Is being useful the true path to happiness?

One of the great modern thinkers, doers, champions of Womens rights and the longest serving American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote eloquently about how to be happy. And it applies more than ever, today.


Be useful and feel happier

The following extract is from her book:
‘You Learn by Living’.

It was written when she was a mere 76 years young.

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. 

For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.”

Someone once asked Mrs Roosevelt what she regarded as the most important requirements for happiness. Her answer ..

A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work.

The ability to love others and the feeling that you are, in some way, useful.

Usefulness, whatever form it may take, is the price we should pay for the air we breathe and the food we eat and the privilege of being alive. And it is its own reward, as well, for it is the beginning of happiness, just as self-pity and withdrawal from the battle are the beginning of misery.

It is easy to slip into self-absorption and it is equally fatal. When we become absorbed in ourselves, in our health, personal problems, or in the small details of daily living, we are, at the same time losing interest in other people; worse, we lose our ties to life.

From that it is an easy step to losing interest in the world and in life itself.

What makes you really happy? Is it giving of yourself in some way?

The simplest things. For us it is the joy we see in the faces of those we touch both professionally and personally.

When we see a smile, a genuine smile of joy, we know we have made a difference to someones day and that is what truly matters most to us.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.
– Oscar Wilde.