The Five thieves of happiness


Namo namaha. नमो नमः

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Human needs and wants for security, relationships, for finding God whatever you seek boils down to being happy. We want those things because we want to be happy. However, we suffer because we have been taught to identify with and cling to and believe the thoughts in our head. We would rather suffer in fact than give up what we think we know that shows up as our opinions, thoughts and beliefs. It’s hard to let them go because we think those are who we are.

Here are five forms of thought patterns described by John Izzo in “The Five Thieves of Happiness”. He says happiness is truly our natural state and life is not so much about the pursuit of it as it is simply getting our selves out of the way.

1. Control

Countered by Surrender.

We all want to control situations and scenarios to the outcomes that most benefit us, but deep down, we know that complete control is an illusion. Happiness comes from understanding that we can control our actions and our responses to the things external to us, but we cannot control the results of our actions.

“Attention without attachment”

Attention is about the actions we take, the intention we have moment to moment. Attachment is a focus on a goal or what is called in yoga a “sticky desire“. We have trained the mind to focus on attachment to what we cannot control: the future. When our intentions don’t lead to our desired outcome, we must then simply re-choose how to be in the present moment again. It is seeing that you understand that unhappiness is resistance to whatever is at any moment. Happiness is being present in each moment and open to what might arrive. Never confuse this with some resigned passivity.

Counter each thief with three steps

  • Notice, stop, replace (Reform) Notice when caught up in a control pattern of thought.
  • Stop by gently brushing it aside (“not now dear“).
  • Replace with the truth of a more life enhancing thought. Such as these mantras:


  • I choose to be in the present moment and embrace whatever is.
  • Happiness is not in the outcome I seek.

2. Conceit

Countered by Service.

This is all about spending your whole life worrying about your small little story, what is often referred to as the Ego. Most people’s happiest moments are when they are the least self-conscious. Rather than sitting around thinking about happiness, you find yourself caught up in something and suddenly you forgot about yourself for a short time. There is a fundamental truth about life; that the small self is mortal and temporary while the larger Self which is all of life is eternal. Service is about seeing the Self as part of the larger conversation. Conceit is when you ignore:

  • Being part of something greater than yourself.
  • The fact that everyone is connected through a life force (prana).

The ego says “I am the world’s most important person.” Happiness is not about individual pursuit but acknowledging that life and death are eternal and ongoing. We need to “be” and “give” of ourselves through acts of kindness not through self serving behaviours.


  • I am on a journey to discover my connections to the world.
  • I am connected to all that is and if I can contribute to the good of the whole, happiness will find me.
  • I choose happiness and contentment right now.
  • It is a product of my mind, NOT what is happening.

3. Coveting

Countered by Gratitude.

Many studies suggest that writing down a few things you are grateful for every day boosts your immune system as well as making you happier. It’s not just being grateful for yourself but being grateful for others. The Conceit thief wants you to make your life a contest by always comparing yourself to others. People who passively watch the lives of others on social media are less happy. After all, you are watching everyone else’s movies as “A rolls“, while living the “B rolls” in your own life. But the research also shows that people who actively like the posts of others, send them congratulations, and genuinely interact in the happiness of others, become happier through social media.

When you determine your self worth by comparing yourself to others, wanting what you don’t have you develop envy, discontent, jealousy. You become disappointed and bitter. We need to learn how to accept equality, stop comparing ourselves to others and instead, compare ourselves to a previous version of ourselves. So we compare ourselves to the person we were this morning; “Am I a better person now“? To the person we were a year ago; Am I a better person now?

The right attitude

We must look inward and chart our own course, not measure ourselves against others. We must express thanks for “What I have” and “Who I am“. Its a mindset change, a paradigm shift.

Necker cube

The Necker Cube is often used to show that our brains are capable of coming to two different conclusions based on exactly the same information. Each conclusion is equally valid and we can switch between each conclusion without the underlying data changing at all.

David Gillespie “The Sweet Poison Quit Plan

Mantra for coveting

  • Life is not a contest.
  • I will be grateful for what I have and who I am.
  • I will celebrate the success of others for when I celebrate for others, I am happy.

4. Consumption

Countered by Contentment.

At its core this thief tells us that we need something outside ourselves to be happy when happiness is an internal choice not a result of something happening to us. So long as we think happiness comes from the happenings in our life – whether they are possessions, people or accomplishments – we are in trouble. The way you know this thief is being activated in your life is you keep thinking “I will be happy if...” or “I will be happy when….” rather than, “I choose happiness right now.

We crave things to ‘get” or “buy“, material possessions. You cannot “buy” happiness, or love or attention or any other emotional state. We need to stop using our material possessions as a yard stick to measure ourselves by. Contentment is a choice to live in the present moment. It is not true that the “good life” comes from external acquisition of objects. It is an outright lie. Happiness and contentment come from within us. They are our natural state. Just like the sun is always shining during the day, and our ability to see it is only precluded by clouds. Our True Self is like the sun and the thoughts in our minds the clouds. They simply block our view of what was always already there.


  • Happiness and contentment come from within.
  • I have all that I need.

5. Comfort

Countered by New Experiences.

We are hardwired for routine but excited by change. So much of our happiness comes from getting out of our routines and having new experiences. But this thief is even more about comfortable patterns we get into that no longer serve us. Many people have some pattern they learned and are comfortable with that that is not productive. This thief wants us stuck. It wants us to follow the same routine every day. Wanting us to be at ease with going through motions of our day so that we find satisfaction with our current situation.

But we know that change stimulates and challenges the brain to grow. When we are in our comfort zone we are in a routine, a “rut“. We try to cling onto old behaviour patterns that help us cope. We believe that it is unsafe to change. This is false, a lie. There is safety in change. This is because when we are in our comfort zones, we are in automatic pilot mode, switched off and just “going through the motions” of our pre-programmed routine. It’s in this state, automatic pilot mode, when we make mistakes that could cost us dearly. However, when we are outside of our comfort zones, in the midst of change, it forces our minds to focus and pay more attention thereby protecting us from harm. We are simply more alert in a change state than in an automatic one.


  • I am not my patterns.
  • Just because this is my habitual chanel, does not mean it serves me.
  • I can chose a new path.

Ending the old habits of the mind

The Knower is awareness in the Buddhist tradition, Holy Spirit in Christianity, Higher Self in other practices like Yoga. It’s the part of us that catch ourselves in the act and then: Notice, Stop, replace (reform). It is not so easy to “kick them out” as they are within us, but can step up as the “Knower” to occupy the throne. “We spend our days at the mercy of the thieves when there is a Self within the self that stands ready to be the wise lord or our ‘inner temple‘.”


Dr John Izzo “The Five Thieves of Happiness

Thank you for joining me on this journey to freedom.

Love light and blessings to you all.

OM, shanti, shanti, shanti.


©️ 2021 A Yoga Mindset all rights reserved

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