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Can People Be Too Happy?

Everyone goes through life in search of happiness. We work to relieve pain, experience pleasure, and reach our goals to be satisfied with our life.

But what if we are already pretty happy? Does it serve a purpose to work to find ultra-happiness?

Many believe that success leads to happiness. This sends us on a mission to achieve more, be more, and do more in the name of happiness and living life to the fullest.

If I can only have this job, make this much money, and live in this house, then I’ll finally be satisfied with my life.

Research has shown that satisfaction with life is a major indicator of success, or in other words, happier people tend to be more successful in certain life domains. Though on closer observation, very high levels of satisfaction can actually limit the achievement of our full potential in certain domains.

If I’m satisfied with the life I have, what’s the point of striving for more?

One research article reveals that the happiest people tend to be most successful when it comes to relationships and volunteer work, but those who were a little less happy were more successful in terms of income, education, and political participation.

So the question becomes: what is success and where do we derive happiness?

For some, success is related to income, education and prestige. For others, success is about serving and cultivating meaningful and positive relationships.

Our level of satisfaction in these different domains can impact our happiness. For instance, wanting more and not being fully satisfied is a good motivation to increase income, education, and political participation. However, when it comes to intimate relationships, wanting more tends to cause problems and a focus on the negative traits in our partners and relationships.

So happiness is not always better, or at least complete satisfaction with life, is not always better. It depends on our goals and aspirations.

If I desire a meaningful and deep relationship, being satisfied is important to stay committed and passionate, otherwise we will always be looking for something “better.”

Though if my desires are for wealth, professional influence, and money, being somewhat dissatisfied will serve me well to stay motivated and striving for progress.

Ultimately, we can blend these findings and find common ground between what we expect from relationships and what we expect in a professional and financial aspect of life.

There is domain specific satisfaction we can consider. Working to find total satisfaction in relationships will serve us best for longevity in this area, where as having a drive for more can provide us the motivation to reach greater levels in professional and financial domains.

Photo credit: burstingwithcolors


Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2007). The Optimum Level of Well-Being: Can People Be Too Happy?. Association for Psychological Sciences, 2 (4), 346-359.

Can People Be Too Happy?

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Can People Be Too Happy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Dec 2011
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