Happiness is pretty much subjective: What makes me happy, might not work for you. In the same way, what makes you happy might make me feel miserable. The conditions I have to meet in order to consider that I’m living a happy life are not any better than yours. We simply want different ingredients in our pie.
However, happiness seems to be a sneaky fellow. Everyone wants to be happy, whether they realize it or not. I actually believe the pursuit of happiness is a natural impulse and independent of our will, just like breathing. But if everyone wants to be happy, and we pursue such goal whether we want it or not, how’s possible that unhappiness seems to be far more common that its opposite?
The problem lies in the definition of what a happy life means to us, and not so much in our physical circumstances. As we have said before, happiness is a choice, but after you choose to be happy, you must define what “happy” means to you. Not doing so is like going out on a quest without an objective. You will just wander around forever, not knowing if you will ever find what you are looking for, and not even knowing what you are looking for.
What a Happy Life Means [To Me]
I cannot tell you what a happy life means to you, but I can tell you what it means to me:
First of all, happiness is independent of our physical circumstances, meaning our health, wealth or even our relationships. If this sounds to you highly counterintuitive, that’s a sign that your fundamental beliefs about happiness are dead wrong. But that’s ok. The sole fact that you’re reading this is an indication that you have acknowledged the possibility that your beliefs might not be as accurate as you thought.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius
So, a happy life is built on the fact that happiness is an inside job. We build it from the inside out. When we accept this as true, we become free, because now when know no matter what the world throws at us, it has no effect on our emotional state, unless we allow it to.
For me, this is the first ingredient of a happy life: To feel free from physical circumstances.
If happiness is independent from our physical circumstances, then the choice to be happy is as well. Every single thing we cling on to in order to avoid such choice is nothing more than an excuse. It might be a real excuse (you are truly broke, your health might have deteriorated rapidly or your social and emotional life might be a mess) but an excuse is an excuse either way.
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald [The Great Gatsby]
So, if we just stop thinking about all the reasons why we are unable to be happy (even if such reasons are true, they are not really stopping us from being happy) and we decide to make the choice, despite our physical circumstance, where do we start? We start by acknowledging the sources of happiness we can recur to in order to harness the feeling.
After we have acknowledged that happiness is an inside job and we have become free from the effect of physical circumstances, we can choose the fuel for our emotions and we have plenty to choose from.
This is the second ingredient of a happy life: The possibility to choose the road we want to walk, out of the many there are.
In my experience, the most effective sources of happiness are: Proactive gratitude, purpose, growth and to love unconditionally. You can read more about the sources of happiness in a previous article: The Roads to Happiness.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”
Fear of change is one of the most common fears we encounter when dealing with personal development. And it is also one of the most damaging, because it sabotages growth, which is one of the most effective sources of happiness.
But when we transcend our fear of change, and after we regain our freedom from physical circumstances and start to walk the most effective roads to happiness, change becomes a blessing. We no longer fear change; now we actually crave for it. Because we recognize that stagnation means fading into a life where nothing changes and therefore, nothing improves, nothing grows and nothing new can be born. Meanwhile, change allows us to live a life of endless possibilities.
This is the third ingredient of a happy life: The possibility of change.
The good news about this particular ingredient is that we do not have to do anything in order to add change to our pie. Change is an inevitable part of life. Even when we think nothing changing, it does. Things are simply changing into the same things, because that’s the way we wanted, consciously or unconsciously.
A truly happy life is the ultimate purpose of human existence. It might look different for different people, but the overall effect of the pursuit of happiness is quite evident among those who actively do so.
Forget about the end goal, because happiness is not a line to cross. You will never get it done. Instead, focus on building a happy life while you live in this world and when you depart, you will leave a better place behind you, just by setting the example of happiness with your existence.
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