Life According To Lenson
Happiness: We All Want It
By Eileen Lenson
Apr 15, 2012 - 8:57:22 AM

BEVERLY HILLSHappiness. We all want it. We are all searching for it.  But how many of us succeed in finding it?

As children, our parents attempt to give us the recipe for securing happiness. Their ingredients may include getting a good education, marrying rich, or obtaining a myriad of other concrete goals. A few weeks ago, millions of people across the country were united in believing they would be happy if they had the winning numbers to the $600 million lottery.


But as many former lottery winners can corroborate, material goods do not guarantee happiness. And ironically, many people hovering around the poverty line self-report being very happy. So why the conundrum?

I coach my clients that happiness is not always determined by the concrete or measurable things in their lives. Rather, happiness is achieved by being immersed in activities that are consistent with one’s values. This includes the quality of personal relationships, being passionately engaged in a career or another activity, having a spiritual connection, and a good dose of fun and laughter.

At first glance, one might assume Steve Kinney to be the sort of man that subscribes to the belief of happiness being found through the collection of tangible things. After all, he is the owner of an international Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company, and works hard to achieve professional success in a competitive marketplace.

While Mr. Kinney describes himself as being a “happy” man, he says that wasn’t always the case. He discovered that happiness has to be earned, rather than obtained by passively collecting things. He succeeded in finding happiness by being fully invested in life. He found a way to satisfy his values, which include relationships, doing for others, and engaging in pro bono work in an unrelated field. 

According to Mr. Kinney, “I was working for a Fortune 100 company, and found that it wasn’t making me happy. I realized that a lot of things I want are just ”˜wants,’ rather than things I really ”˜need’ in life. For me, it is all about people, whether I’m doing work for myself or pro bono work.”

“When I get outside of myself, and start serving other people,” he says, “happiness just seems to come, and it flows and it’s endless. People start coming up and doing nice things for me, and they say nice things to me.”  For Mr. Kinney, as for others, when you give of yourself it can be rewarded with immeasurable happiness in return.  

While Mr. Kinney finds happiness in being selfless, he acknowledges that challenges pop up, and when they do, it is typically between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. These negative, troublesome feelings vary, including stress, self doubt, discontent or fear. His immediate reaction to “fixing” these feelings is to think about acquiring material possessions. “When I find myself thinking, need, need, need, I realize that fear is getting in the way of my selfless giving,” says Kinney.

He has learned to change the vicious cycle of the middle-of-the-night troublesome feelings into a virtuous cycle. “A vicious cycle is all about negativity,” he points out. “The more energy I put into it, the worse it gets. It is the opposite of positivity.” He uses conscious awareness of his feelings, emotions and behaviors to turn these feelings into a virtuous outcome, so as to ensure that he remains headed towards goals that are consistent with his values and will bring him happiness.

Smiling, he shares what he calls “the dirty little secret about giving: "A mentor told me that when you give something to someone, you get back more in return than you gave.” Kinney reports that the process of thinking and doing for others “is so powerful, it is boundless.” As a result of doing for others, his appreciation for what he has increases, and his wants decrease.

Like millions of others, Kinney recently got caught up in the fantasy of picking the winning numbers for the largest lottery on record. However, he dealt with his purchase of lottery tickets less conventionally than most. He bought 20 lottery tickets and promptly gave all of them away. Some went to friends, one to the cashier selling lottery tickets, and some to strangers on the street. He kept none for himself. But in his heart, he feels like a winner. And he is happy.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW is a Board Certified Coach in private practice.  For inquiries about telephone sessions, email her at or visit her website at

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