Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

5 things that won’t make you happy in the New Year

Most of us start the New Year looking for happiness. We make resolutions. We change habits. We try new ideas. And twelve months later we are right back where we started.

Perhaps we are searching in the wrong place.

Photo by Kate Ter Haar (Creative Commons)

Photo by Kate Ter Haar (Creative Commons)

Here are five places we look for happiness that tend to let us down.


Both my wife and I brought school debt into our marriage. For a few years we let it linger, paying the minimum required amount. Then, with some encouragement from Dave Ramsey, we decided to aggressively tackle our debt.

I remember the day we made our last payment. We did a debt-free dance in the kitchen. We were no longer slaves to the bank. Was money that made us happy?

In reality, money made us less unhappy. This is the most we can hope for from money. You can’t buy happiness. It’s not for sell.

Just look at the West where people pursue happiness with their wallets. People (and nations) are submerged in inescapable debt. Like a hiker caught in quicksand, the more we struggle, the quicker we sink.

That’s because we are trying to make money into something it is not—a source of happiness.

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of it filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfied one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man; rely upon it: “Better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasures.” Benjamin Franklin

If you are in debt, by all means, make a resolution, change some habits, and get out. You will feel an immense freedom. But that’s the best money can do for you. It can grant you freedom to pursue happiness, but it can’t make you happy.


Success is like money, there is never enough. 2013 was great year for my blog. I now get more views in a day than I used to get in a month.

But am I satisfied? No. Results that 12 months ago would have filled me with joy now disappoint. As soon as I reach one level of success, I aim for another.

How much success do I need to feel successful? A little more.

Add to this the pressure success brings. Success comes with expectations. Can you repeat your earlier successes? Can you keep people happy?

Successful people get ulcers. Only a few get happier.


If you are looking to other people to make you happy, you will be very disappointed.

While friendship and deep relationships are keys to a happier life, people are not made to carry the full burden of your happiness. They crack under the strain. They make promises and break them. They say hurtful words. They are inconsistent and frustrating.

Parents, your kids weren’t given to you to make you happy.
Kids, it’s not your parents job to make you happy.
Husbands, your wife can’t be the source of your happiness.
Wives, if you are looking to your husband for happiness, you will be disappointed.

We were created for relationships and people play a role in a balanced and happy life. But they cannot be the source of happiness.


I remember buying my first iPod. It was white with a click-wheel. I was mesmerized by the idea I could keep thousands of songs in my pocket. I felt happy.

Then Apple released the next generation of iPods. They were sleeker, lighter, faster and had more storage. And they came in black.

I started noticing how heavy my white iPod felt and how slowly it responded to my touch. I watched advertisements for the new iPod. I started plotting how to get one and my happiness dissipated.

Toys and technology can’t make you happy because there is alway something new. What was cutting-edge yesterday will join the junk drawer tomorrow. It is an endless cycle of desire, delight, and dissatisfaction. But not true happiness.

New Year’s Resolutions

Last year, I accomplished by New Year’s Resolution. I was consistent and faithful. I remained focused for 365 days.

This success gave me more confidence for future resolutions and developed my resolve. But it doesn’t make me happy. I still want more.

I think that’s the problem with all of these categories. No matter how much money and success we have, we always want more. No matter how many resolutions we accomplish, we always want more.

Happiness requires something deeper and more permanent.

A Step Towards Happiness

A friend, Chris Morris, is planning a series on his blog centered on the word “thrive.” He recently asked me and some fellow bloggers to define what it means to us. Here is what I wrote:

We THRIVE when we are . . .
fully aware of our strengths and weaknesses,
fully ourselves without need for pretense,
fully connected to our Creator, and
fully engaged in the work we were created to do.

I realize now the question is really about happiness. We are happy when we are thriving. So this year, instead of chasing happiness around the wheel of dissatisfaction, I am going to seek God first and stay focused on the work he’s given me to do.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

May you have a truly Happy New Year.

Open Letter Cover 2

If you liked this post, then consider joining the community here at JoshIrby[dot]com. Just for joining, I will give you my recent visual manifesto, An Open Letter for You from the Rest of the World, for FREE.

Plus, you will receive regular blog updates and exclusive newsletter content.

"I love Josh's writing. Big things to come from him." —Jeff Goins

About Josh