If you are searching for happiness... read this

If you are searching for happiness... read this

Brought to you by Healthy Minds Therapy

Story by Jasmine Payne, LPC-R

At the end of every intake, I ask clients what their goals for therapy are. Many of them give an answer indicative of their lifelong quest for happiness. I cannot count the number of times I have heard “to be happier” as a response to that question. If happiness is your ultimate goal, much like perfectionism, it is a goal that you will chase forever because it will always be just out of reach.


Happiness is an emotional state and by nature, emotional states are not permanent. We move through our emotions. They do not last forever. “Happiness” is also a broad, even bland descriptor of an emotional state. More granular emotional experiences that may fall under this umbrella could include joy, acceptance, love, respect or inspiration. When someone says they want to be happy, what do they really mean? And what is preventing that feeling?

When we dig into the trenches of what happiness entails, many of us think of values. This is where the work begins! A happiness-driven life is fleeting and tumultuous, whereas a values-driven life is rewarding and bountiful.

“We should care as much about well-doing as well-being. I want to live in a world that values purpose as much as pleasure, contribution as much as contentment and justice as much as joy. A happy life isn’t necessarily an honorable life.” - Dr. Adam Grant


Our value system is our own, personal moral code by which we navigate the world, our relationships and our lives. For example, if someone values timeliness, that person is probably early to most obligations and only late under rare extenuating circumstances. If someone values honesty, that person most likely experiences extreme discomfort or cognitive dissonance if and when they have to lie.

Cognitive dissonance is a key indicator that we are acting outside our value systems. Now, there are times where we tiptoe that line and step outside of our value systems, but that doesn’t make us bad people or condemn us. It is, however, an opportunity for reflection and growth. Values can have hard and soft boundaries. As we age, we learn and expand our mentalities. We have the beautiful choice to adjust our value systems accordingly.


Pursuing a life based on value systems leaves room for human experiences. This includes happiness and joy, as well as anger, grief, disappointment and surprise. Actions based on happiness are not always aligned with our value system and when they aren’t, they often leave us feeling confused after the instant gratification wears off.

'Was I acting within my value system?' We are more likely to experience longer-term happiness and contentment if the answer to that question is a resounding, 'Yes!' Other follow-up questions may include, “Did I do my best?” or “What were my intentions here?” If the answer is no, how can we re-orient ourselves towards our value systems next time and how can we make amends to ourselves and others right now?

When considering our value systems, it is helpful to be clear about what makes our lives meaningful. This can be different for everyone. Think of trying to map out values before getting started. It may be helpful to take a value assessment online to act as a starting point.


Jasmine is a Resident in Counseling at Healthy Minds Therapy and provides services at the Fredericksburg location. She is a two-time graduate of Longwood University, receiving her B.S. in Psychology along with an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Throughout her graduate studies, Jasmine worked with teens and adults who belonged to various minority and multicultural populations. She also has familiarity with a wide spectrum of mental health concerns including anxiety, depression, grief, moodiness, self-improvement, motivation, relationship issues and more.

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