Why being happy all the time is just not possible

There’s a school of thought focussed on the idea that happiness is some sort of human right and that if we don’t feel it all the time, then either there is something wrong with us or we’re being cheated in some way. The fact is, though, that being happy 24/7 is totally impossible for absolutely anybody and this article will show you why – and how to enjoy it while you have it.

The human species, like all animal life, is geared up to knowing how we fit in to whatever is happening around us. It’s all to do with the behaviour we’ve inherited from our ancient ancestors; for them, any happiness over some achievement or other was fleeting because if they revelled it for too long, they might become careless and get eaten by a tiger. So, they didn’t search for happiness – safety was what they wanted. Normality. Happiness was a special treat that appeared incidentally from time to time.

When things are ‘normal’ we know we are safe because it’s what we’re used to and what we understand. It’s predictable. Rather boring sometimes maybe, but safe all the same and therefore, as far as the subconscious is concerned, rather desirable in the great scheme of things. So much so, in fact, that most of us will automatically adapt to even the most trying of situations once we’ve accepted that it’s here to stay… and then it ceases to be out of the ordinary. We’ve discovered we can cope with it.  Only if we know for sure that it’s temporary do we keep hankering for when things return to, well, normal. 

You might already have worked out where we’re going here. Imagine that something happens to make you happy. Ecstatically happy. Maybe money doesn’t turn you on, but for the sake of argument imagine that it does, and you suddenly have far more than you need. Ten million pounds. Oh, all right then, ten billion. You can have anything and everything you want, and you are truly happy. But then the subconscious does its thing, adapts to the situation, absorbs every fragment of this new life into itself, and returns to normal. It really is the way we’re designed. You might remember that new car you bought and how you wanted to drive it every day and hundreds of miles. That wore off. Perhaps it was a new gadget, handbag, jewellery or a designer garment that made you look and feel like a film star. The initial thrill of all those things wore off.  

So, you still have all the money and the goodies that you hankered after but they’re somehow not making you happy any more because they’re all just part of what is now normal life. The big house, the Ferrari, the yacht… even the private plane is now pointless because you’ve already been everywhere you wanted to go. Happiness has somehow disappeared. It sounds totally depressing put like that. But there is an antidote. 


It feels very similar to being happy and it is far more sustainable. It comes in bucketloads from the achievement of goals and targets. The human, like all animals, needs a purpose in life; for our ancestors, the purpose was simply staying alive from one end of the day to the other, just as it is for most other animals now. The human doesn’t have many threats to life these days… so that frees us up to invest our time, along with our multitude of human skills, in a project, something we believe in that we can focus out energies onto. For some, it might be building a business to achieve unimaginable wealth they can use to help others; at the other end of the scale, it might be making sure their immediate family feel loved and secure.

The important thing is that it needs to be something you do, rather than something you get, and a long-term project will carry its own reward upon fulfilment. And you know what? It will be totally satisfying and might even make you happy from time to time! 

(c) Copyright Terence Watts, 2020