5 Happiness Traps That You Should Not Fall For: Be Aware and Stay Happy

Last Update on October 9, 2020 : Published on October 11, 2020
5 Happiness Traps That You Should Not Fall For

I was recently reading an article in Harvard Business Review and it made me shift my perspective on what happiness really means at the workplace. Driven by the real-life example of Sharon (a vice-president at a global energy firm), the author’s consulting clients, she identified some common “happiness traps” that we may all fall into. I believe that it is something we should be all aware of so that we live a life that meets the true happiness criteria.

Before sharing these 5 happiness traps with you let us understand what “happiness trap” means.

Happiness Traps: They are the mindsets and activities that we are actively engaged in thinking of them as the true source of happiness. But, in reality, these mindsets and ways of thinking keep us unhappy, stuck, and unsuccessful in life.

The sad reality is that we continue to stew in these happiness traps as we are not aware of them. So let us create awareness and generate happiness at the workplace by knowing these “happiness traps.”

5 Common Happiness Traps

1. The Ambition Trap

Work-life is all about goals! Setting goals, achieving goals and then celebrating goals. We tend to see each goal as a new challenge and we strive to achieve it. Well, this goal cycle, this habit of running and achieving a set goal brings happiness till the time we are on the healthier side of it by not letting the feelings of hyper-competition take over. Secondly, the new studies that have found a close relationship between ambition and depression (success syndrome) also suggest that we attach our happiness with that goal rather than the process, and once we achieve it we doom to depression. So, this temporary source of happiness trap should be avoided at all costs. Here is how McKee describes it:

“In working with managers and leaders, you’ve probably seen all too often that the individual for whom the goal is the goal, right? Each new goal is a new challenge and it sounds really exciting, and for a while it is. That next promotion, that next new job, that next bonus. The problem is that year in and year out when we’re constantly seeking that next goal, and when they’re fairly short-term and they’re really about achievement and not the true meaning of following our passion, it can feel really empty after a while.”

How to get out of this happiness trap?

Every Time you have a goal or ambition to run after, make sure that you are not ultra-competitive or too much centric about winning it. Just enjoy the process of attaining that goal, irrespective of the end result.

2. The “Should” Trap

“Shoulds” can lead to cognitive distortions and happiness traps too. At the workplace and in life in general we often feel forced to adhere to different “shoulds” that society and organizations have for us. The problem doesn’t occur till these shoulds are in line with what we believe, but when there comes a discrepancy between the two, the problems arise. Sometimes these “shoulds” captivate our creativity, authenticity, and innovation. That is something that we shouldn’t fall for.

McKee explains,

“I’ve seen too often where the ‘shoulds’ in the workplace really do tamp down our creativity, our innovation, and frankly makes us show up as inauthentic and putting our game face on rather than being who we really are.”

How to get out of this happiness trap?

It is suggested that you should follow your passion and heart because ultimately that is what serves you overall happiness in the long-run. Don’t let the pressure of expectations push you down in life.

3. The Overwork Trap

Work.. Work.. Work.. work… work… work…! Can you relate with this song by Rihanna? Then you probably might be in the overwork trap already. Well, if you love your work and enjoy investing your time in it, then it is definitely happy news. But, you can’t always concentrate on your work alone. Getting some me-time is equally important. McKee referred to overwork as the modern disease. Though it is becoming common these days it has to be taken care of before it starts impacting your health, relationships, and happiness negatively. While your inner drives might push you towards work make sure you don’t fall for this happiness trap. It is short-lived and definitely an unhealthy source of happiness instead.

Here is what McKee has to say about the happiness trap of overwork:

“Overwork is our modern disease. A lot of us work all the time, and this is particularly true, ironically, for people who love our jobs. It’s really hard to turn off, and couple that with access to technology and the demands of our workplaces, and we can find ourselves burning out in very short order, even if we’re strong and resilient.”

How to get out of this happiness trap?

Don’t think of “I’m busy” as a tag that you have to carry all the time. Just find ways to renew yourself and focus on things other than work as well.

4. The Money Trap

Just close your eyes and think of the lifestyle that you want. You might be able to think of a lifestyle, a certain lifestyle that you want to live, for which you will need money. We all need money to live a life that we want. And there is nothing wrong with it. The trap here is that we choose to be a part of unhappy and unhealthy surroundings just because the “money is good.” This is what the money trap is all about. When you choose to be a part of an unhealthy environment for the sake of money. McKee further elaborates this trap by saying,

“It’s fear, fear of insecurity, and money is often a proxy for success, and we’re afraid that if we give it up somehow we’re going to fail. You go down that route of insecurity and fear, and well, that’s the antithesis of happiness now, isn’t it?”

How to get out of this happiness trap?

Don’t let temporary feelings, emotions, and desires overshadow your reason to earn money in life. Let your good work follow our money instead of us following it as a goal.

5. The Helplessness Trap

“I can’t do anything,” “It wasn’t in my favor,” “It wasn’t in my hands!” Do you often have such thoughts popping in your head when you are at your workplace? If yes, then you might be stewing in the helplessness trap. The helplessness trap will make you feel that there is nothing under your control or you have no power over your work life. This further leads to different mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and more. McKee shared her views on getting out of this trap before it takes the face of real and deep problems,

“…have the conversation with that manager about getting you on some new projects or doing some things that are more engaging and exciting for you before you do get trapped by a feeling of helplessness.”

How to get out of this happiness trap?

Basically, start having a conversation with your heads and unveil the power that lies within you.

I hope that you are going to find this article as an eye-opener and now you will be able to find the true sense of happiness at your workplace.

Want to check if you have already fallen in the happiness trap or not?

Fill this quick checklist. The more the number of “yes” the more the chances that your beliefs are limiting you.

  • I can only be happy if _____ happens.
  • I will only be happy if I get ______.
  • My happiness can’t last forever.
  • If I am happy now, I should always be happy.
  • I have no reason to be upset, so that must mean I am happy.
  • It takes a lot of work to find happiness.
  • Happiness is easily taken
  • Happiness does not exist.
  • I should be happy all the time.
  • I do not deserve to be happy.
  • I do not know how to be happy.

Remember, you might encounter one of these issues in one way or the other just be aware of what is holding you back and move forward in your life.

Be limitless… be happy.

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. Aditi Singh
    Aditi Singh

    Informative article. Enjoyed it while reading. It is good to have ambition but really hard to overcome it once you fall into its trap.

  2. Kerin

    I have been in ambition and money trap for a long time now. Plus, Covid has made things worse. Not able to get through it even after trying.

  3. Amara Smith
    Amara Smith

    5th point occur in my mind again and again. you got me very well.

  4. CHTN

    SHOULD & OVERWORK are the traps I have been falling for quite a long time.. now I know what are those & how to fight them to succeed.

  5. somya

    money trap, mostly persons are working for money. for this they choose unhappy and unhealthy surroundings

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