The True Essence of Happiness: Not From Comparison, But From Community and Purpose

There is considerable discourse surrounding the concept of happiness. Certain individuals assert that to attain happiness, one must exhibit a resolute disposition, unshackled by the opinions of others. However, upon meticulous contemplation, it becomes evident that those who possess a willful nature are not truly content, and the fleeting joy they experience quickly dissipates. What then, is the essence of genuine happiness? “The Courage to Be Disliked” proffers the answer.

Exceeding Happiness

Adler posited that relationships serve as both a source of tribulation and a wellspring of bliss. Numerous individuals adhere to the notion that happiness derives from comparing oneself to others. Although the living standards of contemporary society far surpass those of bygone eras, the enhancement of happiness remains relatively meager. The paramount concern for most individuals lies in their relative status within the collective.

Indeed, comparing oneself to others and emerging triumphant can indeed engender happiness, yet this brand of felicity is not without its costs. How, then, can this quandary be resolved? From my observations, I have discerned two strategies devised by people.

One approach involves feigning happiness. There exists a Chinese adage that proclaims, “It suffices to surpass those beneath, rather than those above.” Therefore, I eschew comparisons with those superior to me, focusing solely on those inferior, thereby forcibly instilling a sense of contentment within myself. The other method is that of negative happiness: I consciously admonish myself against comparing with others! I refrain from measuring my worth against that of others, for the fear of falling short.

Both avenues are exercises in self-deception. Fundamentally, they still presuppose that happiness can be evaluated through comparison.

However, the happiness derived from such comparisons cannot be rightfully labeled as such. It is, in truth, a guise for discontentment. This sentiment is evanescent in nature. After prevailing in a particular endeavor, one looks up only to find someone more formidable lying ahead. When my annual salary stood at 100,000 yuan, I believed that attaining 200,000 yuan would bring me happiness. Yet, upon reaching the 200,000 mark, I discovered several individuals in my vicinity earning 500,000 yuan per year.

This existence resembles participation in a mountain-climbing competition. Happiness, it seems, can solely be attained upon reaching the pinnacle. Prior to such an achievement, one can merely be considered as traversing the path towards contentment. This game harbors two predicaments.

Firstly, if the grand goal within one’s heart remains forever elusive, does it not imply that one shall never experience happiness throughout their existence? Secondly, even upon reaching the summit, higher peaks await their ascent.

While each person harbors their own definition of happiness, it would be prudent for one’s conception to be actively rather than passively aligned, so as to genuinely facilitate the realization of happiness.

Sense of Community

The happiness espoused by Adler emanates from the advanced state of interpersonal relations, often referred to as the “sense of community.”

Permit me to expound upon this notion. Consider, for instance, a humble village where the denizens lead rather modest lives, with the village head’s income being no exception. Despite the fact that many villagers boast higher education levels and incomes than the village head, they still turn to the village head for guidance, irrespective of the magnitude of the matter at hand. The village head assumes the role of a linchpin within the entire community. I pose the query: Is this village head content?

One can readily surmise that this village head experiences profound contentment—undoubtedly because he comprehends his intrinsic worth. A strong sense of belonging pervades his being, rendering him the most indispensable member of the village.

Within this village resides a healthcare center. The attending physician possesses modest education, income, and average medical acumen. Nevertheless, whenever a villager falls ill, they invariably seek the doctor’s aid. The physician treats to the best of their abilities, ensuring the villagers do not bear exorbitant medical expenses. When a cure eludes them, the doctor promptly recommends the most suitable hospital for the patient’s needs. Would you say this doctor is content?

The doctor understands that they do not possess the same prominence as the village head, yet they still experience contentment. They embody the first line of defense for the villagers’ well-being and assume an indispensable role within the community.

Now, let us imagine that the doctor has an assistant, whose responsibilities comprise mundane tasks that anyone with dexterity could accomplish. Tonight, the assistant is on duty, while the doctor is absent. In this scenario, is the assistant content?

I contend that, at least during their current shift, the assistant experiences happiness. They stand as sentinels of the health center tonight! Should any mishap occur, they assume full responsibility. The village relies upon them.

Such happiness necessitates no external comparison. In truth, when we ruminate upon it, the so-called happiness derived fromcomparison appears hollow and transient. It is the happiness that arises from a sense of purpose, belonging, and contribution that endures.


In conclusion, the essence of genuine happiness lies not in comparing oneself to others, but in cultivating a sense of community and purpose. Adler’s concept of the “courage to be disliked” emphasizes the importance of living true to oneself, free from the need for external validation. True contentment arises from understanding one’s intrinsic worth and embracing the roles we play within our communities, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be.

By shifting our focus from comparison and external measures of success to fostering meaningful connections with others and making positive contributions, we can unlock a deeper and more sustainable form of happiness. It is through these connections and contributions that we find a sense of purpose and belonging, and ultimately, the true essence of happiness.