How to Find Happiness Now, Next Year, or in Any Other Year

First: Refuse to write new year's resolutions.



It’s not that they don’t work, new year’s resolutions: There’s a long and, frankly, accredited history that highlights the power of writing down your goals as the way to realize them. I’m not here to bag on setting goals. Setting goals is how I started my business. Setting goals is how I became an author.


The problem with setting goals, though, is the assumption that fulfilling them will bring you happiness.


They won’t. And there’s also a long and, frankly, accredited history which demonstrates how reaching a goal is not the same thing as finding happiness.


If it’s happiness you’re after, here’s what you should do.


First, Look Around You

There’s an old Arabic parable called “Acres of Diamonds” about a wealthy Persian farmer named Ali Hafed. He’s visited one day by Buddhist priests. The priests tell Hafed about diamonds and how much they are worth: If Hafed had a single diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county in which he lived. If he had a mine of diamonds, the farmer could buy a mighty kingdom for himself and his descendants.


The wealthy farmer Hafed had never heard of these diamonds. “Where do I find them?” he asked.


“If you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains,” one of the priests said, “in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”


Hafed sold his massive property and used the profit to fund his search for diamonds. He looked through his own country but could not find them, so he continued on to what was then Palestine. Still no diamonds. He moved across Europe, digging everywhere, finding nothing, until he reached the shores of Barcelona, in ragged clothes and without money. He had given his property and life to these diamonds, and he had not unearthed a single shiny one.


Despondent, enraged, he stared at the sea and then swam out into the incoming tide. He allowed himself to be pulled under the foamy crests.


Meanwhile the man who had purchased Hafed’s farm walked his camel one day to a stream on the property, near banks of white sand. When the camel dipped his nose to the water the successor to Hafed noticed a glint along the beach.


The man moved to the glint, dug around it, and pulled out a diamond. He had heard Hafed’s story about them and the new farm owner began to dig elsewhere along these white sands, near this stream, which happened—yes, when he looked in the distance—to be between two mountains.


Diamonds were everywhere.


The point of the parable is about self-reliance and entrepreneurship. If you dig deep within your own dirt you will find the riches to sustain you.


I think there’s a second lesson to the Acres of Diamond story. If you truly look around you, study that which is close at hand, you’ll find in the familiar a richness of experience and measure of happiness that exceed the promise of new adventures and unexplored terrain.


This is what Thoreau was getting at on Walden Pond—“The question is not what you look at, but what you see”—and it’s also the summarized finding of a 75-year longitudinal study, which tracked a cadre of H