All of us want to be happy, and most of us believe that by pursuing happiness, sooner or later we’ll experience it; after all the saying goes like that: “Seek and you shall find”!
But, what if the saying didn’t apply to happiness?
And what if pursuing happiness could make you unhappy?
Let’s uncover a dark side to the pursuit of happiness.
One would think that valuing happiness should lead to positive outcomes.
However, research has found a thought-provoking paradox: the more people value happiness as an end goal or destination, the less likely they may be to obtain it.
The constant desire to feel happy not only leads to disappointment, and discontent, but, it also leads to loneliness, as suggested by two studies.
Two more studies show that the impaired ability to respond adaptively to emotional situations and to enjoy positive events may underlie the paradoxical relationship between valuing happiness and low well-being.
“People have such a high standard for achieving happiness that they don’t appreciate the small and simple things that are really meaningful in their life – and they are more unhappy as a result”,
says surveying participant Dr. Bahram Mahmoodi Kahriz.
Finally, when we’re focused on happiness as a destination, we end up feeling we have less time to enjoy it.
Pursuing happiness definitely seems to be counterproductive, so a question arises spontaneously to me: “What should we do to experience happiness”?
We should choose to be happy here and now with who we are and what we have.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should not have goals and aim to take our lives to the next level.
As a matter of fact, I believe having goals is something of paramount importance.
Goals give you direction!
What I am saying is that we shouldn’t come to the false conclusion that we can experience happiness only when we achieve something.
The problem with this approach is that we forget to enjoy the present moment.
Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make at any given time.
As psychologist William James put it:
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
I truly believe that lasting happiness can never be found outside ourselves.
Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you. - Ralph Marston
Unfortunately, most people associate happiness with achieving goals or with buying new stuff.
I guess you have already thought to yourself: “When I reach my goal, or when I buy a new car, or whatsoever I will be happy”.
But, how long does the good feeling coming from an achievement or purchase last?
For a short period of time, it’s just a thrill, isn’t it?
And then, another goal or desired purchase kicks in and you find yourself back at square one.
“Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors”. - Dalai Lama
Therefore, the point is to have goals and aspirations, but not to postpone your happiness till you achieve them.
You can either choose to be angry for what you don't have or be thankful for what you have.
Be grateful for where you are, and feel ok even when you fall short of your standards and expectations.
You cannot always perform at your best or be on cloud nine, that’s not what life is like.
Perfection doesn’t exist and no one has a perfect life.
Even the most successful, richest people have their own set of challenges and struggles.
Everyone encounters tough moments in life, and everyone feels overwhelmed and torn from time to time.
What will make the difference in your life is how you’ll respond to those challenging periods, being aware that they too will pass.
Life is like a mirror, smile at it and it will smile back to you.
If you are anything like me, and you are someone who is striving to become a better version of yourself, you may find it useful to adopt the adage “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and be unsurprised by everything in between”.
Accept everything that comes your way, and learn from it.
The pursuit of a perfect life and a universal experience of happiness is what our society makes us think we need, but it’s not.
We should always remind ourselves that only by experiencing sadness do we understand the value of happiness.
Our society has also succeeded in making us think we need something outside ourselves to feel happy when actually everything we need is already within us.
Acknowledging the futility of finding happiness through possessions, relationships, accomplishments, or indeed, through anything outside of yourself, might be the stepping stone to feel happy.
“Everyone is chasing happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels”. – Bertolt Brecht
Choose to feel happy today, and you’ll see by yourself how your life will unfold in ways you would have never imagined.
YOU ALREADY HAVE MORE THAN YOU THINK TO BE HAPPY, that's for sure.
Remember: happiness is a choice, it’s a state of mind and can only be experienced in the present moment.
I want to plant a seed for your new way of approaching life through an inspirational story.
THE OLD MAN WHO FOUND HAPPINESS
Once upon a time, there lived an old man in a village.
All the inhabitants could not cope with him; he was always gloomy and moody, and he used to complain all the time.
The more time elapsed, the nastier he became and the more toxic his words were.
People did not want to spend time with him because his misfortune was contagious.
The feeling of unhappiness was scattered among others when people got in contact with him.
But one day, when he turned eighty, something incredible happened.
Everyone heard the rumor: "The old man is happy today, he isn't complaining about anything, he is smiling, and even his face is freshened up."
The whole village, intrigued by what they were witnessing, gathered around the man and asked him: "What’s up? Why are you in such a good mood”?
The old man replied, "You know, eighty years I've been chasing happiness and I was always unhappy.
So, I decided to live without happiness and just seize the present moment and be grateful for being still alive. That's why I'm happy now."
Although happiness is considered one of the most basic and rational human pursuits, chasing happiness - as many people do - can backfire and you may find it slips through your fingers.
It turns out that happiness is a journey to be enjoyed to the fullest.
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination; it is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it's too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow”. - Paul H Dunn