Is There a Prescription for Happiness?

It seems that life would be much simpler if, upon being born, we were handed a comprehensive set of instructions — like a prescription, written just for us, detailing the direct path to happiness. Although we may not be ready or able to understand or those instructions right away, some part of us would know that they were there for us when we were ready.

Instead, we have more of an oral tradition that comes from people like parents, teachers, and religious or spiritual leaders who — unless things go terribly awry — do their best to keep us safe, show us the ways of the world, and guide us toward joy, abundance and fulfillment.

That model has many limitations, though. Here are just three.

First, what these often well-meaning folks share are their perceptions and perspectives about concepts like happiness or fulfillment or abundance — which, we discover as we move through life, don’t necessarily align with our own. They may be repeating a story that was passed down to them from previous generations or offering what they personally believe to be true. While these tales may contain bits of truth and wisdom, taking as wholesale truth the stories we’re told as children about how to live or what happiness looks like isn’t a very effective method of living joyfully.

Second, being happy takes a set of qualities and even skills that not everyone is willing to develop. We engaged in many of them, rather naturally, when we were children — living from a place of openness and love, finding joy in seemingly simple moments, playing with abandon, and more — so, sometimes, it’s a matter of reconnecting with what we already know but may have lost touch with along the way. Other times we do need to develop certain skills, like how to reframe deeply ingrained beliefs or how to navigate painful experiences with wisdom and compassion. And, given that no one can guide us to a place they have been unwilling or unable to go themselves, not every elder is going to be a suitable guide.

Third, happiness is a very individual process. Like the hero’s journey, we enter the forest on our own. Although we may get well-timed help along the way, we still have to face and overcome the challenges that were designed just for us before we can emerge from the forest with greater insight and understanding.

But if we can’t completely rely on those who came before us for guidance, what are we to do?

Connect to the Guide Within

Each of us does indeed have instructions waiting for us, but they lie where only we can access them: within. Sounds woo-woo, but if you have ever tried to live according to someone else’s idea of how things should be and found it to be somewhere between unfulfilling and downright painful, you know it’s true.

Here are some questions to help access your unique inner prescription for happiness.

  • What is needed? What is wanted? These are the two questions that life coach Chad Brown asks himself every morning. (I recently interviewed Chad for the Being and Doing Now podcast, and those questions were among the many treasures he shared.) As you ask yourself what is needed and what is wanted, think not only big-picture but also moment-to-moment. Both perspectives will likely require continual calibration, because the answers will shift and change over time.
  • Where and when do you find yourself feeling resentful, frustrated or even angry? Time and energy are two of our greatest resources — and if you find that you’re consistently feeling negative emotion around where you’re investing them, you are likely getting clues about what is not wanted. Emotions are telling indicators, particularly when we can get past the discomfort of feeling them and connect with what they’re signaling to us.
  • What are you doing when you feel like time doesn’t exist? Or that feels so natural to you that it’s easy? Whether it’s offering support to a friend, organizing paperwork or writing poetry, the form of activity doesn’t much matter. By paying attention to what feels good and effortless, and when you lose track of time, you’ll gain clues about the types of things that do bring you joy. Then, do more of them.

The more you allow yourself to ask and sit with the questions, the fuller the picture of your own path will become. Let the answers well up from deep within you, rather than from what your brain thinks are brilliant ideas. The logical, rational mind often falls prey to rabbit holes like ego and fear, whereas your intuition and inner self know will steer you with a steady, certain and loving hand to your own joy.

Remember: You hold the ultimate prescription pad. Use it to write your own script for happiness.

Kristen Quirk

Kristen Quirk is a connection coach, inspirational speaker and writer. As host of the Being and Doing Now podcast, she is the go-to guide for exploring what it means to know yourself better, love yourself more and share from the heart — and for transforming your life into one you love waking up to, every day. You can connect with Kristen at

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