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Who Are the Five Thieves of Happiness

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Who Are the Five Thieves of Happiness

In his latest book, John Izzo speaks about the nature of happiness and how he believes that happiness is our natural state. However, certain factors get in the way of our happiness and attempt to steal our happiness away from us. John identifies the five thieves of happiness and how they work:

Thief #1: Control: We all want to control situations and scenarios to the outcomes that most benefit us, but deep down, we know that complete control is an illusion. At the most basic level, happiness comes from understanding that we can control our actions and our responses to things external to us, but we cannot control the results of our actions.

Thief #2: Conceit: Conceit is an overemphasis on your personal importance, a belief that you are separate from others, and that only by distinguishing yourself can you find happiness. Another word for this thief is ego. The way to rid yourself of this thief is in realizing that you are not a singular entity but part of a whole. It is in saying to yourself, "I am connected to all that is and if I can contribute to the good of the whole, happiness will find me."

Thief #3: Coveting: Coveting is one of the hardest thieves to catch because he comes dressed in noble robes in the guise of ambition and personal betterment--after all, a better life requires more income, more luxury, etc. no? But coveting is not so much about wanting more as wanting more and yet never being grateful or happy with what you already have. Without gratitude, this thief ensures we will never have enough, we will always want more and happiness will elude us always.

Thief #4: Consumption: Though at first seemingly closely related to thief #3 (Coveting), Consumption is different in that this thief tells us that happiness can only be found outside of ourselves. Content and happiness is an internal choice we can all make based on what we each already have within ourselves. For example, love is something we should have for ourselves, but consumption says it must be found outside and so therefore we will not know love unless we consume it from others.

Thief #5: Comfort: Comfort is like a lethargic person sitting on the sofa, TV remote in hand. This thief wants us to stay on the same channel, sitting in the same comfortable chair, stuck in a routine that is not life giving. It does not care about the consequences of this routine, even if the channel we are on is no longer of interest. The obvious way comfort is a thief is that since our brains are excited by change, much of our happiness comes from having new experiences, facing and solving new challenges, and learning new skills. Routine is deadening to the human soul, but it's familiar and comfortable. Recognize that you are not your familiar patterns. You can change the patterns.