What’s Your ONE Word Definition of Happiness?

What is it that makes us happy? It could be a million different things. There's no single answer. So much of it is in our mindset though. And, happiness seems to come easier to some people than others. But let's try and narrow down what happiness really is and what it stems from. So, if you could only answer with a single word, what's your one word definition of happiness?

A One Word Definition Of Happiness

Progress comes to my mind. Not the words money, health, success or even family. Just the word progress. You can have a wonderful loving family, but what if you have poor health? Are you still happy? The cancer patient who successfully conquers his disease is probably happier than any healthy person will ever be, at least for that moment in time. That's progress.

The problem with progress is that it gets harder and harder to move forward with each progression. If you're a publisher, take your Alexa ranking for example. When you first start off, each monthly improvement may be by 1 million. The next month's jump slows to 100,000. Finally, your rate of improvement is only 1,000 until you start losing interest. Your ranking may not mean much. But, it's fun to track and it will keep you motivated when you first start out.

Another example of a one word definition of happiness is work. The guy in the mail room who gets promoted to the front lines that week is happier than the woman who's been head of the office for the last 10 years. For the next 10 years, I'll take the junior guy's work happiness over the established woman's work happiness any day.

Happiness Is Progress

So what do we do once we hit a wall? In Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, he says,

Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.”

I'm determined to scale that damn brick wall and find out what's on the other side.  Are you?

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Make More Money & Increase Your Happiness

If independence is your one word definition of happiness, focus on improving your personal finances this year. Here are some additional resources I’ve put together that will help you on your financial journey to earn more, save more, and hopefully double or triple your income!

Further Reading

Readers, what's your one word definition of happiness?


Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money's Mysteries”

Follow me on Twitter @FinancialSamura

44 thoughts on “What’s Your ONE Word Definition of Happiness?”

  1. In many cases people come to work harder and harder for less and less improvement in their situation. Yes, one of them will win a window for his office, but everybody will pay the price with their hard passionate work and is a window or a corner office really that much of an improvement if one still have to be there from 9-5 every day?

    So, the thing to do once you hit a brick wall is to consider that maybe … the cake is a lie ;-)

    1. ERE – It could be a lie, and that’s why in my example, folks don’t work hard b/c they are skeptical of the outcome, and are content to just take it easy!

      I tell ya though, the journey is not that bad, but it if really was, more would work even hard so they can retire quicker! Thnx for your thoughts.

  2. One word – Kaizen!

    It’s living with the mentality that there is no best only better. There is always room for improvement. This is not the same as innovation, not a big leap (like the biggest loser, 300lbs in 3 months). It’s a lifestyle where every day you are consciously trying to make small incremental improvements that, like compounding interest, add up over time.

    I am truly sorry I cannot be here everyday. Like you the day job has priority!
    .-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..Lower the Water and Expose the Rocks =-.

  3. In a word… “Journey”… Sounds really corny and I don’t mean the band, but always looking back I’m happiest when I’m on a journey whether it’s to get somewhere physically or mentally, it’s fun. Maybe that also ties into the words “challenge” or “purpose”
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..Investing in What Matters Most… Your Belly =-.

    1. Ryan – Journey isn’t corny at all. It’s often times the journey that’s more fun than the end goal i.e. working your way to saving your nut is probably more fun than once you get to your retirement nut imo.

  4. Monevator – IC. So shouldn’t all banks either just pay out the bonuses in MAY to save several billion in taxation shekels? There’s gotta be some kinda loophole somewhere yeah?

    It’s hard for me to stand rainy, grey, gloomy dates mate. That’s why I moved out west! :)

  5. Bytta @151 Days Off


    Hi Sam, thanks for dropping by my site.
    Anyway, i finally found the report page. It turns out, households with income $151k-250k (or more) need $625k to increase a percentage point of wellbeing (not happiness, sorry).
    There are many other aspects of wellbeing discussed in the paper. I’m not sure if you folks have similar report in US. If you are interested to see the report (very enjoyable to read too), here’s the page:

    .-= Bytta @151 Days Off´s last blog ..Is Frugality the New Superiority? =-.

    1. Hey Bytta – Thanks for finding the report! I guess a percentage point of well being is somewhat subjective, but it does point out that money after 250K really doesn’t help much at all in the happiness front.

      I believe this fully.

  6. @Roger
    Original answer! You best marry her eventually then! :) I’ve got a controversial post in the pipeline for folks like your girlfriend to read. It actually was accepted by Wise Bread (topic and outline), and once I wrote it, they rejected it b/c it may be too controversial for the female readers! doh. Good thing I got my own site to do whatever I want! lol.

  7. @Bytta @151 Days Off
    Thanks for your kind words! Wow, a person who makes over 300K needs to double their income, or add another 600K to feel the same happiness point increase? That’s amazing, and it goes back to the beginning of my post about “hitting the brick wall.”

    It is a moving goal post, and I do feel that it’s the journey, which his most fun, rather than the end. B/c when we reach the end, it’s sad. Let’s say you retire at 65, you might die in 13 years based on the median US life span. “That’s SAD! But the 40 year post college journey to get there, now that’s fun! Progress!

    Cheers, Sam

  8. Bytta @151 Days Off

    I would say “authenticity.” It’s only when you’re true to yourself, set your own standards and not worry about other people’s expectations (while still appreciate them) you will reach true happiness. The usage of “you” clearly indicates that I’m not there yet.

    About “progress”, i read similar notion in the Australian Happiness Index last year. Basically it said that people with lower income need $600 to increase 1 happiness point, the middle income earners will need a few thousand dollars while people who earn over $300k will need around $600k to add the happiness point (that’s just rough figures. I couldn’t find the web page…grrr…:)).

    The issue with that thinking is it has a moving goal post and it’s never-ending; which brings us to this question, does happiness for you lie on the motion of progress or the results of progress?


    Ps. Love your blog. I think it’s one of the most progressive pf blogs out there and thoroughly readable.

  9. A one word definition of happiness? How about… ‘happiness’? ;) Alright, how’s this: Sondra, the name of my sweet, wonderful, beloved girl, and the one word (alright, technically name) that always brings a smile to my face.

  10. Improvement!
    An improvement is an idicator that things are getting better. By constantly improving, you are bettering yourself. Happiness is a dynamic emotion. What makes you happy today may not make you happy tomorrow, but if it is an improvement, than you will be happier than you were.

    -Dan Malone-
    .-= Live for Improvement´s last blog ..Take The Money =-.

  11. My word is “presence” (and not for the underappreciated Led Zeppelin album).

    What I mean is, I strive to be here, and be fully involved in what I’m doing. When my daughter was first born, I would take her for walks while talking on the phone, texting friends, etc. Eventually, I realized I was giving her half of my attention, and I wanted her to feel like her dad was fully involved in her life.

    So: I put the cellphone aside.

    1. Joel – That’s a great word, ‘presence’ and an excellent example with your daughter. So many good words here! I think I’ll put together in a future post all these words, with descriptions from all of you.

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. @Charlie
    Great attitude Charlie. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at the new things, it’s just always good to try. In fact, when you first start off and know nothing, those are the happiest moments, because the progress you make is the biggest!

    WellHeeled :

    Thanks for highlighting my post! I don’t know what my one word of happiness is… first you have to define “happiness”. ;)
    WellHeeled´s last blog ..Carnival of Personal Finance #235: The Cinderella Edition

    Happiness is for you to define Well Heeled!

    Gratitude is a good one. That’s quite an all encompassing word. I like it!

    Never thought about the word service. Guess you absolutely love your job then!

  13. My one word definition for happiness is “gratitude.” If you can feel gratitude for the things that are right in your life (in spite of what is wrong) and even truly recognize the ways in which you are fortunate, you can find happiness. If you are always trying to find “enough” whether from your accomplishments or from yourself, you will be dissatisfied. Nothing will ever be enough. That is a bottomless pit.

  14. I agree, progress is really satisfying. The other things that make me really happy are accomplishments and experiences. Life is too short to sit back and watch things happen. I’ve learned I’m so much happier doing things, even if I’m not any good at them at first or even after a while. It’s just nice to try new things.

  15. Well if you are using the web interface DON’T it sux! I personally like Nambu (for OS X) and has @ mentions as one of the folders. So you see when someone mentions you! But you are correct if someone is NOT following you, they directly do not see your spam, er message. Someone can RT, that that person follows and will then see your message, and they can RT and so on and so on. So it can be like the Faberge shampoo commercial:


    I’m using twitter as another marketing funnel to my blog and another means to communicate with people interested in my discussion. You don’t have to be actively using Twitter during the day for people to find your tweets useful.
    .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..The 4% Rule to Investing =-.

  16. @Investor Junkie
    Answer me this please. Let’s say someone doesn’t follow me on Twitter. If I write a Tweet and put @Someone, will that Someone get my Tweet? I thought no, and didn’t put the @ in front of the someone’s name, and then ended up getting in trouble lol.

    I think my posts are too long, b/c there are only two Tweets of this post, and one of them is me! I do ask the question “If you are mentioned in this post, why wouldn’t you retweet this post”? B/c if it was me getting mentioned in a wrap, I’d retweet the wrap for sure!

    Just want to understand Tweet ettiquet I guess. I don’t check Twitter during the day.

  17. Oh let me also add there is a WP plugin to auto post your latest blog entry. You miss some of the customizations available when doing it manually, but I would rather RT and post other thoughtful mini blog entries than have to worry about posting new blog entries manually.
    .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..The 4% Rule to Investing =-.

  18. W00t to “Subscribe to Comments” about time :-)

    what would you like to know about twitter and tweeting? Tweeting is another means to get people involved with your brand. It can also be a time sucker if you are not careful. Like a blog, mailing list, and Facebook, twitter can be used to help bring in traffic via another method

    Let’s use me for example:

    I tweeted:

    “LATEST POST: Why Buying A Timeshare Is A Bad Idea https://bit.ly/7t2daH

    I had, two RT about it and dramatically increased traffic to my brand “nu” site. Something that I couldn’t have done with Google. Google takes awhile with newly registered domains and new content to ensure it’s not spam/web farm. So Twitter is another means to gain an audience to your brand/message that I wouldn’t have via say Google.
    .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..The 4% Rule to Investing =-.

  19. Balance. It’s about having my priorities in proper order…faith, family, work, relationships. It’s about not letting any one too much predominate over the others.
    .-= Ken´s last blog ..Recession Employment: Diversify Income Streams =-.

  20. Progress is a great word.

    People always become complacent and day dream…”the grass is greener”. You have to take your great movement and try to remember. I have over come cancer twice and you forget after only a few months that you need to slow down and enjoy life every chance you get.
    .-= Smac20´s last blog ..New Wireless Competition Approved in Canada! =-.

  21. I’m gonna have to go with progress also. It’s what personally makes me happy, constantly learning and achieving new things and creating new relationships tends to surpass any financial gains for me.

  22. @JOhn DeFlumeri Jr
    Sorry John, DAYOFF really is two words, so that doesn’t count! lol. But seriously, that is awesome insight. I can’t believe you worked for 45 years. That day off everyday must feel so wonderful! I can only dream of lasting as long as you did in the work environment. So impressive!

  23. @Brad @Jeff
    Hey guys! Good to hear from you! :) I’m just joking about you guys never visiting. No big deal, but hey, it worked! Yihaw.

    Jeff, I love that word “NOW” that you propose. Live in the now, you’re right. Don’t want to wake up one day when we’re old and have regrets. You should NEVER feel like what you have to say is not worthwhile. Everything is worthwhile here, ALL opinions, forever!

  24. @David
    Thanks for the Tweet Jeff. If ever something from here is highlighted elsewhere, I always try and re-tweet. That’s a no brainer!

    @Mike @ Gather Little by Little
    Hmmm…. MENTAL huh? Donno if I can jive with that one, but I know exactly what you mean! When I hear the word mental, I hear a childhood bully saying “you’re so mental” i.e headcase! lol.

    Freedom, I like it. I have a feeling though that those who want Freedom are those who feel entrapped? I have a friend who explored the world for 9 months and got back. They were bored of freedom.
    .-= admin´s last blog ..Use The Sandwich Method To Provide Constructive Criticism =-.

  25. Neal@wealthpilgrim

    One word…..SERVICE

    It’s the one word – or behavior that always leads me to be happy…no matter what.

  26. Hi FS!

    I’m here everyday brother. I’ll start to comment more, most times I just don’t feel I have the financial smarts to add anything worthwhile to your wonderful posts :-) Like Brad, I’ll do better.

    My happiness word is NOW. I’ve learned (lately) that if I put all my energy into working toward my future goals, I miss out on what is happening right now. I have two little kids at home, if I don’t start to focus on the NOW, I’m going to regret it once they’ve grown up.

    Your Yakuza Buddy – Jeff@deliverawaydebt
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..Is Your 401K Making a Comeback =-.

  27. JOhn DeFlumeri Jr

    DAYOFF it’s really 2 words, but for me for 45 years it was the happiest word.

    John DeFlumeri Jr
    .-= JOhn DeFlumeri Jr´s last blog ..Podcast*Resolution Headstart and Heart-Smart! =-.

  28. A second for “freedom.”
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Weekly Wisdom: The Do-It-Yourself Nation =-.

  29. Hello FS! glad you have already forgiven me. :) I need to do better at stopping around and commenting on other blogs.

    Thanks for the link love man! I really appreciate it, and thank you for the kind words as well.

    Have a great week!
    .-= Brad´s last blog ..If You Miss My Post Tomorrow, You Will Definitely Regret It!! =-.

  30. Freedom. Being free to do and think what you want. Even if you can’t do what you want, you can still think what you want. To me that is happiness.
    .-= Gordie´s last blog ..Are You Controlling Life Or Is Life Controlling You? =-.

  31. Thanks for mentioning my marketing plan articles. Not the most riveting of topics but a lot of my search traffic is for anything related to marketing. Marketing was probably the one class I was looking forward to the least and ended up enjoying the most. I had a great professor who taught us on day one that marketing makes the world go round and he spent the rest of the semester proving it.

    My one word definition: Peace. When I have peace of mind and am at peace with myself then nothing else matters.

    I’m with you on the Twitter thing, and I haven’t quite figured out what the big attraction is. I tweeted your post when I saw that you mentioned my articles, but I took the my Tweet This widget down because no one ever used it. I’m also following Gordie’s advice and cleaning up all the auto-follow twitterers so I can have more relevant tweets.
    .-= David´s last blog ..It’s not easy being green =-.

  32. Mike @ Gather Little by Little

    My one word definition is: Mental.

    Happiness is not to be found only in wealth, health, love, etc. We all lack of something but we can all make the decision of being happy nonetheless.

    Happiness is a state of mind. This is why some people have it all and they are still sad while some others are about to die from cancer and they are smiling….

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