Something strange is happening lately...
I’m not sure if it’s the idea of getting older or possibly it’s the effect of our prolonged great recession or maybe still it is the lingering fantasy of selecting the winning six numbers of the recent mega lottery.
Recently, I seem to be having deep intellectual conversations concerning the same subject matter among good friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
The subject of our discussion was the idea of happiness and why some people are extremely happy while other wallow in great unhappiness.
There appear to be a great many theories as to what makes a person happy or unhappy.
However, my friends and I all quickly agreed that certain factors were not the cause of happiness but rather tended to only provide people with excuses for their state of unhappiness.
It’s well known that money, in itself, does not bring us happiness. One cannot simply buy happiness (although it is said that a person can rent it for a short amount of time). Money does have the ability to provide additional options for people such as allowing someone to further their education, travel the world, or spend their time and/or money working to help a disadvantaged population or working with charitable endeavor.
Many times, however, having a great deal of wealth can be a burden that can actually inhibit our happiness. Having money increases the expectations, from both ourselves and others, that we will do something meaningful with our wealth.
That Perfect Person
Some people will wait all of their lives waiting for the perfect person to enter their lives to make them happy. What they ultimately find is that no one person is actually perfect. These people live with an unrealistic ideal that will never be satisfied.
Other people might be in a relationship but will tell themselves that they would be happier if their mate would just do this...or possibly that. They believe that their happiness is being hindered or retarded by someone else...a friend or a loved one.
This also happens when a person blames a family member (or their entire family) as their source of unhappiness. "If my mother would only stop harassing me...then I would truly be happy."
True happiness does not come from another person. Happiness comes from inside yourself.
A Certain Event
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My grandmother would always say to us, "When my ship finally comes in...I’ll most likely be waiting at the airport".
She knew that her happiness didn’t depend on a certain event to occur. She wasn’t waiting for a new promotion at work, to lose weight, to write a best-seller, for the kids to leave for college, or to move to a new home. Her happiness was here and now rather than off in a distant time and/or location.
Happiness doesn’t come from a certain monumental event that may or may not effect your life.
So if true happiness doesn’t come from money, other people, or certain events...then where does it come from?
It was very easy for my friends and I to agree upon those items above that surely didn’t bring happiness, however it was much more difficult to determine the root causes for what makes people truly happy.
We developed a lot of ideas but mostly agreed on the three basic concepts listed below as possible sources of happiness:
Happy people tend to be goal setters. They have dreams and aspirations and spend their lives incrementally working toward their goals. For these people, happiness is more about the journey than the destination.
They enjoy the small day-to-day victories. They wake up each morning ready to take on the world and go to bed each evening knowing that they accomplished something that day.
Their lives have purpose and meaning as they work their way down the road to whatever goal they may have.
Of course they often run into roadblocks along the way, but they will quickly tell you that half the fun is figuring out new ways to do things differently. They love challenges and to solve puzzles. For every problem there is a solution.
The challenge of life is what makes them happy.
Happy people don’t look at other people as problems or a source of unhappiness. They derive pleasure from helping others perhaps a bit less fortunate than themselves. They enjoy friendships and being in the company of others.
They recognize that they, for whatever reason, may be in a more advantageous position than someone else. They have an innate desire to help others.
They donate resources such as time and money to helping those in need, expecting nothing in return. In doing so, they feel better about themselves.
These people want to leave the world in a better condition than it was before they arrived. Making a difference and creating a positive legacy truly makes them happy.
The appreciation of others is what makes them happy.
Accepting What You Have
For most people, acceptance is not an easy obstacle to overcome. A lot of unhappiness stems from people wanting more than what they have.
Wanting a bit more is healthy in terms of achievement and goal setting but accepting what we have is important as it provides us with a certain comfort and peace. It removes the stress of trying to achieve perfection based on some set of preconceived ideals.
Modern advertising provides us with a certain vision as to what the perfect lifestyle might look like and we strive to emulate these unrealistic norms in our own lives.
They tell us that we would be happier if we wear a certain brand of clothing, use a particular make-up, join a gym, lose weight, start smoking, stop smoking, drink vodka, drink beer, drive a new car, buy more things, live in a bigger house so we can store all of new things, or watch the new reality show.
Happy people are appreciative for what they have not for what they don’t have.
Our 24-hour news stations like CNN (Constantly Negative News) attempt to frighten us each by reporting only the negative and our inability to control them.
Happy people have learned to accept what the world gives us...the good...the bad...the ugly.
They are alright with life not being perfect...because it rarely is.
It doesn’t mean that they accept injustices or inequalities...but they try to live their own lives with their own purpose...accepting who they are...what they can do...what they have...where they come from and where they are going...
They never take their God-given talents for granted...their ability to see... hear... speak... smell... think... communicate... and feel...
Happiness is a state of mind...it is an art rather than a science...
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