Summary of the book The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud
For decades, the world of psychology has focused almost exclusively on why people are sad, depressed or not fulfilled in their lives. Great strides have been made in this industry as doctors have learned to help people through improved counseling and medication. Only in recent history, though, have many psychologists changed their focus and main question. Instead of asking, “What makes people sad,” the experts in this constantly evolving medical field began asking, “What makes people happy?”
In The Law of Happiness, Dr. Cloud reveals 13 key traits every person must have in order to be truly happy. Revealing these traits is not the ultimate purpose of Dr. Cloud’s book, though. When Dr. Cloud set down to study the research, and resulting conclusions, as to what really makes people happy, one overriding theme kept jumping out at him. He realized everything he was reading he had already read in a book that was written thousands of years ago…the Bible. The research and science behind what makes a person happy is what God has been telling us all along. “…there is nothing new under the sun,” Ecclesiastes 1:9. With this knowledge, Dr. Cloud wrote the book The Law of Happiness, where he has taken the science behind happiness and mirrored it with what God has already told us. He uses the Bible to confirm and validate what science now teaches.
If you choose to read this book (which I highly recommend), you will discover that the scientific side of happiness shows there is a mathematical formula for the makeup of happiness. Researchers have concluded that 10% of happiness comes from our circumstances. You finally get that new car you have wanted for years, or your dream house is finally attainable. When you acquire these things, you will feel happiness, but only by 10%. Fifty percent of our happiness comes from our internal makeup. According to Dr. Cloud, our internal makeup comes from our temperament, how we are wired. Some people are just naturally happier than others. God made us all capable of being truly happy, but some may have to work at it a little harder.
The best news, though, is that the other 40% of where our happiness comes from is directly under our control. It comes from our behavior, our thoughts and how we choose to live our lives.
Even by breaking down happiness into a scientific formula, most of us will still seek happiness in our circumstances. This is human nature. If I lose 10 more pounds, I will finally be happy! If my son makes an A on his science test, I will finally be happy!
Why can’t happiness be found in our circumstances? We cannot find happiness in our circumstances, because circumstances don’t last. We really were happy with the new car we purchased, but after a while, the newness wore off. Is a new car a firm foundation for us to build happiness? Of course not! Circumstances come and go just like the ocean waves when they take the sand out to sea. We would never build a foundation on sand that can be washed away, yet this is what we do when we try to build our happiness around our circumstances. I often hear brides-to-be say, “I can’t wait to be married. I will finally be a complete person.” A young woman who says this is searching for happiness in her soon-to-be husband, in her “circumstance.” This is a big mistake that will bite her in the backside if she doesn’t learn where true happiness comes from.
Being happy IS a choice. We control the 40% of that formula. We can choose to sulk and be angry at life, or we can choose to embrace life and live it to the fullest. People that walk around angry most days usually are choosing to stay in this state of emotion. This does NOT mean we don’t experience anger, and it does not mean we don’t have bad days. Of course, we do! We are human and live in a fallen world. But anger IS a choice, and we need to recognize this fact if we are going to overcome this toxic emotion. *
If we spend our time pursuing the material things in life (the 10%), where does that leave us? To put it another way, if we put all of our energy into the 10% (working an extra job to earn enough money to buy the new house, which ultimately will only provide 10% of our happiness), then we do not have enough energy left over to focus on the 40% that really matters.
Guess what? If you are an unhappy person without your dream home, then when you finally buy your dream home do you know what you will be? An unhappy person WITH your dream home. It’s that simple. Unhappy people stay unhappy people if their life is focused on their circumstances.
God created an entire world for us to live in and be happy around. He told Adam and Eve that everything in the Garden of Eden belonged to them. There was only one restriction. They could not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, what did Adam and Eve do? Instead of focusing on the things God had given them that would bring true happiness, they focused on the one thing they “thought” would bring them happiness. In the end, they lost the thing that really would have made them happy.
Dr. Cloud states, “When we are not eating the fruits of the good life that God has created and think that WE know what is going to satisfy us instead, we will continue to go hungry. Unsatisfied. Unhappy. Unfulfilled. So, that is our challenge. Live life investing in the way that it was designed to be lived. When we do…happiness will follow.”
Together with you,
(*How we choose to feel and react to circumstances IS a choice. I fully acknowledge that some people deal with deeper mental or chemical issues that can affect how they approach life, though. These blogs are not speaking to this deeper issue. If you find yourself struggling in any of these areas, and you seem unable to “choose” your emotions and reactions, then my hope is that you will seek a professional counselor that can help you overcome these obstacles so you can be on your way to living a truly happy life.)