The Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.

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.

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.

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


  • 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!

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

  • 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’

    • Herbert Coleman

      The Murphy quote of “living well is the best revenge” has a bit of a snub to it but after I thought about about it, “living well is a good thing to do anyway.” So loving yourself and your life (which is how I interpret living well) seems to be something worthy of striving for and should make you happy or at least content.

  • 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.

    • mom2luke

      Yes, there is “good” debt and then there is life-quasing-dispiriting (despiriting?) debt (and for that we have this thing called declaring bankruptcy, which, oddly can be freeing and, if you’re like The Donald, no hindrance to happiness at all, times FOUR!! but I digress…).

      If we all waited til we were out of debt to be happy, there’s a good chance we’d never be happy. The manageable debt of buying a home you can afford with a mate you love to raise your children (and even your grandchildren in) makes many, many young couples very happy…even if/when they find that task is “all joy and no fun” being able to pay a mortgage can be/ is still a happiness booster, tho they may not give thanks for it each day, the roof overhead is there, a foundation to build security and happiness, tho both can be fleeting.

      I absolutely LOVED when in a recent Happier podcast when Drew Barrymore said she is grateful for HER BED. Every night since I heard that self-effacing expression of gratitude, I go to bed with my comforter pulled up to my chin and give thanks for my bed! Wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles, I have a comfortable, warm bed to sleep in EVERY night! Not everyone is so fortunate.

      Imagine that! Each night as I lay my head upon my pillow, in that moment, I can be as happy as Drew Barrymore!

  • 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 🙂

  • Susan Mary Malone

    “You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.” LOVE that! It’s playing around in my head 🙂 Thank you, Gretchen!

  • Jaimiewamie

    I can’t keep up! There is a link inside of a link inside of a link! If I am trying to do the 21 Day Project, should I click every link or just stick to the PDF?

    • Mary

      You should do whatever makes you happy, Jamiewamie! But if you don’t have time to click on the link gifts within the link gifts, go back to them when you can. :o)

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  • Jim

    I would add a quote from Dennis Prager who does a happiness broadcast every Friday and wrote “Happiness is a serious problem.”

    “All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We
    tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it’s
    truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.”

    Maybe the ninth splendid truth is about gratitude?

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  • Herbert Coleman

    I’m not sure that they are all truths but they are certainly interesting thoughts. As a generally happy person (often accused to having too much serotonin), I really don’t think about my own “happiness” that much. I tend to focus on challenges, interests, and a sense of control. I know that I am most unhappy when I feel a sense of loss of control or faced with injustice. As long as there are options, I tend to find a way to live with circumstances. With all the positive psychology and “happiness” talk, I’m not convinced that people who are generally unhappy can be made more happy or vice versa. I do know that certain circumstances are more likely to make one less happy (SEE loss of control comment). Maybe the reason that 70% of lotto winners lives are no better after 5 years of winning is they they haven’t changed as a person or what they focus on. They just temporarily find relief fro their prior worries and soon are back to their old habits. Just a thought.

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