Personal Development

THE BIG KAHUNA OF HAPPINESS. Where are you on the Happiness Spectrum?

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It’s worth exploring the gamut of happiness because there are so many stages, implications and interpretations of this seemingly innocuous word. By establishing your go-to happiness benchmark, you may realize just how much potential joy you might be leaving on the table. Happiness, after all, is our personal holy grail. It is what everyone is seeking in their own way and to their own satisfaction. If happiness is not your jam, time to find a jelly jar and begin spreading it all over. It’s the meaning of life.

The spectrum depicts the various states of happy starting with the runners up in descending order. I will leave the Big Kahuna of Happiness for last. While I am not in favor of “the pursuit of happiness” per se, (happiness can only be experienced in the present), the advantage of reaching for such a superior quality of life will be clear.


“This life is so amazing. It doesn’t matter what conditions arise, I am grateful and joyful and dance between raindrops.” OK, as the number one runner up, that’s a pretty good way to go through life. You can learn to do that. Meditating cross-legged on a mountaintop or digesting copious amounts of Ecstasy would aid in the longevity of this state.


“Everything is working out for me. At this moment things are good, and I have no complaints. Should things change, then, well, I don’t know if I will be satisfied.” This is a nice stop along the spectrum, but it’s dependent upon conditions remaining a certain way. If our expectations fail to be met down the road, we can easily tumble off the spectrum. When we are dependent upon conditions outside ourselves, we give our power away. Our power lies in how we use our mind. You want to remain in control of your thoughts and therefore your life experience. Happiness is always an inside job.


“My job is great. I get to express my gifts and make a tremendous contribution. I have some things to work out with my husband, but work is going well.” I call this “Halftime Happiness.” Sometimes we can lose sight of the big picture so as not to upset current conditions. I recall staying in a relationship way after its overdue date. My job was great, I loved where we lived, our two great dogs, but I knew for years this wasn’t the relationship for me. I kept sweeping the angst under the rug. Fulfillment in all areas is part of the happiness you will find at the top of the spectrum, but partial fulfillment can be a distraction to what could be.


A walk in the garden, a wonderful week-end of intimacy. Travel to Fiji. A night out with my besties. Pleasure rocks. It’s spending time enjoying what you love. Alas, it is subjective. We could be in a place that is awe-inspiring but miss out on the pleasure. Because our body is somewhere doesn’t mean our mind follows. Even so, we should all take time to treasure the pleasure. If you find yourself having to “fit it in,” it’s a sign that what is unpleasurable is usurping much of your time.


“ I’m getting married!” “I got the promotion!” “I lost ten pounds.” These are accomplishments that thrill us with possibility and the promise of “living the dream.” As we all know too well, events are transitory and can easily take a southern route. Divorce, job separation, a size up in your jeans. It’s worth taking time to decide what success means to you. It changes over time. The last time I was so excited to “get the job,” I ended up working 70 hours a week. My new interpretation of success would be to go to a movie and not have my phone ring. Sometimes, SUCCESS just sucks.


Since we first walked upright and probably before, we are pulled to feeding the ego and desires of “the bod.” It’s pleasure for pleasure’s sake seducing us with lust of food, sex, drugs and alcohol. Fun, a little dangerous and exciting, but a bit short term in its focus. Also, may require medicine the next day.


Comes in many forms.

“Yay. I passed the bar exam. I can stop studying for once.”

“Thank you for removing that bunion. I couldn’t even wear shoes.”

“Tough day. Somebody, please bring me a drink.”

Relief is the release of resistance. It feels good, is somewhat short lived, but it is an emotional state also reliant upon outside conditions. All the above stages are emotional versions of happiness contingent upon what, why, and how we think about things.

There is one YOU-NIVERSE superior to all others.

And the winner is… drumroll please, maestro…


The realization of all you ever wanted to be. Comfortable in the world while achieving your highest potential. Kindness, compassion, contribution, self-mastery are hallmarks of this stage. The ultimate freedom in being human. You understand the nature of things with the ability to transform events and situations to your advancement and the betterment of others. You live in a heightened state of awareness of self and those around you. You exude an air of joy, integrity, and gratitude. Even dogs eye you on the street!

A self-actualized individual lives his / her life free of judgment, is an independent thinker, free to imagine and create their best life possible. Personal power, wonder and joy are their daily muses. What a lovely way to navigate life’s waters. It is only the way we think, our emotional health, that enables or disables that journey. Learn to think differently in areas that are not serving you. In a state of self-actualization, all the spectrum is available to you. You can follow your bliss, or your blisters. The path is yours to make, take or forsake.

Years ago, my uncle was the backstage manager for the Broadway show On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever). Here are the lyrics to the song of the same title. It captures the feeling beautifully.

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star
You'll feel part of
Every mountain, sea, and shore
You can hear from far and near
A world you've never, never heard before
And on a clear day
On that clear day
You can see forever, and ever, and ever
And ever more

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About the author

Nanci Sherman

Nanci Sherman has been a Chief Happiness Officer, leader in the luxury hotel industry, and inspirational speaker on three continents She has studied with some of the greatest mentors in personal growth and transformation and has synthesized those teachings to share with others. More about Nanci may be found on her website Her latest book, FOLLOW YOUR BLISS, NOT YOUR BLISTERS, How to Live Uncondiitonally Happy may be purchased here