The Quest for Happiness
(originally posted by the author in July 2016 on another blog)
It is increasingly common these days for people, (especially those under the age of 40) to be on an eternal quest for happiness. Now I could easily write 10,000 words on the subject and have still only scratched the surface, but for now I will tell you about my “quest”.
The quest can be categorised as the search for the object or situation that will finally bring you lasting happiness. It could be a job, a romantic partner, an ideal weight or any other “event” that will trigger the eternal happiness, and then that person thinks that a switch will be flicked on and they will wake up every morning feeling happy. But, the thing is, the Quest itself is the main thing stopping you from achieving that happy, contented feeling. I, myself, have pursued the discovery of the one thing that will “flick that switch” for me and it took years to realise that what I was looking for, I had all along.
Whilst on my quest for happiness I believed that it was my career that would unlock the key to happiness for me. I was stuck in dead end jobs and believed that once I got an office job, I would be happy. But I wasn’t. I got the office job and I still wasn’t happy. Then I thought I needed more money, so I got a better office job. But that didn’t work either. Then I thought I needed recognition of position. Yep, did it and that didn’t work either. So I thought the answer was obvious. I had always wanted to have my own business and work for myself. Surely that freedom would unlock the key to my eternal happiness. Luckily before I drove myself insane, I managed to realise that what I was chasing didn’t exist.
Mindfulness. It is a word that is very popular at the minute, although not many know the true concept. I interviewed over 30 people who expressed an interest in mindfulness and only 4 truly knew what it meant. Mindfulness is being touted as the new cure-all for depression, obesity, stress, heart disease and more. And don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly good for you, if you are practising it properly, but there are so many people out there teaching their own interpretations of mindfulness that, unfortunately, it just sets people off on new quest for happiness. They will finally be happy once they “master” mindfulness. This is a contradiction of enormous proportions. It is impossible to be happy all of the time. But it is possible to be at peace with your situation and existence. Read “The Guide to Happiness”, written through interviews with the Dalai Llama. Read “What’s in the Way, is the Way” by Mary O’Malley. These books tip the western thinking of “pursuing” or “achieving” happiness on it’s head.
Now happiness is different for all individuals, what may make you happy may terrify me and vice versa, and the many self-help books that tell you the “magic recipe” to happiness, to confidence etc don’t work. Some of them have great ideas, but unfortunately the results are seldom long term. There is no magic cure, no step by step guide that will change your life into a happily ever after. It is not something that can be taught like history. It is not a permanent state that can be accessed and inhabited. Happiness is a fleeting or lingering emotion. It will come and it will go. We cannot be happy all of the time. We cannot control happiness. It is unique to the individual, but there are certain premises and techniques that help most people maintain a peace within themselves that eradicates this incessant need to seek happiness.
- Let things go
- Realise that upsetting things will happen to you in life
- Realise that you are going to die
- Prioritise your life
- Enjoy life
- Be mindful
- Do not expect anything
- Learn to accept others
- Learn to understand others
And that was it. Instead of chasing the items, situations and objects I needed to be happy, I realised I could just accept life in that moment and choose to be happy. Now you may think it is easy for someone, who’s life is pretty good in the first place, to say that. Well here’s the thing. My life isn’t pretty good. It is rife with struggle, grief, and trauma. But I am ok. When something awful happens, I can choose to be ok. But I can also choose to really feel all the bad bits as well. Because that is what life is. It is the good and the bad. And there is no point in pretending otherwise. Accept that there will be bad times. Accept that there will be good times. Accept that there will be boring times. Most importantly accept that eternally chasing a fairytale is the most sure route to misery.
Now do nothing. Stop and appreciate the world around you. Appreciate the wonder of you being alive right this moment. It is tiring, trying to keep up with everything society thinks we should be doing, a career, a great family life, a successful relationship, constant personal growth. Chasing a perpetual dream will leave you exhausted, especially if it is one that doesn’t really exist. Don’t judge anyone, don’t judge yourself, don’t compare yourself to others. Do nothing. You are a human being. You don’t need to meditate to a point of ultimate Zen, or run away from your true feelings, just embrace your true nature. Don’t try to change yourself, just change the way you approach life. It is not a race. It is a wonderful, amazing, impossible thing happening to you right now! Stop waiting for the thing that will trigger eternal happiness and enjoy being alive.