Everything You Thought You Knew About ‘Happiness’ Is Wrong
I once thought that happiness came from achieving a big milestone of success, like graduating from a good college, getting a fat paycheck every month, finding the love of your life, buying a new home and raising talented kids. It’s what everyone — including my parents, teachers and friends — has nudged me to pursue as my ‘destiny’.
And while I’ve tried my best to follow their guidebook towards, what they proclaim as, true ‘happiness’, I’m a little disheartened to say that I couldn’t feel it. I mean I sort of did — I had a huge grin on my face and a joyful pounding in my heart whenever something amazing happened (like getting hired or moving in with the one I love). But much to my disappointment, this ‘happiness’ would only last a few minutes to a few days before it’d flicker away. Before I’d come back to my everyday sense of self and realize that I’m still not entirely happy with myself or my life.
It made me wonder, perhaps, of the possibility that there was something wrong with me.
Was it because I was wired differently and incapable of experiencing long-term happiness (genetically disadvantaged)?
Was it because I haven’t accomplished enough in life (lack of success)?
Or maybe I didn’t value these milestones as highly as I thought I should (conflict of values)?
Then again…there could be something wrong with the modern world’s conception of ‘happiness’. Perhaps this ‘happiness’ we all desire and go after isn’t just about winning and taking and walking off into the sunset with a gorgeous partner to a big cozy house. Maybe it’s something else entirely, something unique to each and every one of us. Maybe this ‘happiness’ is what we perceive it to be. Maybe it’s a sketch we haven’t fully drawn out yet. Maybe it’s hidden deep within us or maybe it’s something we haven’t yet experienced.
I don’t know.
These thoughts have been brawling in my head for many years, after having moved to China with my beloved and realizing that actually this wasn’t the life I’d dreamed of. I wanted something else, something other than this, but I wasn’t sure what.
It was only until much later in my life, after I’d broken off from the relationship and started traveling on my own and meditating when I began to understand (a little better on) what true ‘happiness’ was and why some people could experience it and why some people couldn’t.
You see, happiness isn’t a by-product of an experience; it cannot be bought, given or earned. It’s a mindset. It’s the way we look at the world and the situation.
If, let’s say, your boss fires you for…whatever reason. Are you going to see it as a loss? Or are you going to see it as an opportunity to find a better job?
Or what if you try meditation for the first time. Are you going to see it as a waste of time because it didn’t do anything for you? Or are you going to see it as a great experience you can share as a story with others?
How we think largely affects how we feel. And since we’re able to shift our thoughts much more easily than our emotions, I can calmly say that each one of us is capable of turning our experiences to a positive one — one where we feel truly happy inside.
As Buddha once said, “Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are; it solely relies on what you think.”
So if you want to be happy, see the good in the bad. Appreciate the moment. Understand that life isn’t a perfect puzzle but rather it’s a reality to experience.
Bravo! Glad you figured this out. A lot of people never do!
Hehe, I feel I’m getting warmer towards what real happiness is. But I’m sure there’s still more to it than what I’ve said here. Thanks so much for reading. 🙂
I think happiness may be what comes from helping others. I’m going to test that hypothesis this year (as in 2019), though I already believe this may be so — and a path to living an authentic life.
It’s worth a shot trying. Let me know how that goes for you!
Your key idea : happiness is not based on “obtaining” things but it’s a mindset. …. that idea is GOLD and I learned that at a relatively young age and it’s made my life, overall , very happy.
To extend that idea, I learned through spiritual studies that you can really vacillate between two major states of being : peace and joy. Joy can and should be your every day engine to approach life situations in general. However, there are certain situations where real tragedy strikes and you can’t enjoy every moment. For example, being in an accident, being injured, the loss of a loved one, being a victim of a crime, you cannot enjoy those things BUT you can cultivate PEACE during those moments and even peace when you need to legitimately fight something that’s wrong. You can ALWAYS cultivate inner peace. And then with that inner peace, you can enjoy the peace.
So there’s a way to set up your life when you’re vacillating between joy and peace and it’s a quiet hum inside of you that will give you a long and happy life.
Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed it, miss Tiffany Sun !
What you’ve said is a great nutshell of what I wrote – thank you for sharing it! And yes, I do believe you can extend happiness through spiritual means and I’m hoping to one day bring myself to achieve inner peace and joy…perhaps through meditation or yoga or something similar.
I also want to add to your thoughts that sometimes we do go through real tragedies and it’s inevitable. But what brings us down will often make whatever it is that makes us happy and grateful even more powerful. Thanks for reading, and I hope to talk to you again soon. 🙂
Only the individual can make themselves happy.
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