5 Things That Are Keeping You From Happiness

We want to be happy but fail to see the obstacles in our path to happiness. Here are the things that keep you from happiness and how you can overcome them.
A girl keeping happiness in front of a river

We all want to be happy but most of us fail to see the obstacles in our path to achieving happiness. This post is about those obstacles and how not to focus on the wrong things. Here are the things you should see that keep you from happiness and how you can overcome these hurdles. ~ Ed.

Everyone has heard the question, “What do you want out of life?” And I’d wager to guess that most of us have either heard or replied ourselves, with the answer, “I just want to be happy.”

Thousands upon thousands of resources are dedicated to helping people become happier. These self-growth pieces range from inspirational quotes to happiness to-do articles to full-blown books. 

I’m talking about mountains of literature dedicated to the cause of becoming happier.

So if so many people want to be happy, and there are so many things teaching happiness, why isn’t it working?

The problem doesn’t lie in our desire to be happy. Instead, it lies in how we’re trying to achieve it. We’re so busy focusing on the things that are supposed to make us happy, we’re not paying attention to the things getting in our way.

Think of it like a hurdle race, with the finish line representing the happiness we’re seeking. While we suit up with all the things that should make us successful – we put on the best shoes, utilize a proper running technique, and say all the mantras we need to inspire us to get to the finish line, that’s not enough.

No amount of running garb or positive affirmations will make it possible for you to propel yourself through the hurdles.

To get to the finish line, you’ll have to jump over the hurdles. And to do that, you’ll have to see them in the first place.

If you’re wondering what’s keeping you from happiness, it might be your lack of awareness of the hurdles in your way. But, once you see them, you can learn what you need to do to overcome them.

5 Things Keeping You From Happiness

When we’re distracted by superficial connections, or get caught up on junk values and lack self-awareness, we push ourselves away from achieving real happiness. Here are the problems of happiness deficiency in your life and its solutions.

You’re falling into a scarcity mindset 

If you haven’t heard of a scarcity mindset before, that’s not because it’s not something in your life. Quite the contrary, a scarcity mindset affects all of us – and the more unaware we are of it, the more it will keep us from happiness.

A scarcity mindset is our brain’s natural tendency to focus on what we are lacking or missing from our life. It’s deeply rooted in our biology. Back in prehistoric times, our evolutionary ancestors had to focus on what they lacked – like food, water, and shelter – in order to survive. 

Now, however, our brains continue to focus on what we’re missing, even when all of our most basic needs are met. 

How the Scarcity Mindset Keeps Your From Happiness

You, no doubt, have many positive aspects in your life. Whether it be your relationships, job, or home, I bet there is a lot in your life that you find meaningful. A lot of that should make you happy

If your mind only focused on these things, you probably would feel a lot happier. But instead, your brain is wired to focus on the one (or many) things that you are missing. All of a sudden, your focus is consumed on the negative, even if you have a lot of positives.

For example, let’s say you have a ton of healthy, meaningful friendships in your life. However, you don’t have a close friend at work. Without realizing it, your brain is going to fixate on your loneliness at work – even if you have tons of people to call outside of your job.

We can’t get rid of a scarcity mindset, but we can learn to recognize where it plays a role in our lives. Try to notice where you might be focusing on what you’re missing. Then, see if you can switch your focus to what you have instead. This will no doubt help you become happier.

You’re getting distracted by superficial connections

In an age of instant communication and connective social media, it feels impossible to be disconnected. Yet many of the connections we have in our lives are mostly superficial, without us even realizing it.

Humans have a deep need for belonging. We’re social creatures by nature and rely heavily on having healthy relationships to feel happy. In fact, research has proven that people with strong connections live longer, feel healthier, and overcome diseases more easily. We are happiest – and healthiest – when we feel like we belong.

Unfortunately, many superficial connections are tricking us into false belonging. We think that, because we can interact continuously with others online, we’re connected with them. Then we don’t understand why we’re still unhappy.

You Need Real Connection for Happiness

You must understand what is necessary for a meaningful relationship. You must be willing to be vulnerable with another person and build mutual trust. You also must be brave enough to show up as your authentic self. Only then can you feel the acceptance and belonging you need to be happy.

Evaluate the relationships you have in your life. How many of these people truly know you for who you are? How many would you trust?

Superficial connections are keeping you from happiness, but you can work to prioritize and build more meaningful connections in your life.

You’re getting caught up on junk values

We’ve all heard the phrases, “Money doesn’t buy happiness. Things don’t make you happy.” But let’s be honest, we still find ourselves wanting money and wanting things. So much so that we sacrifice a lot in our lives to pursue more money and more things.

We live in a culture that focuses on “junk values.” Author Johann Hari coined the term “junk values” in his recent book on depression and disconnection in society. Junk values are all of the materialistic possessions and external motivations that we seek.

Let’s face it. We live in a materialistic society. The average person is exposed to 5,000 ads a day. How can you not be inspired to want something when you’re always be told, “If you buy this, you’ll be happier!” We’re only human, after all.

Materialism Keep You From Happiness

When we focus our motivation and worth around materials, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure. Countless studies have found that the more materialistic-motivated you are, the more depressed you will be. And it’s hard not to be when everything in our culture is screaming, “Buy me!”

To be happy, you must realign your life around the things that actually bring happiness: meaningful relationships and meaningful work. Material possessions are not bad in their own right, but too much fixation on them can lead you astray.

Consider what motivates you to get up, go to work, and go about your day. If you’re motivated by gaining external rewards, you might want to reconsider what is important. Remember, you’re fighting against a culture that supports junk values, so this isn’t the easiest.

You’re living by impossible metrics of success

Another natural tendency of humans is to compare themselves to others. We are evaluating our status versus the people around us, without even realizing it. This phenomenon has evolutionary roots, stemming from when our ancestors depended on the social hierarchy as a way of life.

This social comparison is keeping you from happiness, no doubt. Still, it goes even deeper than that. Not only is it harmful to compare, but it’s even more damaging when these comparisons yield improper metrics of success.

Many biases in our brain lead us to create impossible metrics of success for ourselves. For starters, the survivorship bias makes us only see the success story. We hear one rockstar on the radio, but we don’t hear the millions of failed musicians who didn’t make it. Because of this, we assume it’s very possible to achieve success. When we don’t, we’re disappointed.

Additionally, a self-serving bias makes us believe that we deserve credit for successes, but we never deserve blame for failures. This unrealistic perspective makes it difficult for us to handle adversity when it comes.

Why Improper Metrics of Success Are Keeping You From Happiness

If you believe success is being the best at something – whether that’s the best musician, the best businessman, or the best scientist – you’re likely going to fail. Along with failure comes disappointment.

Author Mark Manson wrote many articles explaining that people are ordinary. He didn’t do this to make people feel bad. Instead, he did it as a realist. If we start from a place of average, we can be satisfied with average life results. 

It’s when we expect extraordinary things in our life that we prevent ourselves from being happy.

You lack self-awareness

If you haven’t gathered this fact already, happiness is complicated. And while there are many universal elements for a meaningful life, we also develop our own individual brands of happiness. The tricky part is, we often don’t know what our brand of happiness entails.

In our very nature, humans lack self-awareness. We have to work to be more self-aware individuals. Until we do, our emotions and biases cloud our judgment and perception of reality. Furthermore, we don’t know what we want or need to be happy.

Imagine a time when your emotions got the best of you. Did you know precisely why? Did you know what you needed at that moment to feel better? Now, consider your life on a much broader scale. Do you know what your core values are and how to align your life around them?

Self-Awareness Will Lead to Greater Happiness

It’s difficult to be something if you don’t know what being something looks like. The same is true for happiness. If you don’t understand yourself, you won’t be able to do the things you need to create a happier life for yourself.

Being self-aware is not easy, and it can’t be done in one day. However, the more you learn about and practice self-awareness, the more you can understand yourself better. Ultimately, this understanding will help you build the life that you want.

Conclusion

Happiness is the goal of many, yet it’s rather challenging to achieve. One of the reasons you can’t find happiness is that you’re focusing on the wrong things. Until you can see the things keeping you from happiness, you can’t overcome the hurdles necessary to live a happy life.

Five main things are keeping you from happiness:

  1. You’re falling into a scarcity mindset
  2. You’re getting distracted by superficial connections
  3. You’re getting caught up on junk values
  4. You’re living by impossible metrics of success
  5. You lack self-awareness

These five obstacles aren’t unique to you. They plague all of us, and it’s not our fault. Many of them are wired into our very DNA or culture.

However, you can work to overcome their negative influence on you. Ultimately, this will help lead you to happiness.

Over to you

Are you happy? What keeps you from being happy? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

4 comments
  1. Hi Kara,

    I think it’s really poignant that your discussion of this topic started with the Scarcity Mindset. I think your other points are intimately tied to such a mindset. A short-sighted, unending hunt for more than we have can land us in a trap; we seek out superficial connections and material gratification, and we are never satisfied with ourselves and our achievements.

    I think that, by highlighting these shared tendencies between us, you’ve offered us a clear diagnosis for an often troubled part of the human condition. Thanks for sharing!

    Best,
    Cameron

  2. Hii Kara Mcduffee,
    your article have just covered up all the facts in few points which is easily understand and described the basic scarcity which is really very important to know our own mindset as we are the caption of our own soul and mind. Reflects Positivism and good vibes, thanks for sharing such amazing knowledge !!

  3. I love her style of writing! I feel like to often in my life I fall into a scarcity mindset and allow myself to focus to much on what’s missing in my life. A positive from this Corona Virus has been my ability to reflect and develop myself to be more socially aware. Thank you for sharing such a positive article!

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