Skip to main content
SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor

Sticky note with the word happy
For most people, there are plenty of things in life worth focusing on, investing energy in.

"The more I have the more I think I'm almost where I need to be, If only I could get a little more"

- The Avett Brothers - Ill With Want

What's the secret to happiness?

Is it that there's something missing in your life? Something that, if only you had it, you could finally be happy?

It could be money, though there's plenty of research out there these days that suggests this is not the case: wealthy people are no more happy than everyone else.

Maybe it's just a matter of finding a job that you love: your dream job. Certainly, there are many people out there that have been fortunate enough to find themselves in this situation, but the reality is that the insistence on finding the perfect job is a myth that just makes persistent dissatisfaction acceptable.

Okay, maybe it's love. Or perhaps time. If you had more of those, then you'd be happier, right? Intuitively this makes sense, but if we're going by intuition then we'd be happier with more money in our pockets as well. I think it's probably safe to say that these things can make you happy, but in and of themselves they're no panacea.

Money, material possessions, a great job, time, even love... I would argue that adding any of these to your life is not the key to happiness.  No, adding anything is not the way to go. Instead, let's think about subtraction.

An English professor I had - rather eccentric fellow, as most English profs are - let me in on his secret to editing papers: always subtract, never add. Forget about putting anything new in your writing. Instead, focus only on taking things out, using fewer words to communicate the same thing, making things clearer and less cluttered, letting the core of what you are saying speak for itself. This is what makes for effective writing, he said.

Life can be thought of as writing a paper, in a way. There's a lot of stuff floating around out there and it can be hard to make sense of it. Adding more of something can seem like a good idea, but this is usually a temporary fix, and it might bring with it a host of other issues.

For most people, there are plenty of things in life worth focusing on, investing energy in. What gets in the way of that is a whole bunch of clutter. That clutter becomes a cloud of false promises, luring us into a sense being "almost there," just a little bit of something away from finally being happy.

Of course, we'll never get there with that mindset. Insert any metaphor you like here about the journey, the process, the path as opposed to end results... they have a ring of truth to them. My contribution would be to take out the "stuff" in your life that's not helping you in any way. The interference. Whatever it is that's clouding your vision as to what's really important, and convincing you that you need to add something more to your life. Remove it, and don't be surprised if you feel better as a result.

Is it material goods? Emotional baggage? Destructive relationships? A dead end job? Unrealistic expectations? Something else?

Always subtract. Never add.

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor
David Lindskoog is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Health & Counselling who used to work as a Career Advisor with Career Services. David is passionate about suicide prevention, social justice, career and professional development concerns, and the use of role-playing games in therapy. Check out his group: Dungeons & Worry Dragons. While you're here, check out Dave's Diary! It is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Want to hear Dave's thoughts on a particular topic?  Send him an email, and he'll do his best to include it in his next post!  
visibility  149
Jan 9, 2012

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Working on campus
The 10 Minute Commute – Resources and Useful Information for Working on Campus

Have you ever thought about working in a place that you are familiar with?  Perhaps a Tim Horton’s close by? For many students the idea of working at SFU might be a great option, if you prefer a 10 minute jaunt to work after class or an opportunity to learn more about how a university operates.

You Might Like These... Returning to SFU

diagrams of a website layout
The Job-Hunting Journey: Portfolios and Soft Skills

Are you a SIAT Co-op student in the seeking process? Read Michelle's article on the job-hunting journey, and how with a strong portfolio and exemplary soft skills, you can excel in your interviews!

Posters on walls saying to vote
Why YOUR Vote Matters!!

If you don’t vote, you’re handing your future away to those who will be making decisions on everything from how much you’ll be paying back in student loans and taxes, to what kind of jobs and career opportunities you might find.