Finding happiness seems to be as elusive as finding Big Foot. Thousands of articles, hundreds of books and dozens of researchers are all trying to find the answer to a question we all seek. How do we find and hold on to happiness.
Most people automatically assume that happiness can only be found through the acquisition of their desires. Once I have money, I’ll be happy, once I have a relationship, I’ll be happy, once I’m healthy I’ll be happy, once my business takes off, I’ll be happy.
The problem is, it doesn’t work for everyone all the time. Not all rich people are happy, not all married people are happy, not all healthy people are happy, and not all successful entrepreneurs are happy.
So, what gives? Clearly the achievement of your desire does not lead to sustained happiness. The key word being sustained. Sure, we may be happy for a little while, but then we start having new desires and soon our happiness is contingent on the achievement of those new desires.
So, if success does not lead to happiness, what does?
There are other theories out there. Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology identifies three himself.
The first is happiness through pleasure, where you maximize positive emotions and minimize negative emotions.
The second is happiness through engagement, where one is constantly seeking out activities that are engaging and put someone in flow.
The third is meaning, where one seeks happiness by being included in and serving something bigger than themselves.
In later years, Seligman combined these three elements and added accomplishments and relationships to the list, therefore identifying 5 elements necessary for happiness.
The issue with his theory is the same as with achieving your desire. You’re trying to seek happiness through external means, and that’s ultimately the problem.
Happiness cannot be found outside of you. It only comes from within. Our thoughts determine how we feel. And that includes happiness. And sadness and depression and anxiety and appreciation and anger and joy and peace and every other emotion under the sun.
Sure, having nice things and a loving relationship and a healthy body sure makes it easier to think nice thoughts, but how many people appreciate what they have? It’s like the lyrics in Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
People tend to focus their attention on the next thing they’re chasing and not what they have. In other words, the focus is on the lack of something. Happiness can never come as long as we focus on the lack.
But start to focus on what you have (wherever you are) and you’ll notice your feelings will begin to change. You’ll start to feel good because you’ll start to realize how good you have it (even if the good is relatively not a lot).
Of course, there are several other tips and techniques you can use to change how you feel, and they all have to do with your thoughts. Of course, that’s scary and empowering at the same time.
Scary because happiness is your responsibility and has nothing to do with anyone or anything else.
Empowering because happiness is your responsibility and has nothing to do with anyone or anything else. It all depends of course on how you look at it.
And that’s the point. It comes down to perspective. Your perspective on any subject is what makes your break how you feel and ultimately your life experience.
I know this is probably counter to what you’ve (at least subconsciously) thought happiness is, so I’m interested in your thoughts. Does it make sense or am I completely crazy? Leave a comment and let’s further the conversation.