Happiness is in Small Things

February 16, 2024

I’ve had an experience that I think is valuable to share. The insight I got from the experience was probably addressed by poets, writers, and psychology researchers, but for me, the insight was powerful because I experienced it, not just read about it. I hope this blog will lead you to experience it too.

The assistant in my dentist's office, in one of my early visits, asked me whether I could bring her a double espresso because I told her I was going to buy myself one. I did, and she was appreciative and thankful. Nothing unusual. I do not know why, I had no ulterior motive, but I made it my standard operating procedure from there on, whenever I go to my dentist, to bring her a double espresso. She did not expect me to do it but the fact that I did, made her genuinely happy. It was just a double espresso, a small, non-expensive item. I was surprised that she showed so much gratitude.

Apparently, it was not the espresso that made her happy. It was that I cared. That I remembered. That I did something for her without her asking for it.

Another experience: I realized that my trainer in the gym likes Caffè Latte, so, I made it my standard operating procedure, every time I go to the gym, to buy a couple of Lattes, one for me and one for him. And I realized that he was also surprised and pleased with the attention he got. Then I saw that he has a son, seven years old, a soccer fan. On my trip to Guadalajara for work, I bought shirts from Chivas, a famous Mexican soccer team, for him and his son. The kid was jumping with joy. The father did not expect any of it and was genuinely thankful.

The surprise for me was that in both experiences their happiness was contagious. I felt good too.

The moment of happiness happened, I believe because none of them expected me to do it. It was a surprise that someone would pay attention to what makes them happy and make the effort to make them happy. And I was happy too because I was surprised that they were so grateful. I did not expect their reaction.

Ah, it is the caring, without expecting it, that makes people happy. Not the big projects which give us a sense of achievement and a feeling of fulfillment. In big projects, in trying to change the world, it is where I have been searching for happiness all my life. To achieve something. To build something, to make a difference. I got the recognition. I got the respect, but it all palled in impacting my sense of well-being in comparison to the happiness I got from those small gestures I did for people, whoever they were. I make it now my rule to give a dollar to every homeless person I come across, even if they are not asking for it. Those who are not begging, interestingly, are more appreciative than those who beg because, apparently they did not expect me to do it.

Happiness is in doing something for someone else, something they love to have, need to have, want to have, that you provide, which they did not expect to get it from you.

It does not work with those that expect, demand, or request, because when they get it, they do not feel the need to show gratitude. They expected it. But they are the ones who do not experience happiness much. On the opposite, they are miserable from time to time, because what they expected did not happen. And this applies to me, the giver too. If I expect gratitude, I will be disappointed from time to time, because not all people show gratitude.

Surprise someone, anyone, especially those you love, with a gesture they did not expect, with something they need, want, or appreciate. Enjoy their gratitude and moments of happiness, but for you to feel happy too, do not expect the gratitude in return. Just enjoy the process of making people happy without depending on their gratitude to feel good.

Feeling good, feeling happy does not take much. It is the small things that we do for others that make the difference. The surprise. The caring that was not expected. And for you to be happy too, do not expect anything in return, just enjoy their happiness.


This insight might be nothing new to many readers, but it was to me. As a holocaust survivor, I have problems feeling good and happy. Those that I loved perished. As you see, I am learning to open my heart (thank you Heartfulness meditation mission). If you want to know more, read my life story in my new book, The Accordion Player: My Journey from Fear to Love, available at Amazon.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes