have no power over the past and little power over the future. Many of them said that whenever you find yourself saying ‘I will be happy when… or I will be happy if…,’ that it is important to remember that happiness is a choice we make inside.”

He adds, “One woman told me: ‘You have to stop judging your life and start living your life. Stop keeping score trying to decide if you are winning. Instead, live each day fully and stay in the moment.’” So ask yourself, Are you living with gratitude right now, focusing on enjoying your life rather than judging it?

5. Give More Than You Take

Izzo shares, “When I asked people what gave their lives the greatest meaning, people told me again and again that being of service and knowing that they made things better because they were there for others was by far the greatest source of meaning.”

Izzo says that it is what you give, not what you take that gives life meaning. He says, “Many of them also reminded me that we have little control over what we get from the world every day (whether people will love us, whether we will win the lottery, etc.) but we have complete control over what we give to the world – whether we choose to be kind, charitable, and to give to others. These people reminded me that everything we take from the world dies with us, but everything we give to the world gets recycled.”

“All the spiritual traditions remind us that true happiness comes from focusing on being of service and in the process joy finds us,” he concludes. Ask yourself, Are you focused on giving or getting each day?

Put the secrets in practice

Izzo says, “It is not enough to know the secrets, we must live them. Someone once told me ‘If you want to live a happy life; ask someone who has lived one.’ This past year I had the privilege to sit at the feet of 235 of the wisest people I have ever met and I was amazed how clear they were on what mattered, what didn’t matter, and how each of us can create a life of meaning and happiness.”



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