– “I just want to be happy

– “With what”?

– “Just…happy!”

hmmmm…. am I missing something? Is happiness something so forehead-slapping obvious that I blinked and missed it? Is this person saying they want to be happy, period?  Happy with everything and everyone in their life…. for ever??? Can anyone seriously have that as a goal in life?

If they do (have that as a goal)… aren’t they building an enormous and very pointy brick against which they will be banging their head for the rest of their lives?

In reality… “I just want to be happy” is a statement made by a person who is more than likely living an unexamined life (read: a person who has not tried to truly understand how life “really” works… how reality behaves all around them… someone who has not seriously attempted to think about the philosophy of life). That’s not meant as derogatory. This ‘state of being’ represents the large majority of people on this planet… it is a simple fact.

The puzzling reality is that a lot of people DO have that as a goal. It is a humble goal… in their way of thinking. They don’t want millions… they don’t want to be movie stars or prime ministers… they just want to be happy. Little do they realise that they would be infinitely better off wishing to be millionaires or movie stars or prime ministers. At least all of those (whilst difficult) are indeed possible.

People always have a puzzled expression on their faces when my reply to their “Are you happy?” question is always “happy with what?”.  They are obviously puzzled that my simple brain can’t fathom their seemingly “simple” question. After all… “happy” is what everyone wants to be… right?

Well… forgive my simple brain but it likes to define things before it starts believing in them and certainly before it accepts them as goals in life. To my way of thinking “happiness”… the one thing that everyone seemingly seeks in life, is one of the worst defined & most vague of concepts ever created by humans. Actually…let me rephrase that. “Being happy” at a given moment in time is very easily defined. “Being happy” in terms of life as a continuum… well that’s where things get murky.

Imagine if someone invited you to come to a football field with the promise to have “fun” by playing a game. You get there only to find there are thousands of other people on the field already. Nobody knows what the game is, nobody knows what the rules are and nobody knows what the expected outcome is. You are just supposed to do it… and have fun “doing” it. Would you willingly join such a game?

If you answered NO yet your goal in life is to just be “happy”, then I ask you this… what’s the difference?

You see… there are certain habits people fall into that almost guarantee their ongoing unhappiness in life. One of those… paradoxically, is expecting to somehow one day be “happy” all the time. The problem is that unless you have a bong permanently attached to your mouth, or you’re taking valium 24/7, or you spend your days looking for the bottom of whiskey bottles… you ain’t never going to be happy “all the time”. It simply doesn’t exist… it doesn’t happen… it CAN’T happen.

This means that these people are chasing a ghost… an impossibility. It means they live in a constant state of disappointment with life because they are NOT happy yet and, as we now know, they never WILL be happy “all the time”. They have fallen into life’s biggest trap.

Others start early on to believe that “money” or a great education is the key to happiness. Or that the “big house” in the “right” suburb/city/country will result in eternal happiness. “If I could just live in ‘………….’, I would be in bliss”.  Alas, it doesn’t work that way. Money does not guarantee happiness, a big house does not guarantee happiness… infact posessions period do not guarantee happiness. They are just manic substitute desires.

A great number of people are so massively confused about what really makes them happy that if they sat down and gave the whole concept some real thinking time they would be shocked at themselves. They would realize they don’t really need most of the things they desire… and they never really needed most of the things they already have. It’s a zero sum game. We con ourselves, quite literally advertise things to our own brain… making ourselves “believe” that we need certain things in order to “be happy”. As long as those things are not in our lives we can not possibly be happy… which in turn means by not being happy we are not working/living/thinking at our full potential. It’s a vicious circle.

So not only people don’t really understand what really makes them happy… they don’t understand the concept itself. They imagine it as a perpetual “state of being”… having reached a certain level of wealth or status or achievement in society/business.

There are of course people who are living on a more self-conscious level… having thought deep and hard about their very existence, their purpose, their happiness and the contribution they can make towards the happiness of others. These are not enlightened people… they are not exotic mystic gurus or Tibetan monks. They are simply people they have realized the importance of questioning and understanding their existence on this planet. They have asked the difficult questions of themselves and of the world they live in. They are living what Socrates called an “examined life”.

My experience, for what it’s worth, leads me to believe that the following are true:

–  Pain is inevitable – suffering is optional

–  Change is inevitable – adapting is optional

–  Stressors (anger) are inevitable – but stress itself is optional

–  Mistakes are inevitable – learning from them is optional

–  Obstacles are inevitable – ways around them are optional

–  Resistance is inevitable – acceptance is optional

–  Ignorance is the default – Knowledge & understanding are optional

–  Existing is the default – a “good life” , a conscious life, living a life of purpose… is very definitely optional

–  Meetings are inevitable – “friends” are optional

–  “Feel good” (read: ‘instant gratification’) is the default – “Discipline” is optional

–  The freeway (common pathway) is the default – walking on virgin snow is highly optional

–  “Ubiquity” is the default – “Individuality” is personal conviction & style… both of which are incredibly optional

– “Yes” is the default – “No” is the discipline (especially to temptations… which are also ubiquitous)

–  A life of fame & fortune is delusional –  a life of dignity & purpose is a personal mission

– “Just enough” is more…

–  You can never fully appreciate your life… until you have pondered the question of death and what it means to you.

–  The world does not belong to those who create/dream/innovate/redefine….. it belongs to those who can execute/act/complete (if you can do both you are unstoppable)

–  Understanding “Time ” and having the “Patience” to make it work for you gives you an almost unfair advantage…

–  Everything in the universe is very finely balanced. Your own balanced life will fit harmoniously into that ecosystem. On the other hand…an unbalanced life is rejected like a bad transplant.

At the end of it all “happiness” is not something mythical or mystical. It’s really something very elegantly simple (as most good things in life tend to be). You can achieve it hourly/daily with very little effort and at no expense. All you have to do is figure out what it is… and all that takes is a little bit of thought…..  ;-)

PS: If you care to discuss further… please leave a comment or email.



8 responses to “Happiness…

  1. I appreciate this thorough explanation of what I’ve been ignoring and maybe not quite understanding. Thank you, I definitely needed this.

  2. I loved this. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on mastering time.

    I’d also like to add:

    – The “voices” of infinite wisdom are always inside you. Listening to them (or making yourself ready to listen) is entirely optional.

  3. Michael, I love this post. Many years ago I was talking to a friend about life and kept saying, things are better, I am happy, we are getting there ..really trying to convince myself of better times. This friend stopped me in my tracks (and I have never, ever forgotten this moment) when he simply asked are you really happy? After a very quick yes, he pulled me up on my answer and asked again and asked me to define it. This very simple question changed my life forever. From that moment I knew I was fooling myself and I also knew what needed to be done to change that. It was a turning point in my life and made me realise that only I can define my happiness and only I can change things. This friend of my sounds very much like you. Whenever we catch up and I ask how are things, are you happy? His reply is NEVER a one word answer. He talks about degrees of happiness and what is fulfulling him at this time and whether it will sustain his happiness beyond a few months, years. I learnt alot from him. He was a gift and changed my way of thinking, just like you are to many of us in blogland….Lisax

    • lovely words Lisa…ty. I too have had this discussion with various people over the years. Some “got it”…others didn’t. I am convinced that the naive desire of “I just want to be happy” is the cause of a great deal of unhappiness in this world. If we can encourage people to think about their life a little more than they do and clarify some ideas (like happiness) in their minds… we would all be better off ;-) Mx

  4. Hello M –
    I’ve missed you. Having a good summer? It’s hard to believe that a mature person couldn’t grasp this concept of happiness but so many don’t. Perhaps you’ve helped some of them along with your essay. What a guy. Now, pass the bong.
    Catherine xx

  5. What a beautiful thoughtfully crafted post – a message for us all.
    Thanks for taking the time to put this down in such a succinct way. Your essay on happiness has the makings of a book.

  6. So would you agree that happiness is a series of moments, rather than a state of being?

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