In pursuit of happiness
While I am a big fan of the 2006 Will Smith movie by a similar name, this post has nothing to do with that film. This is about my search for happiness and what I have discovered till date. [ Day 8 of “One Day, One Blog”]
Take a moment and look back on your life. Was there a time when you experienced happiness — the kind that lasted? I am not referring to the moments of euphoria which we all experience from time to time when we get a new job or a promotion, or when the object of our affection agrees to go out on a date. I am speaking of a kind of peace, an extended state of bliss.
I had that. Actually, barring a few incidents, my life was pretty much like that until the end of 2010. Then, quite unexpectedly I lost two very important people in my life in a span of 6 months. My life was thrown off the fulcrum it rested on. I went through the different stages of grief and mourning, to return to what one may refer to as a “normal life”. But since then I have been in pursuit of that elusive state of bliss, which I was once familiar with.
As with someone trained in science (actually, make it anyone with an internet connection), when faced with a problem that I could not fathom, I start my research. It was only then I realized that “Happiness” is a serious business. There is a very large number of people doing research on happiness. Happiness is a big concern for the UN (what an irony) — in fact, the United Arab Emirates, even has a ministry dedicated to “Happiness”!
Happiness is serious Business
One of my all time favourite Ted Talks is given by Shawn Achor and in it, he speaks about the “Happiness Advantage”. In this, he turns a popular notion on its head.
From early on in life, we have been conditioned to believe that happiness is dependent on success. This could be a bicycle that we really wanted, admission to a prestigious college, the first job, and so on. Each time, we make a deal with God which runs something like —
“ Dear God, Let me just get this one thing…I will be So, So Happy that I will never ask you for anything again”?
We all are now smart enough to realize that after we have achieved that one goal, there will always be another yardstick of success on which our fickle happiness depends.
What Shawn tells us is that success does not lead to happiness. Happy people are the ones who become successful.
And success can be interpreted as increased productivity, efficiency and better economy. Is there any question why Happiness is serious business now?
Understanding happiness a little better
If there is research involved, then there has to be categorization, right? And so it is here.
Happiness is divided into 2 broad categories.
- There was this Greek dude Aristippus who said that the goal of life is to experience maximum pleasure. This is called the Hedonic Approach to happiness. Focus here is on happiness by maximization of pleasure and avoidance of pain
- And then there is our guy Aristotle, who I am sure thought happiness was a pedestrian thing, but I digress. To him, happiness was achieved by focussing on self-realization and understanding the meaning of one’s existence. This we call the Eudaimonic Approach
Aristotle argues that realizing human potential is the ultimate human goal.
Have you noticed how people who have lived a life that benefits others are almost always happy? When an individual believes that they have achieved (or at least, are on the path to achieving) what they believe is their true potential, then they have the lasting kind of happiness.
So what is it that we can actually do, to find that lasting happiness?
This is a summation of the stuff I have heard from some experts in the field and some of my own observations.
- Do you really know yourself?
Do a positive evaluation of yourself. How happy do you think you really are currently? What are the things you like in your life? What are the things you would like to change? A keen understanding of oneself will help you progress in this quest. This may sound easy. But trust me, knowing yourself — ain’t that easy my friend!
- What is your purpose in life?
There is an exercise prescribed by Jack Canfield to help you understand your real purpose in life. Write down the things that truly make you happy. Now see how these can be used to benefit others.
In my case, I have discovered that I LOVE writing. I want to use writing as a medium to help people in any way I can — even if it’s just to entertain them sometimes.
- Personal Growth
Once you have identified your purpose in life, you will be able to narrow down the areas you need to work on so that you will ultimately achieve the purpose in your life.
In keeping with the new purpose in my life, I am now putting in an effort to improve my writing skills.
- Get healthy
This is a no-brainer. But did you know this — In a survey conducted , 78% of the people who claimed that they are extremely happy, exercised at least 3 times a week.
- Build relationships
No man is an island. We all need that one close relationship. It may be with a friend, a colleague or someone in the family. Invest in these relationships.
I have said this before and I will say it again — start your day saying thanks to a minimum of three things in your life. Progress to a level where you can feel a “lightness of being” when you are saying thanks.
- Do one random act of kindness
It could be making tea for your maid or asking the office peon how he (or his family) is doing. It needn’t be a grand gesture. It is really the little things that matter.
Give a genuine compliment. It not only makes you feel better but it helps build the other person’s confidence too. And thereby you enable another individual to find happiness.
- Journal everyday
This one act helps you think clearly. It even helps you understand yourself better.
- Study something new
Spend 30 mins studying something — If you are a techie, how about learning a new language ( No, no…no — not a coding language, techie…Human language ,like Spanish may be? — and if you are the kind making a life via blogging, how about some HTML, CSS, Java Script?)
- Practise being happy
Yes, sometimes this too needs practice. With a little practice, you can spread a lot of joy and you will find happiness making its way back into your life
Let me part on this note:
Happiness is really a choice we make. Day on day, Every day.
I would love to hear from you on what is your go-to strategy for being happy is, when you are feeling a little low.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
Friends, this is the Day 8 of my odyssey to write one blog EVERY DAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog”
If you have liked this article, please do hit the ❤ so that it will help others discover this article. Thanks much!