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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

What Makes You Unhappy?

Really. Think about it for a moment. Don’t just float over the question

like any other words on a page. Are you happy?

Since I have started asking the question in my seminars,

people have started asking me the question. At first I would always

say yes, either because that was what they wanted to hear or because

I felt I had to be. But I noticed that sometimes it felt inau-

thentic. Sometimes I wasn’t happy. So I started to pause when people

asked me and really take my temperature, so to speak, and answer


For most people the answer is “Yes and no” or “Yes, but I could

be happier.” There are very few people, perhaps none, who have no

happiness in their lives. But there are also very few people, perhaps

none, who have no unhappiness in their lives.

Some people are unhappy because they don’t like their job or

their spouse. Others are unhappy because they don’t know how to

relax or appreciate who they are and all they have. Some people are

desperately unhappy because of a chemical imbalance in their

brains. I have seen it. It is real and tragic. But most of us experience

unhappiness when we wander away from ourselves.

Unhappiness is the fruit of doing and saying things that contradict

who we are and what we are here for. Unhappiness is not

something that happens to us as if we are poor little victims. Unhappiness

is something we do to ourselves. You can choose to be


People have chosen to be happy in worse circumstances than

you or I will ever likely find ourselves in. No one has demonstrated

that more than Viktor Frankl did in Man’s Search for Meaning as

he recalled his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during

World War II. Over and over, he encountered people who even

though they were starving would share their inadequate rations

with others. Frankl explains that while some were killing themselves

or wallowing in self-pity, others were filled with an inexplicable

happiness, a real joy that was independent of substance or

circumstances. Their happiness did not depend on favorable external

circumstances but had its source within.

What causes your unhappiness?

Matthew Kelly

From Perfectly Yourself

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