Home Gratitude The Nuts and Bolts of Happiness

The Nuts and Bolts of Happiness

by Vidya Sury September 5, 2012 57 comments
It is September 5. In India, we celebrate Teachers Day
I am delighted to have the honor of welcoming a very very favorite blogging friend here today – Ken Wert of Meant To Be Happy. I chose to invite him here today, because Ken is a teacher.
I fell in love with Ken’s blog the first time I visited it. Not only does he write fantastically, but he also has the very rare gift of perfect presentation, in language that totally appeals, with brilliant metaphors and with a good dose of humor. I confess that two thoughts always occur to me when I read his posts –
1. I wish I had written that myself
2. I wish that post was on my blog
Ken is a warm human being and I can definitely see why his son loves him most-er. I love the way he uses metaphors. I highly recommend one of my all-time favorites: his post “What is on the dashboard of your life” where he uses the blog dashboard as a metaphor to take stock of our lives. This post made it to Tim Brownson’s 20 of the Greatest Self Development Posts Ever Written at his popular blog, A Daring Adventure.  I shared screen space on that list with my own post Take time to smell the flowers.
A big warm welcome to you, Ken! 
Go Ahead and do your magic!
The Nuts and Bolts of Happiness – Guest Post by Ken Wert

If you were to strip happiness to its bare essentials, revealing the nuts and bolts of its most basic parts, you would be left with the schematics of a fundamentally happy life.
But what would be included in so basic a schematic of happiness? I suggest the following …
5 Necessary Traits to Happiness
1. Gratitude
No matter how you slice it, a life without gratitude is a life without happiness. It is, perhaps, the single most important trait to living a happy life.
The habitually grateful are thankful they have feet even if they don’t have shoes. They are grateful for freedom even if they also have poverty. They appreciate the day even if it rains and love that they are still alive even if their bodies ache.
Ingrates, however, are the opposite. They focus on what hurts and what’s out of place and what doesn’t fit or looks awkward or is uncomfortable. The difficulty to happiness is that when we’re so focused on the negative, we lose sight of what is beautiful.
The result is a very dimmed sort of spiritual malaise that tarnishes what would otherwise have been happy, good and wonderful.
2. Decency
We all want to think we’re good people. To the degree there’s a little evidence of the fact, we can feel pretty good about who we are. To the degree the evidence is stacked against us, our happiness is compromised because our character shines too darkly to hide it from view.
Who we are inside truly matters to how we feel about ourselves. We care even if we pretend we don’t. Even those who treat others with hate and disrespect, who live only for themselves and take what they want from those who have it know in their hearts that they are on a dark path.
And somewhere in their hardened hearts, they feel crummy even if on the surface they don’t seem to. The truth is that indecency never was happiness. But human kindness and compassion and integrity always has been.
3. Personal Growth
Stagnant pools become poisonous just as stagnant lives do. But dynamic lives of self-discovery and personal improvement and constant education feels good.
Even if we have miles and miles to go before we see anything particularly wonderful in the mirror, the fact that we are moving in the right direction gives us a sense of accomplishment, a sort of self-satisfaction. We know we are on the right track and that is a happy feeling.
And while a life of constant moral growth metaphorically kills two birds with one stone (see #2), any growth will help. Overcoming a fear, pushing against a comfort zone, challenging yourself physically or emotionally or mentally. Intellectual development or spiritual improvement or even learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby or honing an old talent can help as well. The point is to feel like the life you’ve been given is being used well.
4. Meaning
A meaningless life can’t be a happy one. It’s empty and barren. But a life filled with purpose and meaning, one that makes you feel like you matter, that you’re leaving your little corner of the world a little better than the way you found it is an essential ingredient to happiness.
People passionate about their work, about the family they hurry home to see, the service they render, the faith they celebrate live meaningful lives that deeply matter to them. And a purpose-driven life of passionate pursuits is a happy life indeed.
5. Friendship
We are social beings who crave connection and attachment, to be heard and understood and accepted by another person who cares. Not everyone has to love and appreciate us, but someone has to. We need that. But in our Facebook and text message world of digital connectedness, that deep-level connection is less obvious.
The point is not to hate on all things digital and electronic. Technology has allowed me to reach out across oceans to connect with people I never would have known before. It has brought me here, to the shores of Vidya’s life. It has added one more person to the list of people I care about and love and appreciate. And that’s a good thing.
Still, it’s vital that we make time to spend with real people doing real things bonding in real time, touching, holding, looking into eyes and feeling the pulse of their lives in the beat of our hearts.
The Paint and Upholstery of Happiness
Did you notice I said nothing of external conditions? Did you notice I left out a wife who loves sports and obedient kids and obedient husbands? There’s nothing about supermodel looks or genius IQs or any other DNA-related advantages, in fact.
There is no need to live a particular lifestyle or have a particular job or live in a particular house in a particular neighborhood. Such things are not bad and can even enhance the happiness of those already happy. They just can’t create what’s not already there. It’s like the paint and upholstery of a car.
The nuts and bolts hold all the parts together. Without them, everything falls apart. The paint and upholstery improves the driving experience, but without them, the car still drives. Without the traits described above, all the whistles and buzzers of life will do little to provide us happiness.
The essential parts are, in fact, essential. So go on walks and meditate and read inspirational material or adopt a puppy. Such things will help buff the paint and condition the upholstery of your life. Just be sure to remember to tighten the nuts and bolts that hold it all together.
Vidya has a favorite saying about happiness. It’s even the title of the chapter she wrote for my up-coming eBook on happiness. If you read much of Vidya’s writing, you may be smiling and mouthing the words already. She uses them regularly and are worthy of the repetition.
Have you already guessed? One of her mottos in life is that “Happiness is a DIY Project.” And she’s right, of course. Only by “doing” happiness ourselves will we ever be happy.
We can place ourselves on a shelf and wait for someone else (a lover, a friend, a boss, coworker or a parent) to come along and decide to pick us up, dust us off, and do something happy with us. Or we can proactively construct a happy life on our own (which, by the way, increases the likelihood that others will want to tag along).
I choose the latter.

How about you?
Ken Wert is a personal development blogger at Meant to be Happy where he inspires readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage. Sign up for his free eBook, A Walk Through Happiness and newsletter! Connect with him on Twitter.

Thank you, dear Ken!
From Wikipedia: About Teacher’s Day in India

“It is the birthday [5 September 1888 ],of the second President of India, academic philosopher Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. It is considered a “celebration” day, where teachers and students report to school as usual but the usual activities and classes are replaced by activities of celebration, thanks and remembrance. At some schools on this day, the responsibility of teaching is taken up by the senior students to show appreciation for their teachers.”

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Elle September 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Super post Vidya and Ken. Happiness in particular and life in general are definitely an ‘inside job’.

I’m off to do a little housekeeping…of the inner kind of course.

Love elle

Vidya Sury September 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Housekeeping of the inner kind! How brilliant that sounds, Elle! 😀 So glad you’re here today! Hugs!

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:09 am

Thanks Elle! Inner housekeeping is a wonderfully on-going process that is itself part of the happiness quotient. So have fun with your housekeeping from the inside out!

Terri Sonoda September 5, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I choose the latter, too, Ken! Fabulous post. I’m a believer. I’ll be checking out your blog and your book. Thanks for hosting Ken, Vidya. Very enjoyable post. I’m both inspired and uplifted!

Vidya Sury September 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Thank you, Terri! You’ll love Ken’s blog. Huge hugs to you!

Ken, I just love Terri! She’s a most amazing person and I am so happy she’s my friend.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:12 am

I’m thrilled I was able to inspire and uplift, Terri. It was a pleasure to write for Vidya. Isn’t she such an amazing person? Look forward to seeing you poke around my side of the block!

Priya Sreeram September 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

lovely post by ken; thanks for sharing it vidya 🙂

Vidya Sury September 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thank you, Priya! Good to see you!

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:12 am

It was my pleasure, Priya. Thanks so much for saying so.

Harleena Singh September 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Loved the post Ken and nice to see you here!Oh yes…I choose the latter as well because for me happiness is a state of mind. We can be happy any moment WE want, or we may not be happy even if we have everything we need around us. so, it all really depends on what OUR definition of happiness is.I remember my Moms words of wisdom that she always shared with us saying that very little is needed to make a happy life, which now I realize is so true!Those sure are wonderful traits of happiness that need to be held together by nuts and bolts, just as you mentioned. Without holding them all together and willing a change in your thoughts and wanting happiness in your life, things really don’t happen.Thanks for sharing and glad you got Ken over Vidya. 🙂

Vidya Sury September 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Your Mum was absolutely right, Harleena. We do need very little to be happy. My Mum said the same thing. When it comes right down to it – taking stock of what we cannot live without and what we can live without,we’ll be surprised at all the things we would never miss if we didn’t have them. I am fortunate to have experienced it. As Ken describes, the five traits make a solid foundation.

Thank you for your comment, Harleena. Always a pleasure to have you over.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:19 am

Hi Harleena. Thanks so much for your kind words. You’re so right! We don’t need much to be happy other than an attitude that allows it. There are people who have more than most people on the planet and still whine and complain about what they don’t have. And then there are those who have virtually nothing by the standards of possessions and live with joy and love and purpose and meaning and a pervasive sort of happiness that fills all parts of their lives.

It all starts inside, within us, with what we choose to pay attention to, what we choose to be thankful for, what we choose to think about and what we choose to dwell on.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Harleena.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:21 am


Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post here at your wonderful blog.

PS: My Mom read the draft of my upcoming eBook, Perspectives on Happiness and said you were one of the better writers.

Just thought you would be tickled to know that!

Vidya Sury September 6, 2012 at 5:23 am

I love your Mom already! I am more than tickled – I am excited! Is she “Gwen Wert” in your photos? 🙂 I spent some time browsing your photos yesterday. Ah, made me so nostalgic for my own “joint-family” days – only we didn’t have a camera!

I can’t wait to read the entire book, Ken! I am just so very pleased to be a contributor!

Bill Dorman September 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Hey Ken, good stuff. Yes, it has to come from within; if we are waiting for external influences to make us happy we will never be satisfied.

Be happy for what you have and what you can do for others and it will be a much more fulfilled life indeed.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 4:58 am

Thanks Bill. It’s almost paradoxical that the more we get out of ourselves and do for others, the happier we’ll be. Likewise, the more we focus on ourselves for happiness, the more elusive it will be.

So while it is an inside job for sure, much of that job is the work we do developing the love of others, compassion, empathy and other altruistic character traits.

But like you said, to go searching for it outside, in the house or car or fame or power or prestige or bank account, is to chase shadows.

Vidya Sury September 6, 2012 at 5:19 am

So wisely and succinctly put, Bill! (I am watching the word count you know!). So good to see you here!

Ken, Bill is in my “Top 20” – need I say more?


Bill Dorman September 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm


Joy September 6, 2012 at 2:39 am


Thank you for introducing me to Ken and his message…I *love* his style and insights 🙂


I am delighted to have “found” you here 🙂

I absolutely agree that happiness is internal; we choose the quality of our experience when we choose the lens we will view it through…gratitude amplifies abundance in all realms!

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 5:03 am

Thanks so much, Joy (love that name, by the way!)

I particularly liked this line: “we choose the quality of our experience when we choose the lens we will view it through.”

Such truth spoken here, Joy. And what’s empowering is the knowledge that we are in charge of the lens! We can keep the lens fashioned for us in our youth or trade it out for a new one of our choice. My favorite lens through which to view the world is gratitude.

Vidya Sury September 6, 2012 at 5:17 am

Oh Joy! Bear hugs to you! I was thinking of you when I read Ken’s post – and how much you would love it! You made my day by coming over.

And oh – yesterday evening, the skies were beautiful. A group of clouds changed shape constantly to look like a bird in flight. I imaged that the cloud was taking a message of love to you, from me!

Ken, I just love Joy! I spent a delightful hour (or two) with her on Skype!

Pattu Raj September 6, 2012 at 5:22 am

Lovely thoughts to go absorb, Vidya. thanks.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm

So glad you consider my thoughts absorb-worthy, Pattu. Happy absorption! 🙂

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 6:42 am

Thanks, Pattu. Ken is super! I am still dreaming of your garden post rains!

personalpower4me September 6, 2012 at 2:50 am

‘Mr Happy’ has done it again,
congratulations Ken…and to Vidya for having Ken here…keep it coming Ken’be good to yourself

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 5:05 am

Mr. Happy, huh? Haha! I like that! Thanks for the comment. Happiness is my favorite topic, so I’ll keep it coming for sure.

Ken Wert September 6, 2012 at 5:10 am

Okay, Vidya, I failed to read the intro earlier. You made me blush! You are just too kind. I know exactly where to go whenever I start having self-doubts or whenever I look in the mirror and sense my head is a little small that day! 😉

You are such a wonderful person, Vidya. Being here is my privilege — and I mean that sincerely.

Thanks so much to your warm welcome and everyone else’s warmness as well.

You’re the best!

Vidya Sury September 6, 2012 at 5:14 am

🙂 I just realized you said the exact same thing Galen said! 😀 Hey, but it is the truth. You just rock. (and it is not just your good looks am referring to *wink*).

Being able to relate real-life stuff with personal development is a special gift and you have it, Ken. Blessed am I to have connected with you!

Much love!

Vidya Sury September 6, 2012 at 5:15 am

Love the Mr.Happy title! 😀

My Inner Chcik September 6, 2012 at 9:06 pm

***No matter how you slice it, a life without gratitude is a life without happiness***

This is one of the truest sentences I ever heard.

Love flowing to your heart, Vidya <3 xxxx

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Thanks Kim,

I think that one of the most miserable bunch of people I’ve ever known are ingrates. They are thankless and see only a sort of obligatory drudgery in living. They expect things a particular way and are angry when things are even slightly askew of that expectation. There’s no way to be happy like that.

But when we start looking for what we can be thankful for in every situation, the situation itself is suddenly changed. It brightens and becomes something richer and more meaningful than it appeared before the changed attitude.

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 6:44 am

My dearest Kim! You have such a knack of picking the best sentence! More love your way – and I love you more than twelve dolphins playing in the ocean!

Hiten September 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Hi Ken,

I’m so thrilled to see you at Vidya’s blog. And Vidya when I heard over on Twitter that Ken was at your blog, I had to rush over here! Thanks for getting Ken over at your blog. You are both two of my favourite bloggers!

Ken I have to agree with what Vidya said at the beginning. You have an amazing way with words, my friend. I would say you’re so talented and you are. However, when you write, you write truly from your heart and this makes so much of a difference.

As you explained in your brilliant guest post, real happiness comes from the simple things in life like being grateful and kind to one another, finding true purpose in our lives and overcoming the bondage to the material world. Such things will always bring lasting happiness. Those who teach to look externally for happiness are false and need to be ignored.

I really enjoyed your guest post.

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

Hey Hiten, so glad you rushed over! It’s good to see you here in the comments! And thank you for your kind words. Means a lot to me.

Sometimes when things in life start spiraling and our own little world starts crashing around us, we look for something huge to come sweep the problems away so we can be happy once again. But like you said, it’s usually the small things, the daily things, the perspective shifts and the ability to see the good in what seems so bad at the moment that allows happiness to settle in.

Thanks for sharing your insight, my friend.

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

That makes two of us, Hiten – thrilled. And yes, Ken has a big warm heart full of goodness and wisdom to share – in a way we want to hear!

Thank you, Hiten. Good to see you here!

Julie September 7, 2012 at 1:22 am

Hi Vidya and Ken, You’re right – absolutely no one can do this for you. They can help, they can guide, they can say the right thing at the right moment (I’ve noticed Vidya is an expert at this!)…but otherwise you have to simply decide that it is so, and move on from there. It’s fascinating to me how circumstances don’t matter, it’s state of mind that matters.

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 7:04 am

Ah, Julie! I’ve been thinking of you each morning. Funny – while you were commenting here, I must have been over at your blog!

Your comment is so sweet – I’ve been accused often of being honest and speaking my mind. What was it…ah, calling a spade a spade. We had a family astrologer who often said I’d ruin my chances at most things by being honest. And I’d say – so be it! 😀 Au contraire, my Mom always thought I was honest in a diplomatic way. So, nice balance there.

You are right about doing it on our own – for therein lies the maximum satisfaction – from where stems the state of mind!

Thanks for your presence here, Julie. Hugs!

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Hi Julie,

Yes, I’m coming to think Vidya is an expert at a whole host of things, not least of which is her expertise in goodness and kindness and compassion and making people feel wonderful and important and loved.

I’m also fascinated that circumstances are largely irrelevant to our happiness. I grew up thinking otherwise. But what a liberating concept to know I don;t have to wait until something outside of me to occur or change to be happy!

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm

What your family astrologer didn’t see is that most things honesty destroys should be destroyed or should have never been in the first place! 🙂

Just saying! 🙂

Julie September 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Vidya, yes the universe does seem to be “funny” that way – across the world doesn’t seem to matter, the minds meet anyway! I love an honest diplomat. I love the truth too but am not very diplomatic. Maybe I will learn that the next time around 🙂

Ken, Yes – that’s it!

Vidya Sury September 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

🙂 Yes, I love that the minds meet anyway! I learned to sugarcoat only when I started my career. But truth prevails, sugarcoated or not! And that’s the only thing that really matters. I am not counting the little lies I told my son as he grew up. I like to assume it was all on a need-to-know basis. 😀 Mommy license! Oh well, he still believes that a kiss can make everything okay. How lucky can I get!

Hugs! I love that you came back!

Cathy | Treatment Talk September 7, 2012 at 1:58 am

Hi Ken and Vidya,

Enjoyed reading this post on happiness. You have the perfect recipe to make it happen. Happiness is a choice, and you’ve us wonderful reasons to choose to be happy. Thanks for a great post!

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 7:05 am

Thank YOU, Cathy, for being here. I loved your interview at Tal Gur’s blog! I know you’re going to be a fabulous Recovery Coach!

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

So glad you enjoyed it, Cathy. Long time no see. Hope all is good on your side of the farm!

Yes, happiness IS a choice. And as we expand our capacity to choose, to move away from being reactionary to choosing our thoughts and responses to life, living a values-driven life, our happiness expands too.

And that’s pretty exciting!

Galen Pearl September 7, 2012 at 3:18 am

I agree with you, Vidya–Ken is one of the best, and his dashboard post deserves to be read again and again. It was brilliant.

I think these five traits cover a lot of ground. I was especially drawn to decency as a component of happiness. So true. I remember a conversation I had with my daughter when she was in high school. Like many of her peers, she thought that being kind and respectful was not cool. When I continued to insist on a certain standard of behavior, she wailed, “Why do you have such high expectations for me?” I replied, “High? These are just the baseline expectations for being a decent human being. We haven’t even gotten to high yet.” Fortunately, she has turned out to be a pretty decent human being. And a happy one.

Thanks, Ken, for another great post. And Vidya, like you, I often read Ken’s posts and wish I had written them myself!

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 7:10 am

🙂 Galen, hugs for being here. You know, while growing up, while I was quite the serene tongue-in-cheek humorous type, I too have questioned my Mom several times about being nice and polite with people who were pure…um…excreta, you know? I remember asking the exact same question about high expectations. And she’d say the same thing about decency. Of course she was right. 🙂 As are you. Which is why you’re my magnet.

I love how, over time, we form a set of super-favorites. I am very happy that Mr Happy – oops – Ken is here today. It is precious to me.

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Awww, go on! 🙂

Galen, I’m reading your book and loving it!

I love your exchange with your daughter. Teenagers are just a hoot! I’ve been teaching 16 and 17 year olds for over a decade now and am always fascinated by their thinking. I guess our job as parents is to keep showing them the ascending path and praying they one day find it their own.

Thank you for sharing here, Galen. Always love your comments (as I’ve said before … and will likely say again!)

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I completely agree about teenagers – my almost-15 year old rocks. I love that he’s my Chief Advisor sometimes – always has a simple solution for everything – no matter how complex my problem! 😀

Barbara September 7, 2012 at 6:40 am

No, I do not want to be the one sitting on the shelf, waiting to be picked up and dusted off – what imagery, so lovely, thanks Ken and Vidya.
Chosen a reliable car with comfortable upholstery and regularly servicing makes a good ride, no?

Vidya Sury September 7, 2012 at 7:30 am

😀 Barbara! We’d rather be sitting a the table, enjoying that spicy chutney and conversation, no? Yes!

In that car – “reliable” is the operative word! Reminds me of an old friend’s car – used to look as though it was on its way to the dump to be demolished always – but thinking back – we had the most amazing picnics for over two decades in that one – as all the friends in the group remember fondly. Of course, the guy has moved up in life and drives a BMW…but that’s another story.

So….get that wine out, my dear Barbara. Big bear hugs to you!

Ken Wert September 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Hi Barbara,

Sitting on shelves with dust isn’t the way to go, for sure. Sitting at the table with just about any kind of spicy food and conversation is much better!

Betsy at Zen Mama September 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Vidya and Ken,
Wow! What a post! I couldn’t agree more about happiness. I love both of your blogs and everything you post is amazing. Ken, I love the 5 traits you mention. Gratitude (although I really can’t chose among the traits) is definitely a big one. When you can feel true gratitude everything else seems to fall into place.

Thank you both for a wonderful read. I’m not surprised though… everything I read from both of you is inspiring.


Ken Wert September 8, 2012 at 1:53 am

Hi Betsy!

So good of you to share your thoughts here. I like that, “true gratitude.” There are people who EXPRESS gratitude, perhaps out of a sense of obligation or maybe by habit, who don’t really feel it in their hearts. Or perhaps it’s a situational feeling (for opening the door for me or buying me a birthday gift), but isn’t at the level of a general attitude about life. It’s when it is a spontaneous expression of a deeper sense of appreciation for all life has to offer that it begins to reach the level of true gratitude, at least the kind that significantly enriches happiness.

Thanks so much for your always-kind words, Betsy.

Barbara September 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

LOL! By tomorrow I will sit at a different table and raise my glass in your direction: salute!

I am very happy with my reliable car (it is not a BMW but quite close!) as it will transport my precious three old ladies (Chica included) to a happy place!

And the wine is out! Big bear hugs, my very dear friend!

Akos Fintor September 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Vidya and Ken,

Your post reminds me of a quote from Ab Lincoln: “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.”

It is an inside job!Agreed 100%


Vidya Sury September 13, 2012 at 3:19 am

Akos, Welcome! That quote is one of my favorites – which is why I keep harping on happiness being a DIY project 😀 I am very happy you’re here today. Ken is very, very awesome.

Hope to see you again soon! Love, Vidya

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