Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Choice of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is universal. Indeed, it is written into the Constitution of the United States as an inalienable right. We link it to our careers, our localities, the things we buy and people we surround ourselves with (or, in explorations of minimalism, the things we do not). We spend endless money and countless hours trying to construct what we believe will bring us happiness.

The problem? The happiness we’ve been taught to pursue is conditional. It depends on other people not only to create, but to validate it. It exists outside of us and is often short-lived because we can always be happier. Just think of all of the people, businesses and enterprises that profit from this desperate, endless search ... If the idea is to find satisfaction in a happy heart, shouldn’t we be reaping the benefits? 

When I'm engaged, I’ll be happy; I’ll be happy when I have a daughter; If I leave you for someone else, I’ll be happy; I’ll be happy when you clean the dishes; I just need to find another office and my career will make me happy; if I lose weight I will be happy ... 

This kind of happiness places the pressure of something largely left to choice on the words, actions and intentions of others. And because humans are unpredictable and ‘burdened’ by free will, our expectations stay largely unmet. 

It’s a cycle we pass onto our children, who spend their lives searching for happiness in the attainment and distribution of approval. And before we know it, happiness is a business exchange – just sign on the dotted line. 

The thing is, it’s all a lie.

We already possess happiness. It exists within us, without the help or hindrance of any external force. It is a choice and a perspective. And each time we make our happiness dependent upon anything or anyone else, we freely and willingly give up the power over our lives. 

Sure, there are circumstances that make the choice of happiness a heavier one, but it always lives within your heart just waiting to be plucked. You are the driving force.  

My advice? The same as always – start small, be patient. Things like this take time.

Notice the good in each day; one tiny good thing. Hold onto it tight and plant it in your mind. With each new day find more tiny good things. Focus on them, water and nurture them. Take what you can inch by inch. Explore it like a garden; encourage it to grow. Free yourself of the burden of finding happiness and give yourself permission to be it. Think of it as a hobby, a habit of will. Take the time to practice, just as you might for a marathon, concert or test, and before you know it happiness will become second-nature.

If happiness is the key to a life well-lived, it's time take back your life.