6 Things You DON’T Need to be Happy

Here are a 6 things that a lot of returned missionaries (and most people) think they need to be happy, but you really don’t. Feel free to disagree and suggest others in the comments. And if you haven’t read it yet, don’t miss the newest post on 14 Reasons Why Happy People Are Happy.

1. To be Married.

Returned Missionary - Marriage

How many of you had an interview with your mission president before leaving the mission? (Everyone) How many of those interviews mentioned something like this: “You have completed your mission. Your next mission is to find a spouse and be married.” Most mission presidents say something similar. This is great! Marriage really is an incredibly important thing and an institution that is ordained of God. However, I would like to dispel a myth here. Some think “to be happy as a returned missionary, I have to be married.” Not so. Happiness is not dependent upon your relationship status. Research does show that people who have close relationships are happier, but that could be a relationship with your brother, sister, friend, mentor, aunt, or anyone. 1 Please don’t get me wrong. I’m married and super happy! I love marriage! And the greatest potential for joy exists when you share it with another. But I was a happy person before I was married, and so was my wife. We both chose to be happy people before we even knew each other. And now we are happy people, who are married. Consider the words of Elder Marvin J. Ashton:

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I have yet to see marriage, by itself, turn an unhappy person into a happy person. A really happy married person is almost always one who was or could have been happy as a single person…While we are striving for quality conduct in our lives, we must ever realize that being single will never be as painful as being married to the wrong person. Avoid getting married just to be married. 2

I would caution returned missionaries who believe that just being married by itself (the status of officially having a ring on your finger) will make you happier than not being married. Being a quality person (read the talk by Elder Ashton below) and living a happy life will make you happy. Being married, just to be married, will not make you happy. Living a happy lifestyle and choosing to be happy will make you happy. In Mormon culture, it is often difficult to feel accepted if you are a single person between the age of 22 and 29. I know because I was one. Just remember that there is a huge difference between culture and truth. Don’t get sucked into the culture. Remember the truth and choose to be a happy person and live a life of purpose. Then, if you find another person who is choosing to be happy and also living a life of purpose, you may consider marriage with that person. If you are a happy person living a fulfilling life, I can almost guarantee that you are going to attract (and be attracted to), another happy person who is living a fulfilling life. Once you are married, your fulfillment and happiness just increases with someone who is living in the same way. Be happy now. Don’t wait for marriage to be happy or you may end up being more of a “menace to society” than you would have been as an unmarried RM over the age of 25. Though the greatest potential for joy is experienced in married life, happiness is not dependent upon being married.

So be happy now, whether you are married or not.

2. Money and Stuff.

Happiest People Quote - Landfill Harmonic - Returned Missionary

From the Landfill Harmonic project.

A true measure of your wealth is how much you would be worth if you lost all your money 3 You don’t need money to be happy. The studies show that happiness is not for sale. Money does not have a direct correlation to happiness. It is true that people who have enough to cover their basic needs such as food, housing and health care are happier than the rest, but once the basic needs have been covered, money loses its ability to make people happy. Even the 100 wealthiest people (from Forbes Magazine) didn’t appear to be much happier than the rest of the population who were not as wealthy. The data shows that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. 4

3. The Approval of Others.

To Thine Own Self Be True William Shakespeare - Returned Missionary Quotes

The happiest people don’t need approval from people around them. This is one of the great enemies to reaching your potential. If you go around trying to please people your whole life, you may end up becoming someone else’s idea of success. I love this quote by Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford commencement address he gave in 2005:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Don’t get trapped. Live your own life. Make your own goals. If your dad is a doctor and wants you to be a doctor, but you want to be a photographer, be a photographer! Don’t live your dad’s vision of success. You don’t need their approval to be happy. Consider Patricia Holland’s counsel5:

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“We are becoming so concerned about having perfect figures, or straight A’s, or professional status . . . that we are being torn from our true selves. We often worry so much about pleasing and performing for others that we lose our own uniqueness, that full and relaxed acceptance of ourselves as a person of worth and individuality.”

And the lovely Sharon Samuelson:

“The world in which we live today tells us that our sense of worth is based upon what is seen or accomplished. We are measured by possessions and wealth, physical appearance and dress styles, social status and achievements. Too many of us strive to gain acceptance using these standards, trying to enhance the perception of our worth by those who are part of our lives as well as those who view us from afar. If we are not careful, we can let others determine and establish our standards and feelings of self-worth. We can become someone else’s image of success rather than our own.” 6

Don’t become someone else’s vision of success. Live your own life. Be your own master. To thine own self be true.

4. Ideal Circumstances.

It’s not about the circumstances that surround us, but about the attitude we have about those circumstances. And our attitude and mindset can actually affect our circumstances. I’m no Chicago Bull’s fan, but I love the story of Michael Jordan’s 5th game in the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan had the flu. He woke up the night before the game with a cold sweat and feeling like he was going to die. This was a nasty flu. But Michael Jordan didn’t let that get him down. It was an important game in the finals and he changed his attitude to believe that he could play. And play he did. He actually scored an amazing 38 points with the flu in an NBA Finals game against some of the best basketball players in the world at that time. How did he do that? It was all in his head. He believed he could and worked himself harder than ever to pull it off. Michael Jordan easily could have just said: “I have the flu” and just watched the game from his hotel room or just slept. But with his attitude he actually created a physiological change in his body to win one of the most impressive NBA games in history. You can’t always control your circumstances, but you CAN always control your attitude about them.

Michael Jordan Flu Game - the Returned Missionary Blog

Michael Jordan after scoring 38 points with the flu in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals

5. A Perfect Past.

You don’t need to have a perfect past to decide to have an abundant present and a beautiful future. Let’s take a few examples of people who didn’t have a perfect past, but who decided, regardless, to make something of their present.

  • Abraham Lincoln: got fired from multiple jobs, his sweetheart died, he had a nervous breakdown, was forced out of his home, his mother died, and he was defeated many times in elections. However, he still managed to become one of the most influential men in the history of this world.
  • Both Alma’s: We’ll start with dad – he was a wicked priest who (in the words of Abinadi) committed whoredoms and spent his strength with harlots. How did he end up leading a group of the faithful, baptizing hundreds, and becoming one of the most powerful prophets of the Book of Mormon? Now Alma the younger – he was a very wicked and idolatrous man who led many of the people to do after the manner of iniquities. He became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them. He went about to destroy the church of God (See Mosiah 27:8-14). Then the angel came. And a mighty change happened. After Alma the younger decided to change, he became a great prophet who led the people in righteousness and performed miracles and ultimately was so righteous he was translated.
  • The Apostle Paul: Saul of Tarsus was a man of great reputation. He was a Roman citizen. He was well educated and well respected by those in his spheres of influence, but he was persecuting those in the Church and, like Alma the younger’s previous life, was trying to take it down. He even held the coat of the men who stoned one of the apostles to death. He watched it happen and supported the wicked deeds. But he changed. Maybe he was speaking of himself when he said this: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 7
  • Oprah Winfrey: She grew up in a broken home, was sexually abused as a young child, was the only black girl in an all-white high school, after living a rebellious teenage life she got pregnant at age 14. Then she read an inspirational book by Maya Angelou and decided to change her life and become a voice for good. She is still one of the most influential women in the world.

Oprah Winfrey



6. Control of the Changes in Life or even in Your Body.

Art of leper colony in India

This is from Rising Star Outreach. You really should look at what they are doing.

There are leper colonies all over India. Seems like if you had leprosy, it would be almost impossible to be happy, right? Well, some of these people are amazing. They run businesses, put on incredible dance performances, create art, and contribute to their society. Some of their fingers or toes are falling off, but they have smiles on their faces.

It’s almost certain that at some point in your life, something will happen to you that you have no control over. There are actually a lot of things that you can’t control. Here are just a few:

  • What other people say
  • What other people do
  • What other people think about you
  • The weather
  • Your genetic inheritance (I inherited a history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Yay!)
  • Whether or not you will get cancer, heart disease or some other disease
  • When you die
  • Gas prices
  • Who is in your family
  • Your age
  • Traffic or other people’s road rage
  • God’s will

Here are some things that you CAN control:

  • How often you smile
  • How you react to other people
  • Your integrity
  • How well you are prepared
  • How grateful you are
  • Your own interpretation of events that happen
  • Whether you compare yourself to others or not (wouldn’t recommend comparing yourself to anyone)
  • How much exercise you get
  • How much sleep you get (this may be debatable)
  • How you interpret your past
  • How you live in the present
  • The goals you set for the future
  • How much you commit yourself to
  • Your creativity
  • The amount of information you share with others
  • The books you read
  • Whether or not you watch TV
  • The type of and amount of information you consume (thank you for consuming this)
  • When you ask for assistance from others
  • Whether or not you believe what other people tell you
  • How often to share your love
  • How often you pray
  • Your connection to God

And though you can’t control if you will get heart disease, diabetes or cancer, a great way to decrease the risk of getting these is to stop focusing on all of the things you CAN’T control and focus on all of the things that you CAN control. I hope the list above got you thinking.

We don’t have to wait for the perfect day or the perfect circumstance. Choose to be happy now. 🙂

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
―Abraham Lincoln




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  1. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA and David Myers, PhD – Pursuit of Happiness, Characteristics of Happy People, May 2013.
  2. See talk “Be A Quality Person”, Marvin J. Ashton.
  3. See the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog. It is really great.
  4. Excerpts from the previously mentioned article by Murali Krishna.
  5. Patricia T. Holland, “The Soul’s Center” (13 January 1987), BYU 1986–87 Devotional and Fireside Speeches(Provo: BYU, 1987), 84.
  6. Sharon Samuelson, A Place Within His Heart, BYU Devotional given January 10, 2006.
  7. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.


  1. I don’t think I was a sad person before getting married, but I wouldn’t ever be so happy if I was single. Marriage, when done with the correct person, is the closest experience you can havo of heaven on earth, because it is your own family to take care of.
    And one other thing, you need to be married to achieve exaltation, and I think it would be a happy thing to get this blessing.


    • Thanks Marcus. I totally agree with you. Marriage with the right person (especially if you are also the right person first) is so amazing. Over 50% of the Church population is single and I wanted to help them to know that they don’t have to wait to be married to be happy. Some people will never be married in this life. Should they just wait till they are given the chance to be married in the next life to be happy? Exaltation is only attained with marriage, but there would be a lot of people who don’t get it who were incredibly faithful people in this life. I just want to give hope to those who may not fit inside the box of socially acceptable Mormon. I know you are well meaning and I totally agree with you. I LOVE marriage. It is way happier than being single even when I was happy and single. It is amazing.

      I just hope everyone chooses to be happy now, whether single or married. And everyone can choose to be happy. It is a choice. 🙂

  2. Saul Castillo says:

    This was such a great article, It helped me a lot. And the story abou MJ was just amazing thanks a lot.

  3. Penny Kreais-Lange says:

    I am so glad you POSTED this on my FB page, it is so true. Marriage is an eternal not just temporary. YOUR FAITH is more then just a membership, it is , WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU ARE…. I am MY HEAVENLY FATHERS DAUGHTER>… and I mean this from the bottom of my heart. When you marry or consider a relationship before marriage, even friends you wish to hang with, best advise is : BIRDS of the SAME FEATHERS, need to FLOCK together.

  4. i love this article

  5. Love it. All of it. I’m 27 and single, and can attest to everything you say here from personal experience. That said, did you have to bring up the flu game? Come on. Here I am feeling a good and inspired and all, and then boom, dagger to the heart. again. not cool.

    • Sam, I’m so glad you liked it. Sorry about the Jazz slander. I didn’t mean it. But you gotta admit, MJ was pretty amazing in that game! (I was there cheering on the Jazz, but still thought that was incredible!)

  6. I wanted to clear up something that Marcus said in his comment and that is that one has to be married to be exalted. While that is true according to LDS doctrine, one does NOT have to be married in this life to be exalted. If one has done what he or she honestly can do to find the right mate but things have not worked out, through no fault of one’s own, then they will be sealed in the next life to a mate who is worthy of them. One should never worry about dying unmarried; it will all be worked out in the next life.

    Andy, your article is really spot on. I appreciate you for writing it. Thank you.

  7. This is great advice Andy. I’ve been home for almost five years and I can still apply a lot of it. I also was wondering if you guys accept guest posts?

  8. Thank’s for this article. I am one of those who “may not fit inside the box of socially acceptable Mormon.” and I choose to be. Although I don’t do anything that are too bad nor sinful, I don’t like the idea of being a cookie cutter kind of Mormon. Thank you for being fair. I’m sick and tired of Mormon related articles that are too biased and self righteous.

  9. Amazingly well written. Thanks for writing this!

  10. I think that this is one of the best articles I’ve read!!! I will be forwarding this to my two brothers. 🙂 I would like to add one more thing, though. As someone who has been married/sealed for 9 years but has never carried a pregnancy to term, I’d like to say that you don’t need children o be happy. Once you work through things and realize that our Father in Heaven is in charge, you will become a more naturally happy person. It took me far too long to realize that. But I’m so glad I did! 🙂 Thanks again for this!

  11. I believe that great plan of happiness starts in having your own family which is to get married, this is the highest ordinance so someone must truly prepare him/serself before going into. However, you must marry the right person enable for a couple to be happy and feel a bit the great plan of happiness during mortality. I got married 9 months after my mission i have decided to do so through sincere prayer inquiring what should i do after my mission-being in a 3rd world county is tough. I rely on the weight of revelation cause in my country that is only thing we have left, to exercise my faith-hoping for things which are not seen. The same procedure i followed when choosing the right partner i prayed and ask the Lord who will be the right mother to my children, i also asked who is the right girl to support me in my church callings and employment-which is tough since i’m not a degree holder. Then i met a girl to whom i receive a personal revelation with, the right person i’m looking. i proposed to her got married 6 months after, we have now 6 children, i can now afford to have her stay at home as full time mother. I think what makes us happy is always counsel with the Lord then act upon it for sure he will direct thee for good. I don’t think i can make it without my family and callings in the church, as the scriptures says “seek ye first the kingdom of God and all of these things shall be added unto you.”

  12. Great article, just wanted to say: this article kind of made it sound like Oprah was a wild party girl and that’s why she got pregnant. She was actually horrifically abused and molested by a family member, and the pregnancy was a result. (Sorry–just love me some Oprah.) 🙂

  13. Lauren Stanford says:

    This was amazing. Usually I don’t Comment on blogs, but this one I absolutely loved. Great insight, great work!!!

  14. Love this! Any suggestions on how to get a teen to understand this?

  15. thanks for this wonderful insights. I used to live some of these, but somehow forgotten to continue with. i really like the most #s 1, 4 & 6.. but all of them are great. it is just that those #s really made me think and rethink myself again..

  16. I have to say, I am inactive but slowly going back to church & I just LOVE this article! I am not a return missionary but I love the moral of this story and thought. I especially LOVE the things we can and can’t control. It is so TRUE! I have to remember those words. Thank you! This had touched my soul and given me a different outlook on life and my daily living/thoughts.

  17. Yesterday marked 3 years that I left to go in my mission. I was sent home early and I have steered my university degree, got married and I am now a new father. Although I am an honourably released returned missionary, I don’t class myself as one. I really wish I had read this post when I first guy back from my mission, as it have helped to put a lot of things into perspective for me. You can read my blog post talking about my experience of coming home early here:

  18. Interesting Article. I feel in love with a missionary in my area and he fell in love with me.

    People in the church are telling us not to continue because of our age difference. It doesn’t matter to me but he has been influenced by others to think of this as wrong. I love him from my heart. First one in my life that I feel this way towards. Heart broken that he would live to please man. after he heard from The Lord that I was his wife. Broken more than people understand.

  19. Alejandro Gutiérrez says:

    Great Article Andy. This is very helpful for everyone, specially if we are trying to bring Support to the Returned Missionaries. Most of them are confused looking for happiness, the real happiness.

    Im agree with the 6 points mentioned above. I was Happy before married, once i found and meet my wife my life has been happier.

    Even, when we are married depends of everyone in marriage get happiness.

    Thank you Again,

  20. This is awesome. I love everything about this article.

  21. Jennifer Hovis says:

    Thank you so much for this article, as an older single myself I sometimes wonder why I am not yet married. Fortunately living in Iowa there is less of a ‘Mormon culture’ issue than other places seem to have. Still I forget sometimes that being single is Okay as long as you are good with God. I had a Branch President once tell me that being Happily married is the best situation, the one below that is happily single, that it is better to be happily single than unhappily married, you reiterated that for me. Thank you.

  22. Wow! Where do I start? Inspiring. Captivating. Accurate. Relevant. Counsel. Truth. These are words that come to mind after reading such an inspired article. The two “ideas” that really touched me were 3 and 5. I actually prayed about this-this morning and wrote an inspired note titled Self-actualization in my phone that reads:

    “One day I want to be completely comfortable in my skin. I’m such an
    empathetic person that I usually allow how someone else responds to me or
    how they perceive me to influence my confidence, whether good or bad. Too
    many times in my life I’ve allowed what I think others think of me to
    influence me negatively and to degrade my self-confidence. One day I want
    to not allow others to influence me. I want to live knowing that I know
    what I know, I am the way that I am, and I’m good with being me.
    Specifically, I’ve always been a male with feminine tendencies ever since I
    was little. Because of this others’ perception of me is that I am gay or
    less of a man. Even though I feel I’ve excelled in my academics, social
    life, involvement, and finding my purpose, this area of my life is still a
    struggle. How can I be comfortable around men, who, in their heads, may be
    perceiving me as gay? Because at the end of the day it does affect how they
    act towards me and react to me. In college I haven’t had too many troubles
    with this as many have embraced Byron for who he is. I just want to get to
    a place in my life where I am comfortable in my skin and nothing people say
    or nothing they do can stop me from being me. I love being social,
    and entering a room with a smile on my face and being genuinely concerned
    about people. I like being loud, flamboyant, and funny. I never want anyone
    to stop me from being me. It’s a confidence thing that I need to work out
    with myself. I pray for direction and better understanding regarding this.”

    And again my Heavenly Father answered my prayers and led me to this article.
    Regarding the 5th “idea,” first let me say that I LOVE Oprah so when I had seen her name I was sold. Having a perfect past is “so” not important. I prayed last night about how grateful I am for ever experience I’ve endured. I had a rough upbringing to say the least, but everything that I’ve experienced such as, abuse, losing my father at the age of 2, losing my 11-year-old brother at the age of 6 to the law, the list goes on and on…. What I once thought to be a weakness turned out to be my strength later. Those things gave me experience, and now I am truly the man I know God had in his plan for me to be.

    I just have to thank you for this article. It truly touched me and I plan to re-read this upon returning from my mission in the soon coming years as I am currently waiting on my calling.

  23. Just awesome! Every single word! I loved it!

  24. I just love your articles. Another inspiring one. Grateful to you for the blog as it’s greatly needed. We’ve all experienced returned missionaries struggle after their mission. By the way, your wife is one lucky lady to have you!! (Not to mention your parents) Keep up the great work. You are a gifted writer!!

  25. Thank you for this article. I really appreciated it. I’m brought to think of a line that is said in the tour at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, where I served my mission. “Despite the difficult circumstances, we chose to be happy.” That’s how I try to live my life. I am an RM and single but that’s okay. There are many things that I can do and I’m making the most of life. Thank you for this!

  26. Thank you, I’ve been feeling terribly unhappy this year, I’m going to read this article over and over until it sinks in. I need to remember these things. Thanks again

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