Difficult Questions We Face in Creating a Happy Life

From Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, here's a thoughtful look at some of the questions we ask ourselves to create a happy life.

As I think about happiness, and talk to people about their own happiness challenges, certain issues come up over and over. Some arise within a person—“How do I make myself do something I don’t want to do?” and some arise in a relationship—“Why won’t you do this task, even if only to make me happy?”

In seeing these questions, it’s tempting to say that some of these questions are “wrong.” For example, the question “Can you make me happy?” But rather than describe how people ought to frame these questions, I’ve tried to characterize them to reflect my sense of how people do frame them.

How do I balance what makes me happy now with what will make me happy in the long term?
Should I make myself do something I don’t want to do? And how do I make myself do something that I want to do (but for some reason, am not doing)?
How can I insulate myself from your constant negativity?
How do I balance what makes me happy against what makes you happy?
How can I be happier if you won’t make any changes?
Is it possible for me to be happy if I grew up in an unhappy family?
After the terrible thing I’ve suffered, can I find my way back to a happy life?
Can I make up for lost time?
Why won’t you do this task, even if only to make me happy?—do I have to do everything myself?
Can I make you happy? Can you make me happy?
Do I expect too much? Too little?
How do I make time for all the things that are important to me?
If I try to be positive and enthusiastic, does that make me insincere?
Do I deserve this?
Why won’t you give me what I need to be happy?
When should I accept myself, and when should I expect more from myself?
What if I not only want you to do something, but I want you to want to do it? And to do it without me asking you to do it?
Why don’t you appreciate my honesty?
Why is it sometimes so hard to do things that I know will make me happy? And to resist doing things I know will bring unhappiness?
When should I give up on you?
What if you don’t accept me? What if I don’t accept you?
How do I make time for myself when I feel overwhelmed by your needs?
Why am I drawn to you, when I know you’re a hurtful person?
How is it possible that I simultaneously love and hate you?
How can I claim my rightful share of attention?
What’s the most effective way to show you my love?
How do I take responsibility and make amends for the terrible mistake I made that hurt you?
How can I forgive you?
When should I show you tenderness and sympathy, and when should I get tough?
How can I be happy with this terrible thing hanging over my head?
How can I escape the unhappiness of the life I now live?

These questions don’t have easy answers. There’s no book to consult, no Delphic oracle to provide the answers. But sometimes it helps to distill a large issue into a very simple question. I’m sure I’m missing many big questions. What have I overlooked?

Chime in at The Happiness Project.

By Gretchen Rubin