9 Places Unhappy People Look for Happiness


“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” —Margaret Lee Runbeck

Happy people know that happiness is a choice. They know it is not a reaction to present circumstances. Instead, happiness is an available decision despite them. They have removed the thinking that waits for everything to be perfect before joy in life is experienced.

On the other hand, unhappy people are always searching for happiness. They believe happiness is reliant upon the acquisition of something new or something different. They are constantly chasing, but never attaining. Often times, they search for it in all the wrong places.

Consider this list of 9 Places Unhappy People Look for Happiness.

1. In their next purchase. For too many, it has been ingrained into their thinking the proper way to attain happiness is to find it in their next purchase. As a result, joy is sought in bigger houses, nicer cars, cooler technology, or more fashionable clothing. Most possessions never satisfy. In fact, the joy they bring is entirely fleeting. And those who search for happiness in them are left to chase the next purchase… and the next… and the next.

2. In their next paycheck. Perhaps, Zig Ziglar said it best, “Money won’t make you happy, but everybody wants to find out for themselves.” I know happy people who own less than me and I know unhappy people who own far more. Money is not the secret to happiness. It never has been and never will be. And the sooner we realize this truth, the sooner we can discover the freedom that accompanies no longer desiring riches.

3. In their next relationship. We were designed for relationship and there is great joy to be found in them. But relationship, by its very nature, requires humility and selflessness. And believing there is another person out there that can bring complete happiness into your life is to embark on a journey with no destination… and often with disastrous outcomes. Our relationships become far stronger and more fulfilling when we stop searching for someone to meet our needs and start using relationships to meet someone else’s needs instead.

4. In their next physical enhancement. Healthy bodies and healthy diets are important. I would never speak against their benefit. They allow us to maximize our days and effectiveness. But those who seek happiness in tighter butts, slimmer waists, and larger biceps are looking for fulfillment in physical bodies that were never designed to bring such outcomes. Happy people understand the importance of physical discipline. But they do not base their happiness on their physical appearance.

5. In their next competition. I have come to understand the mindset of competition in our world is based on a faulty premise. It assumes there is a finite sized pie—that one person’s success in life equals one less opportunity in mine. But this thinking is incorrect. The pie keeps growing. And those who seek happiness by ruthlessly beating out another compete only against themselves. In reality, the quickest way to find happiness in your life is to help someone else find it in theirs.

6. In their next job. It is important to pursue work you love in an occupation that contributes good to society and the world around you. This type of work brings fulfillment and promise to our lives. Unfortunately, I fear too many people nowadays are seeking the “perfect” job with high pay, few hours, and no stress. But the perfect job doesn’t exist. Work always requires blood, sweat, and tears—that is what makes it work. Again, those who are continually experiencing disdain in their present career because they think the next one will be perfect, are chasing happiness in the wrong places. While there may be a time for change in employment, there may also be a time for change in your approach to it.

7. In their next escape. Unhappy people seek escape. They believe distraction from their present circumstance is a shortcut to happiness. They often turn to television, addiction, or weekend getaways to numb the pain. But the entertainment always ends, the morning always comes, and the vacation always concludes. Meanwhile, the present circumstances have not changed—they have only been complicated. Happy people recognize their circumstances and do not require escape from them. Instead, they choose to practice peace inside them.

8. In the next person to solve their problems. Blame is a dangerous habit and a very real obstacle to happiness. Shifting the responsibility for shortcomings onto another person or external factor immediately eliminates any need or motivation to change. Instead, the victim remains trapped in a cell they built themselves—waiting for someone else to come solve their problems for them. But every time we blame someone else for our unhappiness, we lose. And in the long run, it keeps fulfillment and happiness just out of reach.

9. In accepting things just the way they are. Happiness can be discovered at any point in our lives regardless of our circumstances. But finding happiness in them does not mean we are complacent in the face of things that can be changed. It does not mean we stop striving or growing or maturing. We do not use happiness or contentment as an excuse for mediocrity. Instead, we walk forward in confidence and discipline to become the best possible versions of ourselves—not just for our own well-being, but for the well-being of others.

Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy—and this may be one of the most important life lessons any of us could ever learn.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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    • ABC says

      Happiness is not accepting really bad things as they are. Happiness is a by-product work well done and a life well lived. So, change your bad habits and go to work.

  1. says

    Agree. I’m one of those who have tried several of the above mentioned ways to happiness. They’re all dead ends.

    There’s one thing in common with the first eight examples: “in their next”. Always striving, always looking for something else, never pausing to reflect upon what they actually have. Here and now.

    I believe however that acceptance is one of the keys to happiness, but acceptance doesn’t have to mean that you stop changing. On the contrary. I like to view acceptance as a condition for successful change. When I come to terms with a situation, being able to say to myself “OK, this is where I am right now. I want to change it, but I accept that this is where my previous decisions have taken me.”, only then can I stake out a new path for myself.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of what you put into the word acceptance.

  2. says

    The first time I went to travel for a long time, I was running away from real life and from relationships. I wanted to get away and not think about anything for a little while. But like you might have guessed, my problems came with me. I carried them in my heart. I couldn’t escape them by going to another country or another continent. This time around, Thenix and I aren’t running away. We are travelling, we are learning, we are growing. Our goal is to ensure that we can figure out how to make money on the trip and to grow our relationship with each other. Because this is not an escape from anything, this time around I’m happier than I was the last time I travelled long-term.

  3. says

    “relationship, by its very nature, requires humility and selflessness. And believing there is another person out there that can bring complete happiness into your life is to embark on a journey with no destination…”

    Very deep truth Joshua. I see a lot of people that have come to realize that material things will not make them happy but they still seek ‘someone’ to make them happy. You’ve got to learn to be happy yourself so that you have some to share.


  4. says

    “7. In their next escape. Unhappy people seek escape. They believe distraction from their present circumstance is a shortcut to happiness.”

    This point really spoke to me. In essence, points 1-8 could all be considered a form of escape. After all, that “next big purchase” is just a way to distract yourself from reality, to find joy in something aside from what you already have. Sometimes, when what you have is, for example, a job you hate, you use the purchase as a distracting “reward” for yourself because you “deserve it” for working so hard at that job.

    All of these escapes prevent one from really living in the present moment.

    “Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown

  5. Heatherly says

    I agree with this list. I have found it is looking too for something to come and thinking that next phase or next thing will bring happiness. I have learned it is much better to live in the moment. I do my best to find joy where I am at. It is so easy to get down when things do not seem to happen that we really desire. Sickness, heartbreak and many other things come along. Those times mingle with the better times. It is not easy for anyone in the midst of a great difficulty to say.. oh this is wonderful. Sometimes I think I just go down the river of pain. I just simply make it through but then there are moments of wonder. I have found happiness in having good friends, or supportive families, expanding my talents, enjoying the quite moments as well as the exciting and energizing ones. I simple try to find joy now.. and be now.. exist now.. not in thoughts of future or past.

  6. Dianne says

    Many of these are the reason I am divorced from a long-term marriage. My ex-husband wanted bigger everything, more, newer, different…thinking that would make him happy and solve all of his problems. We had two beautiful children and lived in a nice home. I quit work to raise them and he took a job traveling every week of the year to make more money I had no interest in. I just wanted a quiet, simple, happy life. He once said out of anger, “I just don’t understand you. You are happy with nothing!” I told him, “But I have enough of everything I need.” Which was my family and spending time and being there to experience life with them. He was frustrated with me because I loved running outside in nature and riding bikes with the kids and that made me happy. He wanted a bigger house, more cars, a boat, motorcycle, drinking parties, women, etc..which he finally got after he left us all. He even left his dog and never saw him again.

    He now lives in another state with a woman he hooked up with in a huge mansion he bought on many acres of land. He has many cars, a boat, a lot of money…but no family.
    He has no relationship with his children, they stayed with me. They are grown up now and I asked them what their favorite childhood memories are and they said riding our bikes to the library all of the time, stopping at the park, skating, going for walks in the forest preserve, reading books at bedtime. I am so fortunate and feel so blessed to have spent that time with them growing up. The simple joys of everyday life.

    • Stacy says

      wow Dianne! You are the real deal! I can guarantee he is still not happy, but emptier than ever! You however will have relationship gold with the children for the rest of your life.

    • Anonymous says

      One can be alone, without children, and still be happy. Yes, your ex-husband sounds miserable—and at the same time, not having family does not make one a miserable person. His misery is from within, don’t judge his externals.

  7. Mike says

    Money can give you contentment if you don’t spend it. People who spend all of their money on things don’t have any money.

    Having money in the bank gives you choices.

  8. Sheel Palm says

    O my! wonderful!
    ” Our relationships become far stronger and more fulfilling when we stop searching for someone to meet our needs and start using relationships to meet someone else’s needs instead. ”
    i am thinking ……….
    enjoy relationships by consciously choosing to meet another’s needs > get pleasure in serving another instead of serving yourself all the time ; serve yourself & serve others : find the right*balance ;

    my third-eye functioning just got better. Thank you. )

  9. A Mom says

    Very nice piece. I agree with most all of it. Number 2 however could be tweaked a little. I know I would be happier with a few more dollars. I don’t desire riches, I just want the peace of mind that would come with not worrying about how I am going to feed my family tonight.

  10. will says

    In conversations with my Father (85) a few days after his wife of 65 years (my Mother) passed, he turned to me and said “It all went by so fast” on that day; I told my wife of 35 years, it’s time to change – EVERYTHING! So we did…

  11. says

    Happiness is found in fulfilling and challenging work that does not consume you. Along with that is the joy of fulfilling relationships with family and friends. I enjoy activity so socializing around activity brings me great joy. Meaningful conversations with my husband and three adult children bring me great happiness. Having created meaningful family memories based on our routines, celebrations, holidays and excursions are what we all can relate to when we miss one another or feel sad.

  12. Kris Stoff says

    There is a difference between “happiness” and ” joy”
    Happiness is dependent on what is happening, if good things are happening then I will be happy. If bad things are happening then I will not be happy.

    Now Joy is different, you may disagree but I believe it goes deeper and is more spiritual than anything. God gives Joy and we can have Joy in a relationship with him. Also we can have and experience joy and be joyous when the bad things are happening.

    “The Joy of Life is bound up in Relationships”

    • Pam says

      I agree with Kris above. I also agree with the whole article to a point, but really this is based upon if you have a roof over your head and money to feed yourself and your family. I personally get my happiness from the sea or a sunset but when a life struggle kicks in, that happiness is hard to keep a hold of, not because I am an unhappy person per se but because I really have an uncertain life situation and fear of my basics being taken from me
      ‘I know money can’t buy happiness, but poverty can buy nothing.’ – Murray Langston (The Unknown Comic)

  13. GG says

    I just read yesterday

    “The secret to happines lies not in getting what you want, but in wanting what you have”

  14. Anon says

    This article calls everyone sad and unhappy, because we all seek these things. One way or another. Who doesn’t want to buy something that will -albeit temporarily-make them happy? or go to the next vacation ? or watch the next episode of that tv show they’re addicted to? and why is this bad? we all seek these “distractions” from our mundane lives. One way or another, everything falls into one of the categories listed in this article. Should I start feeling bad after surviving a stressful day at work and then wanting to relax by planning my next vacation? watching tv?shopping? or playing a video game that engages me?
    Inability to take action and “do something” when things are bad and “do something” about your situation is what matters. Lak of money and “things” – terrible. Poverty and sickness -terrible. Having too much money can cause unnecessary issues as well. Everything in moderation is the key to success ,but how does one achieve it?

  15. gina diener says

    Thank you, I look forward to your posts.This is my dream, and I can’t fulfill it alone.
    I can’t do what We can do together!!

  16. Sunny says

    Great list! I used to do all of that just to make myself happy, but not anymore. Now, I know what true happiness is. Actually, not really, but I’m learning to be happy without all that materialistic things.

  17. Ash says

    Love reading your posts! They all ring so true and are very relevant to our current western society. I use to buy myself things with my credit card as a treat when I felt down, it was exciting for a minute until the guilt set in and the credit card statement came. Now I buy what I need. I use to think I was a failure as I don’t have a newer car like everyone else although my car is neat and runs well and I use to think my currently unrenovated home was an embarrassment. I have now learnt gratitude, my home is filled with my family and is cosy. I was searching for happiness in the wrong places.

  18. Megan says

    I will share this with my Ethics class; we are discussing confidence, beginning with the influence the media/society has on our very definition. This will be a nice follow up!

  19. Lezlie Rucker says

    Spot on….love this page. So glad I found it. I have been working on simplifying for a while now and the more I get rid of the better I feel and it does get easier as you go. Love all your great tips and advice. Thanks!

  20. Joann Fox says

    Everything you post is very true. Well said and very sad. The fact that you or anyone that has commented has not mentioned the only one that can fill the hole in our soul to bring true genuine happiness is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Without him true happiness Will never be found.

  21. says

    A good list, still in the spectrum of being human many many of us have a predisposition to experience psychological suffering disproportionate to joy. Sad but true… still life satisfaction can be found even if pleasure isn’t our natural internal response.

  22. Jim Yarko says

    I married my second wife about 12 years ago after a first one that I cannot believe that I tolerated as long as I did. For the record, I did the exact opposite that many men do in finding their second spouse. My first wife was ten years younger, thin and bleached-blond and has breast implants (although, in the interest of full disclosure, she did not get the implants until she was leaving her next husband). My second wife is a number of years older than I am and has a few extra pounds. She was also the best “intimate spouse” that any man could ever want.

    After less than three years of marriage, everything changed completely. She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer with an anticipated 18-20 months to live. She remains alive and alert after 10+ years and 272 doses of chemo. Our income has dropped from 6-digits to a low 5-dight range. Obviously, due to health reasons, certain aspects of our relationship have changed dramatically.

    I don’t bring this up to elicit any form of sympathy or action on anyone’s part. Our marriage is as strong as ever despite every thing that has happened. It just goes to show what can happen if your values are well-grounded and based on what is truly important.

    Even though I bear the severe scars associated with that which I consider to be extreme abuse by my first wife, I did not become secluded from humanity. Perhaps the best way that I can explain my current situation is that, despite the fact that the physical and romantic reasons that I married my current wife changed dramatically as a result of her diagnosis, I always tell anyone who asks that marrying her was the best decision that I ever made, which it certainly was.

    The moral of this true-life story: A good life and respective thereof is in your hands more than anyone else.

    Live well.


  23. Judy Kaye says

    Be calm, my Dellius, and serene.
    However fortune change the scene.
    In they most dejected state
    Sink not underneath the weight;
    Nor yet, when happy days begin,
    And the full tide comes rolling in,
    Let a fierce unruly joy
    The settled quiet of a mind destroy.
    However Fortune change the scene
    Be calm, my Delius and Serene.
    Horace ( I think )

    I have not arrived at this point. Will I ever? I doubt it. I try to be thankful for what I have little or great. Practice kindness especially towards myself. This too shall pass both the good and not so good. Too much cannot be said about gratitude. If you can’t change a situation can you change how you look at the situation? That may be the only thing you can control.

  24. says

    Most people are searching for happiness outside of themselves. That’s a fundamental mistake. Meditation opens the door to genuine happiness. Meditation improves our mind, health and brings more happiness. Happiness is something you are and it comes from the way you think.

  25. says


    You are spot on. My ex-girlfriend tried to tell me this, but I didn’t listen. Why do women get it way before men?? Or am I just a stubborn ass? Maybe God has something to do with it since women bear the children. Do mothers teach them, or is it in their x chromosomes?

    Lost in Texas.

  26. Will Broomfield says

    “Happy people know that happiness is a choice”. Seriously, i mean no disrespect but what on earth are you talking about? As if somehow joy equates to wisdom. I have been both intensely happy and intensely sad, that kind of statement is something only naivety can explain, it simply isn’t true. Your moods are not necessarily a choice, although people can do things to help themselves. So aggravating…. there are many things in life that are tragic, as well glorious. Don’t pretend to know what others are thinking

  27. Akarsh says

    I don’t think I m unhappy but I certainly know that something is wrong with me. I hate evenings. I get all moody and skip studying…As I am a first year medico this is becoming a serious problem with me…can anyone help?

  28. servantofGOd says

    If you are unhappy, why not ask help from God? He is generous and will surely help you.

    Novena to Saint Claire

    Pray whether you believe or not and promise to publish or circulate.

    Ask for 3 favours: 1 business and 2 impossible.

    Say 9 Hail Mary’s and the following prayer for 9 nights in front of a lighted candle,

    God of mercy you inspired St. Claire with the love of poverty by the help of her prayers. May we follow Christ in poverty of spirit and come to the joyful vision of your glory in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen

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