The Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.

In my study of happiness, I’ve labored to identify its fundamental principles. Because I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism (the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the eight auspicious symbols), I decided to dub these fundamental principles as my Eight Splendid Truths.

Each one of these truths sounds fairly obvious and straightforward, but each was the product of tremendous thought. Take the Second Splendid Truth—it’s hard to exaggerate the clarity I gained when I finally managed to put it into words. Here they are:

First Splendid Truth
To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Second Splendid Truth
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

Third Splendid Truth
The days are long, but the years are short. (Click here to see my one-minute movie; of everything I’ve written about happiness, I think this video resonates most with people.)

Fourth Splendid Truth
You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
[Many argue the opposite case. John Stuart Mill, for example, wrote, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” I disagree.]

Fifth Splendid Truth
I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.

Sixth Splendid Truth
The only person I can change is myself.

Seventh Splendid Truth
Happy people make people happy, but
I can’t make someone be happy, and
No one else can make me happy.

Eighth Splendid Truth
Now is now.

What did I miss? What Splendid Truth is missing from that list?

Now I’m trying to come up with my personal eight auspicious symbols for happiness. Let’s see—bluebird, ruby slippers, dice, blood, bird house, treasure box, roses…hmmm. I will have to keep thinking about that.

* I enjoyed cruising around The Cool Hunter—”roaming the USA and the globe, so you’re in the know”—to look at all the cool things there.

* The holidays are approaching! If you’re giving The Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller), and you’d like a signed bookplate or signature card to include with it, sign up here or email me at But do it fast! There’s not much time.
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.

  • Pris Blood

    I had to learn that I was the one making myself miserable!  So now I am unlearning those self-defeating habits and replacing them with ones that make me smile – like writing.

  • arod4ever1955

    So True! I have a link to a video that I hope people will enjoy!

  • gopimenon

    My own greatest happiness truth is ‘Happiness is a Choice we make on a Daily basis, which then becomes Habit!’

  • disinclineddomestic

    doing something is better than doing nothing (it’s in your conclusion!)

  • Mrs Gardiner

    The best revenge is a good life.

    I don’t like the word revenge but I love the sentiment. In all the things we encounter, the best riposte is to live a good life ourselves. Not to worry about the lives others are living. Whenever I get upset about what someone else has done or how I am affected, this helps focus me on what is the most important thing – my own ‘good life’

  • Pam

    if your brain isn’t happy, you aren’t gonna be happy. Get your brain healthy if you aren’t able to be happy. (Yes, there’s a biological component, as well as a self-will component… but please, don’t come down on folks who haven’t reached your level of happiness…)

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  • Tara V Foos

    I love making lists…here are my “Truths”

    Bangs are almost always a mistake

    You should always be able to talk about a book your reading or a trip you are planning

    You need to always have a tax guy and a hairdresser

    Never start a sentence with “No Offense”

    Honesty is overrated

    Sleep is the building block for life and trumps basically everything

    If someones advice is “Don’t bother” don’t take the advice

    Every person has struggles and worries-take that into account

    Your feelings are no one else’s problems

    Any plan will work if you work at it

    If you can’t find something- clean up!

    “I don’t care what you think of me. I don’t think about you at all.” Coco Chanel

  • Veronika

    My happiness is my own business. That means that nobody could be responsible for what I feel. The responsibility is fully mine.

  • Stacey

    Love this!

  • Leslie MacKenzie

    Debt is a happiness dampener, for sure, but it is still an external condition and one a person may not be able to control. One can be happy even in debt. Indeed, happiness makes it easier to go on in the face of difficulty.

  • Kevin

    My 9th splendid truth is a Rumi quote: “”Let the beauty we love,

    be what we do.” I focus on beauty and accept all that flows from there.

  • Valerie

    I always find January to be a challenging month. The holiday festivities are over, the visitors are gone, and the house seems so empty after the decorations have been stored away. Last year, I remembered your Second Splendid Truth and coupled it with your 21 Day project concept and came up with my own “31 Days of Kindness”. Every day in the month of January, I came up with a fairly “out of the box” random act of kindness and completed the action. It was like espresso for the soul. This year, to add a different layer of randomness, I asked a very dear friend to write kind acts on 31 slips of paper, thinking this may be a way for me to be kind in ways I would never consider. Each day, I pull one slip from the jar and complete the act. Today’s slip read, “Post a positive comment on a blog that you enjoy”. Well, I have never posted on a blog before so it seems most fitting that this “act of kindness” should go to you, Gretchen. Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for your dedication to committing your ideas to words so that many may read them and find the motivation they need. You are awesome.

  • Liz Elliott


    I have been reading your blog for a long time and, believe it or not, contemplating your 8 Splendid Truths for at least a couple of years. I continually return to them when I feel I have veered off track of my own happiness journey. As I was re-reading them again today, it occurred to me that another happiness killer is not allowing yourself to feel sad when you need to feel sad.

    I agree with you that the pursuit of happiness is essential and not – as some would have it – a way to unhappiness. One must pursue individual happiness. However, sometimes life is just hard, people hurt us, people leave, catastrophes happen and when these things come about, it is entirely appropriate to be sad for awhile. Until we allow the full acknowledgement of all our emotions, we cannot expect happiness, joy, fun, or peace to return.

    I love your new ideas about habits. When the hard times come, it is not only helpful, but essential that we have built habits of happiness into our lives so that we have something to fall back on. While these habits may not make us feel instantly happy again, they are the building blocks of restoring our happiness. This is the best definition of “resiliency” I think.

    Thanks for all your great work. You have truly been an inspiration to me.

  • mom2luke

    symbols of happiness: a smile (!), musical notes or treble clef, books (!), rays of sunshine, crackling fire, camera (who doesn’t smile for a snapshot?), rainbow, bubbles, confetti, water, zzzz’s, scrabble tiles, sunflowers, raindrops on roses, bright copper kettles, tickets to a broadway musical …. these are a few of my favorite things :)