The Six Pillars of Happiness

Although no one can define happiness, most of us recognize it when we see it in others or feel it in ourselves. Normally, no single thing renders happiness, but I have identified six components that contribute to it. I do not mean to imply that if you attain these things, you will be happy necessarily. Rather, when you satisfy these six conditions, happiness will be within reach. Here is my attempt to describe happiness through six pillars that support it.

1. Health

Without physical health, we can do little for ourselves or those around us. People who, in the throes of severe illness, physical incapacity, or impending death, look past their personal needs and think of the welfare of others are exceptional. Most of us go about our lives in less heroic ways.

Possessing good health allows us to learn and grow as individuals and to work to make better lives for ourselves and those who accompany us on our journeys. Our bodies are our earthly offices, the locales where the planning and execution of our lives take place. For these reasons, we have high responsibilities to be good stewards of our physical health.

2. Family

With the exception of the selection of a spouse, we do not choose our families. Fortunately, this seemingly haphazard arrangement is positive for most people. Sure, negative family circumstances can cause trauma and mental anguish, but lots of folks love their families and are able to forgive and forget all the messy things they say to each other, do to one another, and face together as they move along the road of life.

If a family is broken, fixing it may be impossible. In such cases, people find ways to create new families. Some do so by incorporating special people into their lives, others bond with pets that seem almost human, still others turn to artistic and artisanal pursuits that feed them inwardly, and many turn to religion.

We are linked inextricably and inexplicably to a small group of human beings, and the importance of working to make that connection strong cannot be overstated. No matter what its faults, try to love your family. In the cosmic scheme of things, it may mean more to your existence than you think.

3. Friends

We choose our friends, and over time, some of them may become as important to us as our families. Many people die surrounded by strangers, because they have outlived their kith and kin. My heart goes out to those who grow old with no family or friends, for such is a lonely way indeed. Making friends of different ages and from varied walks of life is important. Go after friendship with all the gusto, love, and loyalty you can muster. Doing so will deepen your life experience and put a solid third pillar under your happiness.

4. Wealth

Wealth seems like the odd guy out when engaging in a discussion about happiness. One concept of wealth is that its acquisition requires extreme self-centeredness, which is antithetical to genuine happiness. Under that view, happiness may be difficult to attain, but only when wealth passes the levels required to live decently does it become egotistic and potentially imbalanced. We need a certain amount of wealth to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate our families, as well as to commune with friends.

5. Profession

Although a reasonable existence is possible with only health, family, friends, and wealth, great satisfaction comes from engaging in a profession. We want others to value what we do, and little is more devastating than toiling for decades only to discover that a chosen vocation no longer matters. We must strive to develop skills and acquire knowledge that give us self-satisfaction and have marketable value. Developing a profession helps put happiness within reach.

6. Spirit

Spirit is the only pillar able to support happiness singlehandedly. Most of us are incapable, however, of making it through life on purely spiritual sustenance. The Old-Testament figure, Job, exemplifies someone who can live on pure spirit. He loses his health, family, friends, and wealth, and he remains faithful to God anyway. Few of us have the faith or fortitude of Job, so I include spirit as one of six pillars that sustain happiness.

By no means must the development of spirit come from a Judeo-Christian point of view. It includes the cultivation of character and faith that grow out of a wide variety of philosophies. One thing is sure, though, without attention to the spiritual side, enduring happiness will not be forthcoming. Spirit is the most important pillar and the only essential one.

Health, family, friends, wealth, profession, and spirit are the six pillars of a happy existence. Achieving a balance among them allows contentedness to flourish. True happiness is a real possibility for all of us, if we work well toward attaining it.


The Six Pillars of Happiness ©, by Douglas R. Eikermann

10 comments… add one

  • Sharon February 5, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Bueno! You know, when I think of my mother… it is her spirit, that I sense, as if she were still here with me, though she died years ago. One’s spirit is not only important in real time, but it is also transcendant. Gracías!

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  • Ninfa Redmond February 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you. This came at a time in my life when I feel full of worries. It was so timely! I am going to print it to read and reread.

    Thank you,

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  • Ninfa Redmond February 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Beautifully written.

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  • Martha February 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Me gustó mucho este artículo. Es verdad–la felicidad tiene un enorme impacto en nuestras vidas.

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  • ann February 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Bravo!! The pillar of the Spirit is surely the strongest mainstay for us. We are certainly blessed to have such a wonderful man, you, in our lives as brother, uncle, son, and friend. This is certainly a constant guide for all.
    Always your sister with much love,

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  • Jacqueline Johns - Your Happy Life Mentor February 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Great post! So many people write about happiness, omitting the most important pillar – spirit. Spirit is what sustains us, even though the other pillars may not be present. Even those seen to enjoy an abundant life feel an emptiness when spirit is not present. Fill yourself with the joys of living and the other things will fall into place. Live Life Happy!

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  • Andrea February 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Spirit was my favorite. I’ve met people that have “everything” and are still unhappy. And then I’ve met others that in the hardest of circumstances have it in them to make your day better by offering a heartfelt and warm smile.

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  • Rick Schell February 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    You have done an excellent job of identifying the keys to “happiness” for persons living in our times. I am sure you understand that the number of people who can claim all these pillars is probably quite small. The blessing of our socio-economic system is that the pillars are indeed achievable. The curse is that so many (maybe billions) will not even get close. As I get older, I am increasingly bothered by what appears to be systemic inequality, here and abroad. Perhaps I should be comforted by the knowledge that “happiness” exists even in the absence of some of the pillars. Maybe that is where the “spirit” pillar comes in. Or, maybe “spirit” is what people cling to because the other pillars are unreachable or fallible. I haven’t figured the spirit thing out.

    Regardless, I really enjoy reading your blog posts and appreciate the clarity of your vision.

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  • Duende February 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you for your comment, Rick. I, too, am troubled by the inequality that is increasingly apparent around us. The ongoing fleecing of the American people by big banks through the government’s bailout (direct payments and low interest rates) is a prime example. Through direct payments, the government is giving the money to the wrong people, and artifically low interest rates work as a tax that funnels money from the middle class to the wealthy. In addition, no one seems to care that the poor are being left behind in the race to become technologically savvy. By the way, your comment is wonderfully written.

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  • Sean M Kelly March 18, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Loved this article Doug. And “Pillars” is a great metaphor for what happiness stands upon.

    Be Happy!
    The Irish Inspirational Blogger

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