Answer: Be present.
Recognize what you are up against. Importance. Legacy. Accumulation of power and wealth. Your character is under attack by marketers, salesman, corporations, and government. You are being sold a dangling carrot. Your life has a dollar amount attached to it. The work you do allows you to become a target for these marketing efforts. This is not a new idea- you’ve heard it many times. It seems to blow right past you as you put your head down and strive to level-up to the next rung of this economically driven world. I am saying it again not to add to the perpetually negative whine but because I hear a voice in the back of my own mind, and often out loud from others- “Why does it have to be so difficult? Why doesn’t happiness come easily?” The answer is obvious yet I still struggle with it daily.
Happiness is only a feeling that comes with everything else. There is no happiness without sorrow and suffering. Your motivation should not be happiness alone. The elusive happiness can be felt when you decide to be present in your life and not compare yourself to the uncontrollable forces of your external world. The goals you are looking to achieve won’t make you happy unless they are genuine. Money, careers, and even family won’t make you happy unless your motivations are genuine. Accumulation is not a path to happiness. Sellers want you unhappy, unsatisfied, and perpetually wanting. The current world is not built on being present, it’s built on yearning for something in the future- updates, new models, credit lines. It’s not the devious plan of a secret society. It’s economics. You are told repeatedly that you need more to feel more. You are told that happiness will come when you look a certain way, live in a specific place, surrounded by people that think highly of you. These are not wholesome community values. The part we need to reprogram in ourselves is that we don’t need to achieve happiness. Happiness is a state you feel in contrast to everything else, it’s not an achievement, it’s a right. We all get to have happiness. We need to look past the marketing. It’s not lawn chairs and palm trees, white picket fences, golden retrievers, lap bands and antidepressants.
Looking at the etymology of the word is interesting to me mostly because luck is involved:
late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English had eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”
When picking this apart we see luck, pleased and content, wealth, prosperous… but how much do you need? If it’s just luck then we certainly shouldn’t be in desperate search for something we have no control over- but really we have to look at the idea of happiness and what the concepts is to each of us personally. The Welsh seemed to be most in-line on an attainable happiness with “wise.”
There is always another level. There is no level of success that will make you happy, there is always more. Success is not happiness. People looking up to you with envy will not feel like togetherness. Will having more than you need feel good?
I’m not saying that success is inherently negative. There are people that give back and do great things. Setting goals and working to achievement them will bring self worth. Adding works, technology, serving society often comes with great financial rewards. Having a lot, won’t make you unhappy- It just won’t make you more happy. We’ve all seen the documentaries about lotto winners and expensive purchases only temporarily giving you a “high” and how it takes more and more to get back to that level. This has been proven. What I’m saying goes one step further. Stop looking for happiness. It’s false. Instead, be present. Recognize what it is that is casting darkness on your life- and take the steps to fix it. We need to take a moment to be present and focus on what is causing grief. Address the suffering and move on.
You have to choose at this moment that you have something to feel happy about, and then choose again in the next moment. Continue to embrace life for the mysterious difficult adventure that it is. Sadness will come, sorrow will come- be present in those moments as well. Choose to be present in whatever wave of emotion that is passing through you. YOU are not happy, YOU are not sad, you are just YOU in that moment. The more you focus on that present moment you will no longer identify with the feelings projected on you because that is not what you are made of.