In Pursuit of Happiness…
If you just Google about the books that have the word happiness in their title or look for TED talks with the same you’ll be greeted by an endless list of links. We live in an era where people think that the concept of how to be happy is something that needs to be studied. And this speaks volumes about the society we live in.
Growing up I was surrounded by people within the family and outside that always wanted more from life. “If only I invested in this real estate”, “if only I rent out that property and that’s it”, these were very common dialogues I overheard growing up. And naturally, I started associating these as the metrics of being happy. These material metrics made me think that only those that have achieved these are the ones who are successful. And success equals happiness, right? Unfortunately, not always. As I grew older, I realized that these metrics kept on changing, getting larger by the day, but the state of being happy was never achieved. Rather these led to more conflicts and unwanted stress that could have been easily avoided.
In his TED talk, Robert Waldinger talks about a survey conducted of young millennials asking them about what is it that they desire the most out of life. Over 90% answer that they need to be extremely rich, 50% of those want to be famous. We are surrounded by people who are hungry for attention, you and I are not an exception. We are constantly worried about how many likes will this post get, how many people have viewed my story, will we get a few more followers on social media. Our hunger for attention never helps us reach the state of just being okay with the world around us. We have started associating these meaningless metrics of likes and followers with how we feel. By chasing these superficial numbers we feel that we will be happy, but unfortunately, the numbers are never enough.
The oxford dictionary defines happiness as ‘the state of feeling pleasure’ but what it doesn’t tell you is that the definitions of being happy vary from person to person. Happiness is subjective. For you maybe happiness is something you feel when you are out partying with friends, for someone else it may be the hustle involved in running their own firm that makes them feel happy. And guess what, happiness is slippery, what makes you happy today doesn’t have to make you feel the same two weeks from now.
So the question is how do we let go of this state of constantly chasing happiness, or constantly running behind these fleeting material desires? This can be achieved by practicing two concepts. Firstly, Be Thankful for what you have. Be grateful for the little things in life, for the people that are around you and those that very dearly care for you. Happiness doesn’t always have to be chased, it can be felt if you just learn to love what you have. Take out some time every day to just express your gratitude towards all that makes your life beautiful. This would help you have a more positive outlook on self-development.
Secondly, Be Patient. We all face situations in our life, where nothing seems to be going according to the plan, we feel shitty about ourselves and this crushing feeling of how the whole world is trying to just put us down to our knees takes over our existence. It is in these situations that we need to accept the fact that things aren’t quite going our way and if we start resisting, situations could get even worse. To accept the situations you are in doesn’t mean you should just sit there helpless and take whatever life throws at you. Just accept the situation as is instead of constantly trying to change it or worse, not acknowledge it. Be Patient and then think of what you can do to reach where you want to be. Once you accept what is happening to you, it becomes easier to think about the present rather than dwell on the past.
Victor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning says something really profound about the idea of being happy. He writes “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
Everything in this article may be something that you’ve heard many times before or something you’ve never have, but this article is as much for me as it is for you. As we go lead our life we forget about these very core concepts. So I’d suggest every now and then keep reminding yourself of them. If you get a chance, do read Man’s Search for Meaning, it is what inspired me to write this. It may have a very dark description of his life as a holocaust prisoner but don’t lose sight of the underlying hope and you’ll feel glad that you read it.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a dialog from one of my favorite T.V. Shows (Let’s see if you can guess which it is *wink*)
“Geez, Louise !!! Happiness is not that difficult”