The 3 Keys to Happiness

The 3 keys to happiness are the same as most things in life, simple, yet complicated.  I was doing some research for my new happiness journal and I came across this quote from Joseph Addison,
“Three grand essential to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for”  
Then I came across this quote from Daniel Boone
“All you need for happiness is a good horse, a good gun, and a good wife”
Hmmm, both have 3 keys to happiness. I think they are both right.  Let’s take a look. 

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Something to Do

We look for purpose in our lives every day.  There are books, blog posts,  and seminars all about finding your purpose in life.  We want to be everything we can be, but most of us do this not to be altruistic, but because it makes us feel better.  If you are bored in your job, you are not going to be happy.

Your job doesn’t have to earn a paycheck, but you do need something to do each day that makes you feel like you are adding value to the world.  This is the first key to happiness.

If you don’t feel like you are adding value to anything, you will start to value yourself less.  This can lead to everything from depression to substance abuse.  This is a downward spiral no one wants to get caught in.  People who value themselves less tend to let other people abuse them or they abuse themselves.

Start Today

If you are searching for purpose in your life start to think of it in simpler terms.  What can you do today to add value to someone else’s life?  Make lunch for your husband, help a co-worker nail a project,  volunteer at your church or shelter,  make a friend lunch,  help your child with his homework.  There are thousands of things you can do to find something to do that will add value to someone’s life today.

Plan for Tomorrow

If you find yourself constantly trying to find purpose in your life, you need to start planning.  What are the things you would like to do?  How are you going to get there?  This is a no excuse plan, so if you think of a reason why you can’t do X, write it down as an obstacle and then make a plan to get over it.  If you need some help you can try my “How to Make a Life Plan” post, it comes with a free template, no email address required.

Keep it Simple

Daniel Boone also had three things on his list, but his list was incredibly simple.  A good horse was essential in his time for him to have something to do.  It meant getting to work and visiting friends. Having a good horse was the first step in having something to do.  If you start to get tangled up in what your purpose in life is, be like Mr. Boone, identify the first step and go from there.

Something to Love

The incredibly smart people at Harvard University decided to do a study on longevity of life.  They started 80 years ago and are still going today.  The researchers looked at everything from cholesterol level to income level and they were very surprised to find that it wasn’t anything physical that predicted a long life.  According to an article written about the study “Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.”

Both Mr. Addison and Mr. Boone were spot on here.  Your relationships are incredibly meaningful to your happiness and your overall health.

I am no relationships expert.  I know they are complicated and very tough some days, so instead of giving you some half cocked advice, I will just leave you with this quote from the Bible to use as a guide in your relationships.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Something to Hope For

Have you ever been depressed while you are planning your next awesome beach vacation?  I haven’t.  In fact, making plans for the future is a great way to boost your mood.  As humans, we are funny creatures, and we are always looking towards the future.  If we have something to hope for we get excited, we have positive attitudes and we tend to let the little things slide just because we are focused on that upcoming trip to the Bahamas much more than we are focused on the guy cutting us off in traffic.

If you are feeling a little down or a little lost, it is time to plan something fun.  Hop on over to Groupon and look for great deals on the vacation of your dreams, or at least a nice weekend away.

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Contentment vs Hope

Mr. Boone’s third key to happiness was a good gun.  I don’t think this was because he was a violent man, but more likely a hungry one.  A man in the wilderness gets hungry, a good gun would guarantee him a good meal and probably safety from any large critters that would like to snack on him.

In this way, I think Daniel Boone was looking for contentment more than hope.  He wanted a safe place to be and belly full of dinner at the end of the day.  I am not sure if contentment is a key to happiness, but I suspect you must be content in at least a few areas of your life before you can pursue hope and happiness.

Food, shelter, and safety must all be met before you can pursue happiness.  Maslow talked about it in his hierarchy of needs and Mr. Boone illustrates it with his 3 keys to happiness perfectly.

Like both Mr. Addison and Mr. Boone point out, the 3 keys to happiness can be written out in one sentence, it is up to us to consciously put those three things up front, and leave the rest as background noise.



  1. Patty Parker

    June 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I love this. No amount of money can bring happiness if you don’t have a purpose.
    Happiness for me is the opportunity to write and encourage others, experiencing all of life with my beautiful family, and the expectation of eternity in Heaven because of Jesus Christ.

  2. Amanda

    August 9, 2017 at 8:57 am

    It is all so true Michele! I definitely love planning Christmas holidays, the presents and food etc…can’t wait to get started with that this year!

  3. Magda

    September 1, 2017 at 3:05 am

    I love this: those 3 reminders will be printed out, laminated and hung on my wall. It’s just so true! Whenever I’m feeling sad I start thinking on my new project or planning the next activity. This way, not only do I have something to look forward to but also develop myself. I think that could also be one of my keys to happiness… Continuous improvement of self. Or maybe it falls under ‘Something to hope for’? Hoping to become a better person?

    1. Michele Cook

      September 1, 2017 at 7:04 am

      Hi Magda,
      I do find that planning something does pull me out of a bad mood so you aren’t alone in that one. Learning could certainly be one of your keys to happiness. It doesn’t even have to be the boring, stuck behind a desk staring at a blackboard type of learning. It could be volunteering on an archeological site (some sites really do take volunteers! Check this out… ) reading books or taking an art class. Whether it is self-improvement or just something to hope for I am not sure, but as long as it is working for you, keep doing it!

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