I’ve no doubt you’ve heard of ‘tough love’, the sort of thing that means you either provide or receive, give or withdraw, something that is needed, rather than wanted. Tough love is always motivated by a positive intention. But what is hard happiness? Do I mean happiness is hard to get, hard to receive, or a hard choice?

My happiness soap-box

Actually, none of these things. The term ‘hard happiness’ is my protest and reaction to those people who insist happiness is a ‘soft option’ and imply that it’s not really that important. Those people who describe happiness as ‘a nice to have’, something to value after other more important things, simply ‘the icing on the cake’. NO! Happiness is the cake. The icing is the emotional, social and physical benefits we experience after we become happy, such as success, improved relationships and the sense of meaning and purpose. What I ask, is ‘soft’ about that?!

Happiness Litmus test

Somehow, some people seem to have got the idea that happiness is some sort of kitsch emotion. Images of cute kittens, rainbows and unicorns must be created in their head when they hear the word ‘happiness’. At least that’s what I presume from their reaction to the concept that happiness should be valued and respected in all areas of life.

I can give many examples of people who don’t consider their own happiness to be of great importance and suggest that happy employees are probably not as effective and loyal as those that feel a bit insecure, a bit hungry and a bit poor! However, when asked what they want their loved ones to experience in life, happiness is almost always at the top of the list. It may be disguised in other words such as, I want them to have a good job, a good marriage, and/or enjoy good health and sometimes the words slip out, unguarded – ‘I don’t really mind mind, as long as they are happy!’ I hope that moments like these are convincers to the happiness cynics. How about you? How important is happiness in your life?

Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman pioneered the concept of Positive Psychology in 1998. This new branch of psychology used the same scientific methods to explore people’s behaviour and habits but placed more emphasis on what made people flourish and thrive, rather than what made them flounder and fail. Positive Psychology was intended to balance, not replace a discipline that had concentrated more on negative affect than positive. Since then it has provided us with a greater understanding and insight into how each of us can choose to have more happiness in our life.

The great news is, happiness is not something that happens to us, but it’s what we create through our actions, attitudes and behaviours. Positive Psychology helps us to discover what these things are and share methods of applying them. It’s simple but not always easy. Change is difficult even when it has a positive purpose and outcome. So, facilitating one’s own happiness is certainly not ‘the soft option’!

Taking happiness seriously

More people are taking happiness seriously. The tiny country of Bhutan is a wonderful example and a powerful role model of what can happen when you prioritise happiness, not just for individuals but for the community, society and the nation, when success is measured, not by economic growth but by Gross National Happiness (GNH).

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has endorsed the launch of corporate happiness and positivity initiatives in the UAE Federal Government with the vision of making the UAE one of the best countries in the world by the year 2021. Like Bhutan, they wish happiness as a condition to be enjoyed by all peoples and countries in the world.


In a few weeks’ time WOHASU and the World Happiness Summit will be holding a three-day experiential consumer conference and a co-created event with the United Nations for the International Day of Happiness. The intention is to encourage us to help make happiness and well-being a choice, and embrace the notion that “the state of my well-being affects the happiness of my tribe, my community, my city, my country and our world.”

Individuals, communities and governments are taking happiness seriously but are you? I believe happiness is an instinctive natural desire that we all share and that we will create a happier world one person at a time.

Happiness is NOT a ‘soft option’ to adopt after all other goals and aims have been attained. Happiness is about individual and collective choice and actions. How important is happiness for you, your family, your community, your country, your world and what contribution can you make?