Highway to Happiness
Updated: Mar 1
Pursuing happiness may be different from being happy. Perhaps happiness is a skill to be learned rather than a feeling that we seek. I'm not convinced that happiness is primarily an emotion, and I'm not convinced that happiness is directly related to "success" in the usual sense. Happiness should be separated from material possessions or success. There are obviously miserable millionaires out there! I’d like to think of happiness as a way of being.
For Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the "pursuit of happiness" meant primarily the right to pursue wealth. They were concerned about life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue their interests as farmers and merchants. Today, we think of happiness very differently.
For most of us happiness is either an emotion ("I feel happy") or an on-going sense of fulfillment and satisfaction with our lives. I'm more interested in the longer-term. I want a lifetime of happiness! Sure, I enjoy moments of happiness during a party or on a roller coaster, but it's short-lived! I want the long-lasting variety!
The bigger and more interesting question is, "Can I achieve a life-time of happiness and personal fulfillment? Is that possible?" I believe the answer is a resounding YES! You CAN be happy most of the time, for the rest of your life.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Notice what makes you happy.
Most of us know what makes us laugh or feel giddy for an evening, but we're not as certain about what brings long-term happiness. What fills you with pride or satisfaction? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What people, places, activities and values bring peace of mind, contentment or fulfillment? Note these and see if they could play a larger role in your life.
Happiness is active, not passive.
Happiness seems to come from living our values and priorities. Happiness comes from doing valuable and worthwhile things, from making a positive difference in our world. We all know the frustration of spending a hectic day being frantic over trivial things. Don't spend your life that way! Every day, invest some time doing things of ultimate value. Do things that reflect who you are and what you stand for.
Happiness is more about giving than receiving. Most people have been blessed in their life to have everything they need and there are certainly things they still want. And of course, in small ways, things do make us happy. We enjoy them! But few of these "things" actually seem connected to long-term happiness. Perhaps we focus too much on the things we want, and not enough on the things we have to share. Many years ago, Jesus said, "It is better to give than to receive." Based on many observations, from the Dalai Lama to Mother Theresa there may be truth to this. If you want happiness give more of yourself.
Decide to be happy.
Abraham Lincoln, who struggled with depression his entire life said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Happiness seems to begin with a desire to BE HAPPY! Most people focus their time and thoughts on getting things done, on achieving various goals or avoiding failure. And, there's nothing wrong with that, but in the process they forget to focus on being happy. Choose happiness as a project or goal or value, and focus on it. Use time and energy to be happy every day.
"The best way to predict your future is to create it."- Unknown