When you think of happiness – what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the wellbeing of your family, maybe financial security, or maybe the happiness of your partner.
Throughout our life, we seek the key to happiness, joy, and freedom from suffering. When we are young we work hard to make our parents happy and proud; then we get a degree in college hoping it guarantees a successful future, i.e. happiness; we enter a romantic relationship in a hope that it will make us happy; we get a job and want to make a lot of money, because this is what makes people happy, and then we have children and look out for their wellness and success, in order to be happy.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all important factors. And they contribute hugely to our feeling of satisfaction with life.
Isn’t it ironic then, that having accomplished all the above, so many people are still unhappy?
Why do so many of us, having reached our goals still feel like something is missing?
I think, as a society, we are highly pre-conditioned to believe in external happiness, i.e. what we have or what others do for us. We make it someone else’s responsibility, in a way, to deliver on our joy and satisfaction, be it our spouse, company we work for, our children, or parents.
“If only he did this, I’d be happy”, “If I met a partner of my dreams, then I’d be happy”, “If I got this promotion…” – have you ever thought like this?
Wherever we are in life, if we rely on external factors or people as a source of our happiness, we would always feel a discontent, like something is indeed missing.
I can see how it’s easier to rely on someone or something to make us happy. Because if we are not – it becomes their fault, not ours. This is how many of us perceive the world, looking for the key to happiness in everything and everyone but ourselves. And when we don’t find it, we fall “victim of circumstances”.
I’ve been doing this all my life, that’s why I was prompted to write this article. Even after all the “work” I’ve done on myself, I can still get into my own “If… Then…” loop and switch to a victim mode. If I don’t attend to it in time, I can go on like this for days, doubting my work or any decision and plans I make. However, I became much quicker at spotting this state over the years, and now I know how to escape.
So, what’s our role in this quest for happiness?
I’ve been looking for the answer for many years and I’m still a student. I remind myself to practice what I learned, every day and expand my horizon in every possible way.
Happiness, for me, is a state of being, it’s an ability to stay present and not identify with the stories in my head.
To bring yourself to this present moment, you can ask yourself these questions:
– Right now, in this moment – is there anything missing?
– Could it be that everything I have and everything I am right now is enough?
The thing is that when we think about the past or the future, we suffer, we might regret about the past, we might worry about the future. And these are our thoughts about the event that have happened or might happen, that make us unhappy. While we can choose to be content in the present!
Applying these principles, I found that happiness is not a matter of acquiring things or looking for new experiences. It’s a matter of choice, of making a decision… to be happy right here, right now. Yes, we might feel upset from time to time, negative and positive emotions might come and go. And you might think – I can’t always be happy, what about when something really bad happens in my life. It’s true, you won’t always feel happy, but you don’t need to. As long as you know that this choice of being present and happy in the moment is available to you at all times, no matter the external circumstances.
And when something bad happens, you have 2 options to choose from – either learn from the experience and take a better action next time or accept it and let it go if it’s outside of your control.
It’s a very simple approach, but it takes time to practice. Try it next time when you feel down or sorry for yourself, and see what’s accessible to you in that very moment, if you look at your life from a different angle and focus on the now.