Happiness is the highest good; the one thing we all want and we are all searching for. But what does happiness actually mean? What is happiness to you? Actually, the answer to that could make all the difference in realizing how happy you are.
There are generally two ideas of what happiness is, which also naturally determine what we are after in life.
The arrival fallacy
The first idea of happiness is something we see in movies, always portrayed as a fairy tale with a happily ever after. You fight your few battles, make the right choices and ultimately find your perfect partner, your soulmate. Then you get married, thrive in your career and everyone will love you for being that great. The rest of your life will be ah-ma-zing; or whatever your picture of your perfect life is.
This is unconsciously the kind of happiness that most people are chasing since this is what we are conditioned to believe happiness is. We think that happiness is something that we have to achieve by working hard, by finding love, by being able to afford a fancy car or fancy bag, by looking a certain way. Do those things actually have the capacity make you happy? Well actually, they sure do. But the type of happiness these can offer is only temporary, just fleeting moments that quickly disappear.
Say for instance, you finally got that new job you’ve always wanted. The happiness and pride you’re feeling because of this new thing can diminish as soon as you begin dealing with the immense pressure that comes along with the position. Next thing you know, you start dreading coming to work every single day.
Maybe you get a new partner who seemed flawless when you see him or her through rose-colored glasses, and all goes well until that first fight or the first time your beloved hurts your feelings. A newly purchased bag will eventually get old and worn, while losing those pounds you’ve always wanted to shed may even cause additional body insecurities for you. This idea of happiness that assumes you will achieve happiness when you arrive at a certain destination in your life is called the “arrival fallacy”. This makes us continually run after happiness like a hamster on a treadmill with a big fat carrot right in front. And it seems like we are surrounded by people who also believe in this kind of happiness.
Just look around you, and you can see that everyone seems to be ‘happy’ and have everything in life sorted. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are flooded by images of holidays, smiling faces and photos with the popular #blessed caption. This can make you feel like you’re not living up to the standard, and that you have failed at living a happy life. You may think something is wrong with you, which, in turn, can make you feel unhappy.
Then there is this other idea of happiness. It is definitely less romantic and sounds less tempting than just simply living happily ever after.
The second kind follows the principle that happiness is already right there within you, within your reach and available. That if you stop looking around for it and chasing it and start to look within, you can find it. It is more a constant journey instead of a destination.
Once you have experienced this, it almost feels like you have been begging for money on the street while sitting on a gold mine. When you start to live a life that is true to who you are instead of who you think you need to be or should be, you will have this constant feeling of fulfillment and of course, happiness. But a big part of this happiness is the acceptance that well, shit happens. And that that’s okay as it is actually part of the deal. You will have good days and shit days. Both are necessary to fully experience life, appreciate the beautiful moments and learn from the most difficult ones.
Life needs to be in balance. You will always have black and white, sunshine and rain, good and bad, in order for things to work. But even when you experience hardships that will inevitably come along, you will still have this underlying feeling of being okay. Instead of chasing fleeting moments of happiness, you have an ongoing feeling of contentment.
Not too long ago, I had every reason to feel sorry for myself and basically hate my life. One of my biggest fears in life became true and I got hurt in the worse way by the one person that I love most.
Yes, I was sad, angry and miserable. But I still had this underlying feeling of being okay, being whole and knowing I am where I am supposed to be. I accepted what happened and the grief that came along with it as part of life. I could even see it as something beautiful through the hurt, knowing it will bring me what I need to know. It was the most bizarre realization! I was hurt and sad but I could still have moments of happiness when I was truly being present. The controversy and beauty of it was so striking.
If you are truly happy, this feeling will still be with you when you experience the hardships and the pain. It will be within you when you are winning and when you are losing. Stop your search for happiness in other things and start to look within. You will be amazed at what you find.