The source of happiness has always been a big mystery, but not any longer. Think of a time in your life when you were most happy. Happiness is a bright, sharp, clear, light, radiant state of being, isn’t it? We see blue skies, satisfied bosses and customers, a warm, stable home and meaningful relations. Happiness is associated to when things are going well—in nature, at work and in our personal lives—a reward for an unrestricted flow. It is a state of awareness where one needn’t fear looking at the premises that caused it. In contrast, cynicism and malice—any kind of irrational negativity—is like mud: sticky, gooey, heavy, indeterminate, shapeless and dull—just like the premises that caused it, premises undesirable to reveal, premises we are going to wash away.

Self-help books declare thousands of ways to bring joy into life, but fortunately there is only one fundamental way. Generated by the sound pattern of cognition like all concepts, it has its own set of rules. First, happiness is a state of consciousness;the sole province of the individual. Since one can choose to actively think or to float randomly instead, then consciousness is a matter of choice. Rule 1:Only those who choose to be conscious, can be happy.Next, happiness requires a means to which this desirable state is the end. Once you consistently practice the means, you will have happiness as a constant. The means are efforts of thought and action, which result in self-appreciation. Forget those who lean on their parent’s or their spouse’s money and social position, because only one’s ownpractice of virtue—the capacity to survive independentlyat the level one lives—determines one’s true stature and self-respect. Therefore, Rule 2:Happiness is self-generated.The extent of our own thinking and the vital results based on it is the extent of our worth, period.Finally, Rule 3:Happiness only results from the practice of life-patterns,and is therefore inextricably linked to personal honesty. Happiness is a confirmation that one is on the right course in life, and that the course is worth sustaining (that life is worth living). Happiness is the natural result of the correct process of virtuous action—not the joy of escape, but the shining, glimmering pride of brave vision—of a universe worth seeing, of experiences worth living, of a countenance so appealing, of intimacy so moving, of adventure so exhilarating, of study and contemplation so engaging.

Virtue is notits own reward; it is a means to an end. Our goal in the pursuit of happiness is to expand our fulfillment by virtuous means in our every avenue of interest, to the end of our days. There are no short-cuts to self-esteem; the natural links of cause and effect run all through the pattern. From the axioms of existence and consciousness, to the honest effort of life, to the confidence of the means chosen, to their success, to the pride that follows, to the bravery to form new questions to answer, to the medium of happiness made possible only by the continuation of the process, the flow is discernible and fully accountable.

Happiness is a necessary, spirit-sustaining validation that life is worth living. Confidence alone won’t do it. Security won’t do it. These are sub-elements. A person can be brilliant, rich and active and still be miserable if his means have not addressed his most private heart-felt longings. There can be no compromise at any level of cognition, especially in regard to one’s purpose. The most penetrating happiness is found in the knowledge that one’s deepest, most personal desires are being reached. It is achieved by the steady, lifelong accumulation of one’s owndreams, one after another. It is the trend of actualization that draws the deepest fulfillment; the deepest appreciation of self. Success begins with giving our true goals our best shot; then, win or lose, we know we haven’t wasted our time here. This is where happiness becomes profound and the true meaning of life becomes clear—and priceless.