“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.” — Mandy Hale
What is happiness exactly?
It is a question that we ask ourselves from time to time, but find difficult to pin down an exact definition of.
What we do know, is that different folks have different yardsticks for measuring the level of happiness they experience in their lives.
For instance, happiness can find its roots in what we value.
If you value power, status and money, and manage to achieve all three, you may find yourself happy, however fleeting or lasting that feeling may be.
If you value family, setting up a home filled with loving warmth and shrieking toddlers may be the jam to your toast of happiness.
If you value self-actualization, publishing a book on ‘The State of Our World’s Bison Population’ and becoming the foremost authority on that subject may make you jump for joy.
These are all valid reasons to be happy, but consider this:
What if you don’t achieve what you set out to accomplish — be it career, relationship or self-actualization goals?
Will you still be happy?
You see, when we view happiness as something to be unlocked only upon the achievement or accomplishment of something, then we will always be chasing it.
Because even if you achieve your goal(s), there’s always the next highest rung to reach for.
We can call this ‘success-dependent happiness’, where the level of your happiness at any point in time corresponds directly with how successful you think you are.
The cycle of ‘success-dependent happiness’ looks a little something like this:
Unhappiness from non-attainment of goal→
Happiness from attainment of goal→
Happiness fades when sights are set on a higher goal→
Unhappiness from non-attainment of higher goal→
Rinse and repeat.
As you can observe, happiness that is dependent on success is in all likelihood, an ephemeral feeling.
This explains why people who seemingly have it all — fame, money and success — can often also be the unhappiest.
An Alternative View Of Happiness
What if our definition of happiness has always been flawed?
What if I told you that happiness was not a feeling, but merely a perspective?
“I honestly think happiness is being present and finding the joy in every moment.” — Aimee Marino
I was reminded of this philosophy the other day by a second-hand bookstore assistant.
My wife and I had just arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and were greeted by pelting rain (not unusual in these parts).
“Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey.”
Seeking shelter along the curvaceous Victoria Street, which incidentally served as inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, we bumbled into a second-hand bookstore which regal setting could well have provided J K Rowling with many an inspiration as well.
Quietly browsing the store while waiting for the rain to subside, we struck up a conversation with Frank, the young bookstore assistant who had migrated to Edinburgh from France.
When I made mention of how the rain had inconvenienced our travel plans, Frank had this to say:
“I once visited a whiskey distillery where our host gave us a newfound appreciation of the rainy weather we frequently experience in Scotland. She reminded us that “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey.””
As I discovered, rain is of profound importance to the manufacture of whiskey.
In fact, the word ‘whiskey’ itself is derived from the Gaelic word ‘uisge’, which means ‘water’.
As it turns out, the rainwater that collects in the natural springs of a particular region gives its whiskey a distinctive characteristic, depending on the mineral content of the spring’s water.
Traditional distilleries that manufacture whiskey by drawing water from a particular natural spring source, therefore, rely on rainwater to be able to make more batches of the whiskey they are known for.
Seen in that context, the statement “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey.” gives us plenty of reason to accept what is usually considered an inconvenience — the rain, as something with a more beautiful purpose —for the rainwater to eventually be turned into whiskey.
Had it not been for the rain, I would not have encountered this beautiful insight.
Give Your ‘Rain’ A Beautiful Context
Back to my point about happiness being a perspective.
Imagine that you are constantly troubled by the ‘rain’ in your life.
‘Rain’ in this context could be anything you perceive as a negative, or less than ideal situation.
It could be as innocuous as being told that the dish you ordered has sold out for the day.
It could be as serious as losing your job and only means of income.
My ‘rain’ was the disappointment of being accused on multiple occasions by my boss (and uncle) that I was getting an employee to work for me on the side.
On each occasion of being accused, I could feel the rage stirring within me.
I could choose to deal with my emotions in one of two ways, either:
- Add fuel to the fire and think of all the ways to get back at my boss, sending me into an emotional tailspin and a path of destruction, or
- Think of how I could turn a bad situation on its head and use it as a powerful motivating force to pursue one of my goals.
I chose the latter path.
Each accusation clarified what I both wanted and did not want out of my career and life.
Each accusation gave me the impetus to charge ahead with my goal of eventually becoming a published author, thought leader and speaker.
Similarly, you can choose to be unhappy that you didn’t get the dish you ordered, and you can choose to be permanently depressed that you lost your job.
Or, you can choose to be happy knowing you now have an opportunity to try a dish you wouldn’t usually order (which could surprise you), and choose the view that you are now finally free to pursue your dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.
Remember the phrase “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey?”
The troubles you face today could well be the foundations of your future happiness.
As Mandy and Aimee suggested earlier in their statements — why not find the joy in every moment, and celebrate life for everything that it is, both good and bad?
Happiness is what you manufacture out of your perspective. You can either manufacture whiskey out of your rain, or, you can choose to let the rain enter your waterlogged boots, sit there for a while, and end up with cold, soggy and wrinkled toes.
The question is, which perspective will you choose?
Victor Ha helps individuals to live with intention and reclaim their lives in an age of overwhelm. He took 35 years to find his calling, but is convinced that you can do so way quicker. Find him on Twitter here. Oh, he responds to your tweets.