There are a lot of things you can invest your time into, you could join a gym, read a great novel, take a yoga class, or learn a new language. So why invest time into being happier?

After all, doesn’t happiness just happen when you achieve your goals, make more money, and learn new stuff? It’s not like you can just go out and create happiness right?

Well that’s what I used to think. I used to think that if I worked hard and did my best happiness would just happen to me. All I needed to do was find a great job, get an amazing girlfriend, live in a super hip modern apartment with my perfect cuddly cat and then I’d be happy.

And so, I got to work. I went out and looked for the right job, the right girl, the right everything. But on my quest to find happiness, I discovered three powerful truths:

Truth #1: Getting what you want is hard
Every job I’ve ever had was cool for a while, but eventually I’d get bored with it. And while I dated some amazing women, each time they didn’t really fit my picture of my perfect girlfriend. Even worse, all the cat’s I had scratched things they shouldn’t and pooped in places where poop doesn’t belong.

Over time I realized that getting what you want takes way more work and time then you might expect. But I didn’t let that deter me. Instead, I vowed to work harder. And because of this and a little bit of luck, there were a few times when I managed to wrangle my perfect life. And that’s when I encountered the second powerful/painful truth.

Truth #2: Nothing lasts
Even when things were great they would only stay that way for a week or a month and then something would change. I would get a new boss at work that wasn’t as cool, my girlfriends ‘cute’ little habits would start getting on my nerves, and my cat would start scratching my couch.

Luckily I’m a really smart guy so it only took me about 28 years of doing this again and again before I realized that it wasn’t working. I realized that despite all my hard work I was failing to create the kind of happiness in my life that I longed for. It felt like I was in a hamster wheel with the happiness cheese dangling just out of reach.

And that’s when I started to think about the times in my life when I was really happy.

  • I remembered the times I’d spent hiking in the wilderness, the cool breeze rustling the branches, while the sun crept overhead.
  • I remembered going to concerts, where the music uplifted me and I danced so hard that I forgot who I was.
  • I remembered those moments with friends having quiet and wishful conversations inside foggy cars at 10 o’clock at night.

And the more I remembered the more I realized that in these moments happiness seemed effortless.

Moreover, they didn’t seem like the outcome of hard work and achieving goals. Instead, they seemed to burst forth from each breath, because I was engaged, I was present, and I was alive.

I started to wonder whether or not I’d been going about this whole happiness thing all wrong. I started to wonder what if instead of waiting for happiness to happen, I created it instead

And so I set out to discover how to create happiness, not just once I got where I was going, but every step along the way.

This journey led me to travel in India, to live in a Zen monastery, to study habits, to write about my challenges and work with amazing people to help them create happiness in their lives one day at a time. And it’s through this journey that I discovered the last and biggest truth about happiness.

Truth #3: You Create Your Happiness
Along my journey, I found again and again that happiness doesn’t have to be this illusive thing that you search for. In fact, happiness is something you can create in simple ways everyday.

  • Happiness isn’t about being super positive (I’m not naturally)
  • It’s not about having lots of stuff (often people with less have more)
  • And it’s not about being perfect (the happiest you is the person you already are)

And so, I’ve done my best over the last few years to share these simple tools to create happiness. But recently I’ve realized that’s not enough. I’ve come to see that if you really want to be happy you have to commit. You have to decide to invest some real time into mastering the tools, the habits, and the practices that create lasting happiness.

Toku is a mindfulness expert, speaker, and coach. He lived for over two years at a Zen monastery and now helps passionate people who are good at what they do, be the best at what they do. This post was originally published on MindFitMove.