how to find happiness

Does the very question how to find happiness seem trivial to you? Do you associate happiness with something childlike, lightweight, not a topic for serious debate? If you do you are not alone, many people regard happiness so. Yet, being happy ought to be at the centre of our lives.


Happiness is not a by-product of life

Happiness is rarely valued as a thing in itself. Rather it is seen as that intangible that comes from doing other things, getting a good job, making money, finding our ideal mate, and so on. We tend to press happiness into the service of a greater need. I wonder how many would place happiness first on any list of things they want to achieve, or include it at all for that matter. You see we have the mentality that happiness is a given once our primary goals are met. But that may be a mistake, for without happiness the career, the money and the rest would be very hollow indeed. Whereas if we get our priorities right and put happiness first, then we’re likely to be happy in whatever career we choose. I don’t mean you have to settle for any old job, but you’re more likely to have overall enjoyment in your work if you’re a happy person to start with.




Suffer now – live later

The mistake, endemic in society, is thinking we can be happy in the future if we’re not happy now.

‘When I meet my perfect mate I’ll be happy’.

‘When I win the lottery I’ll be fulfilled in every way’.


(Actually you won’t. The majority of people who win the lottery are broke within two years.)


'When something else changes then I'll be happy'.


I don't think so.


We see this in the lives of many honest, hard working people who toil all their lives for very little reward. Then by the time they reach retirement most are too tired or unwell to enjoy life, or they’ve forgotten what their dream was to begin with. That’s sad. They die, as Thoreau says ‘with the song still inside them’.



Get your kicks

Now happiness is not all about thrills either. Getting high or having a good time is not the same as happiness. Happiness is permanent, while passing thrills, however pleasurable, clearly aren’t. Real happiness is marked by a feeling of peace, and presence, as opposed to reliving an old memory, or anticipating some new delight. Unless you are happy in your heart in the present moment you will not know how to find happiness or how to make others happy.



Can money buy you happiness?

Now we should never undervalue the importance money plays in our lives. It certainly alleviates suffering, and it can give us great pleasure and contentment. However, many people equate money with happiness and this is not true. This is because without money our material existence would be severely hampered. Therefore we must always respect money. However, the mistake is thinking that money is the source of your happiness. It isn’t. The source of all your good, wealth included, is All That Is, or whatever name you call it by.



Are we wired to be selfish?

There is the argument of biological selfishness that says even the most selfless act contains some reward for the giver. But this is spurious. That’s like saying acts of altruism are supposed to cause pain. It completely misses the point. Of course when we give we get something back. That’s our natural state. It’s just not selfish. When we give without expectation of return we tap into a great source of happiness.


Always give from joy. Never give from lack. When you give grudgingly you are giving from yourself. When you give abundantly you are giving from God. And when you receive you are allowing the other person to give. The truth is most people find it easier to give than to receive. This is because we associate power with giving, whereas receiving is always about being open. And that’s harder to do.


We’ve seen how happiness is neither trivial, nor a by-product of something else, and that it’s not dependent on another for its coming into being. Also, it’s not pleasure alone, money is not its source, nor are we being selfish when we pursue it.



So then, what is happiness?

Well, in order to answer that let’s look at this from another angle. We’ll take work or career as an example.


Let's take the test:

 

Is career important to you?

I’m sure the answer to that is yes.

Now tell me, what will your career bring you?

Wealth? Security? Prestige?

And why do you want those things?

First up wealth gets me the things I need. Things I think will make me happy.

And security?

Well, feeling unsafe will not make me happy.

Then there’s prestige or status.

And that makes us feel . . .

Yea, you got it . . . happy.


So you see everything you do, you’re doing it to find happiness. Therefore, although we trivialise it, and overlook its importance, happiness is the thing everyone wants.


Now we can end there, or go a step further, and ask,

what then is happiness?


Each person must answer that for themselves of course. But it’s likely to be a deep connection to something greater than ourselves, something beyond this human consciousness.


If you want you could call it God.


So now, over to you. What is happiness to you?




Also check out the happiness project a brilliant resource by Gretchen Rubin which explores many variants of the paradigm of happiness. You'll find lots there to explore ways to find happiness.




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