Happiness Project: Leo Babauta of ZenHabits


We’re starting off the happiness project series of interviews with Leo Babauta. His response to my interview request was lightning fast. Also, I wanted to mention that this project was in part inspired by his Golden Goals Series in 2007.

Leo blogs about productivity & organization, finance & family, simplicity, health, and happiness on Zenhabits.net. It should also be noted that Zen Habits was rated the number 1 overall blog of 2007. Leo has taken his great success, and love for contributing great value to people’s lives, and has become a full time blogger. Now he has more time to concentrate on the blog, work on his new book, and spend time with his lovely family consisting of his wife and 6 children.

You’ve seen me mention Leo before on this blog, so you might already know that he is the author of the highly successful eBook ZenToDone. He has also leveraged his love for writing, and started the new hit blog, for bloggers and writers, called WriteToDone. Part of what makes Leo so engaging to read is that he’s so genuine, and so interesting, that we want him to succeed.


1. How do you define happiness?

I don’t define it, actually. It’s one of those gut feelings — you know when you have it. It’s such a subjective thing that you can’t wrap a definition around it. Two people could be in the exact same circumstances, but one will focus on what he has and will be happy, and one will focus on what he doesn’t have and be unhappy. So it’s more of a mindset than anything else, but it’s different for everyone.

2. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?

Again, happiness is impossible to make objective. I couldn’t rate my happiness from 1-10 now, and couldn’t when I was a child. I’m very happy at the moment, and I was also happy for many periods of my childhood (though of course not 100% of the time). The other problem is that memory is subjective too. We don’t have a perfect record of how happy we used to be — often we only remember the good times, or we remember things being better than they were, when actually we were living through everyday life just as we are now, with problems and stresses and worries and pleasures and happiness. Childhood is often seen as idyllic because our memory of childhood is imperfect, and only captures certain memories.

However, I can say that I’m as happy now as I’ve ever been, and a great deal more than I have been at certain times in my life.

3. What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day)

It’s focus, for me. I’m happy if I focus on my happiness, if I focus on the here and now, if I focus on the things that I love, that bring me pleasure, on the people I love. If I focus on other things, on what I don’t have, on what is wrong, on problems, on worries … I’m not as happy. Of course, my day consists of a combination of the two types of focuses, so happiness is an ever-changing thing, not consistent at all (though it’s not a series of mood swings either).

4. What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?

Again, it’s all about focus. If I focus on the negative, that takes away from my happiness. To remove that from my life, I simply need to focus on the present, on what makes me happy, on the things I’m grateful for. There’s always something to be grateful for, and something to be unhappy about. You choose what to focus on.

5. What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?

I don’t really plan out my happiness for the future. I focus on the present, or try to. I just want to continue to do the things I love, to be passionate about life, to spend time with the people I love, to do my best at everything. Happiness will come, if I do those things … it’s working now, and I don’t see why it would change. 🙂


To get more info about what the Happiness Project is and isn’t, please visit the Introduction Post. To see a running list of all participants, which I will be updating as things happen, please visit the Happiness Project Page.

Posted by in Happiness Project | February 4, 2008 | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Print | 9 comments

  • http://www.srichinmoybio.co.uk/blog Tejvan Pettinger

    Happiness project is a great idea. Agree with Leo, happiness is hard to define. But, some interesting answers.

  • http://www.todayisthatday.com/blog/ Aaron – Today is that Day

    Leo continues to lead by example with his simplistic view of life. Just do what you love and focus on the things that you enjoy. Simple, yet very effective advice! 🙂

  • http://blog.neverthesamerivertwice.com Never the Same River Twice

    I am a huge fan of Leo’s blogs, so of course I expected him to name “focus” as a key to happiness. For people who are into Zen and other types of meditation, what he’s really talking about is mindfulness and being present. These concepts are great foundations for happiness, and as always, Leo explains them well.

  • http://? agnes van der reep

    I think that Leo is right in his statement that you cannot recapture the happiness in a former fase of your life. Everything has become coloured because of the happenings afterwards.
    You cannot even say: now I’m happy. When you are living in the now you don’t have time to reflect whether you are happy or not. You can only do that a moment after. What you can do, however, is appreciate the moment you are in. Afterwards is it easier to say whether you were happy then!

  • http://monkatwork.com Adam Kayce : Monk at Work

    Right on, Leo. I like how you framed the piece about subjective memory… that was one of the best takeaways I had from Dan Gilbert’s “Stumbling On Happiness” book.

    Interesting, too, to compare Leo’s answers with Steve Pavlina’s… they’re onto something…

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