1. Happiness is not about having; it is about giving and sharing. Here in America, we are taught to be selfish. We have a “me” mentality – it’s all about me: What’s in it for me? What do I get from this? What have you done for me lately? We are seldom taught to think about much outside of #1 (me). As a sad result, in this me-focused society, we are poor listeners, over-spenders, have lost sight of the value of family, and with it the value of community. We generally don’t care for others, except for how they relate back to … me. Having a successful, meaningful community is about members of that community giving of themselves. When we help another, not just out of our own direct self benefit, it feels good. There’s a little glow inside about contributing toward the betterment of society. We feel a little taller. We feel like we have meaning. When we give something of ourselves, we receive a feeling of value, a heightened sense of self worth. And when we feel good about ourselves, that good feeling contributes to an overall sense of well-being. The more we participate in giving, the greater and more prolonged the feeling or experience of well-being.
Giving doesn’t have to be a major event to be satisfying. Yesterday, my husband and I picked up the trash around our block that had been blown from nearby garbage bins or through the carelessness of others. I felt good after we had completed cleaning up the visible garbage all along our back alleyway and along the front street. The area looked nicer, the area felt nicer. I felt like I had contributed a service of value as part of my contribution to Mother Earth.
2. Happiness is not about being better than anyone else. It is about being the best you you can be.
Unfortunately, we live in a highly competitive society where we feel we must always strive to be the best – to beat out fellow (or imaginary) competitors at every turn. We must compete in our jobs to earn job bonuses, or even just the right to return the next day to continue to earn a living. In the marketplace, ebay has excelled in its popularity as bidders fall into a frenzy to outbid each other on this item or that. We are bombarded daily, hourly, even (as that is how often my email on my smartphone updates) by advertisements vying for our business. As a result, we live in a maze of lies and illusions. These lies and illusions come from the promises that if I just purchased program “X”, my business woes will be solved, or I will realize stress-free living, or discover the secret to weight loss, or…. I have become numbed to all the false promises blaring out to me from my emails (I no longer watch TV or listen to radio). As a result, email headlines become more ridiculous as they vie against one another for our shorter and shorter attention spans. At what point do we shout, “Enough!”? I find myself retreating inward. “What do I really want,” I ask myself. I want to experience peace of mind, a sense of belonging, and a strong sense of self worth. I want a value-added life. I want to be me, without worrying about how I compare against another. I strive to be the best me I can be.
3. Happiness is not about being financially free, or even well off. It’s about a different kind of abundance, one of appreciation and ready laughter. They say, “money can’t buy you happiness”, and it’s true. Money can buy you comfort, but comfort makes you comfortable, not happy. Happiness is a feeling I create inside that is independent of my present surroundings. I could live in a nice house, drive a nice car, have all the things for a ‘nice life’ – and be miserable. Or I could be living my life’s dream backpacking across the country with all my worldly belongings strapped to my back – and feel like the happiest person on earth. I may not be experiencing the pampered lifestyle of being chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce, but instead enjoy the heart-opening views of mountaintops and the free flight of eagles. Happiness is not about having lots of money, but enjoying the wealth of experiences.
4. Happiness is not about being successful. Society usually defines success by status – either obtained through a career, through running a company that generates lots of profit and dividends, or some (other) way of accumulating wealth. But how happy are successful business or corporation owners, movie stars, or business executives? Success gets us a social “thumbs up” because successful people are perceived as knowing what they are doing. They are perceived as being experts in how to live life in the most ideal sense. However, these people are generally the most lost. Having obtained it all and not the key to happiness, they typically find themselves on some level wondering, “now, what?” And disillusioned, they fall into self destructive behaviors in an effort to drown out the discontent they continue to feel.
5. Happiness is not about having lots of friends, or being surrounded by family. Happiness is a state of being. While it can be influenced by the people around you, it is not needed to experience happiness. Happiness is an individual and personal experience. We do not need others to dictate what or how we feel. We are free to choose our thoughts. Two years ago, I made the decision to move from the East Coast where most of my family and friends resided, to southern Colorado where my husband and I knew absolutely no one. Neither of us had job prospects, but I felt compelled to start anew in Pueblo. From the moment we arrived, I enjoyed our new living experiences. While we haven’t made that many friends yet, we are enjoying experiencing the new life we have chosen for ourselves. I am happy spending hours of silent contemplation during the day for self revelation and self mastery. In my alone-ness, I am becoming a master of my self and being. This gives me greater peace of mind for who I am, as I sit in quiet with myself. There is power in solitude.
6. Happiness is not about being stress-free or problem-free. Problems define us, cause growth, and if we allow it, a greater sense of self awareness. While too much stress is problematic, we need stress to move forward. Self growth is about our stories of overcoming our problems to become better individuals. We feel a strong sense of achievement the more difficult a problem is we manage to overcome. Happiness is not a static thing, like finally reaching a pinnacle after a hard climb. Happiness is an inner strength and satisfaction of continued growth and self achievement. Happiness is a feeling of expansion Once we feel we have stopped growing (expanding), we are dying (contracting).
7. Happiness is not about having a great job. It’s about knowing you have purpose in life, and living it. It is a bonus if we can manage to make a living at something that gives us a strong sense of purpose . However, we can’t always find a job that defines our inner values and brings a sense of purpose. It is up to each of us to determine our own sense of purpose which we can incorporate into our line of work – such as “I value always putting forth my best effort to achieve my highest standard of work” which ultimately works toward providing a safer product or environment for others – or define our purpose outside of our job in our hobbies or volunteer work in society. Our job frequently does not define us, unless we happen to be able to marry our life purpose with how we make a living.
8. Happiness is not about religion. For many of us, religion defines to us what we believe our values should be. But religion is so full of dogma it is yet another way to control the minds and beliefs of many. Religion is another ready-made belief system telling its follower how to think and how to tell what is right or wrong. It wears away at the freedom of thought, as the system is already in place, much like an instant TV dinner that all you do is stick it in the microwave and press “heat.” Happiness is about the freedom to tune inward and get your own answers, and to live according to your own set of values, which may be slightly different from the next person, as they are uniquely your own. We are sovereign beings, each capable of inherently discriminating right from wrong – assuming we were raised with a beginning set of values.
9. Happiness is not about where you live. It is about how you live. I have lived many places, and around differing groups of people. Happiness is not contained within an address. As a young adult, I had the opportunity to live in an upper class wealthy neighborhood – and I felt miserable. I have also lived in much poorer environments. I have found that it is how I live my life that counts. My life here in Southern Colorado is one of constant activity and quiet enjoyment. I am living better now than I have ever lived in my life.
10. Happiness is not how society sees you, but how you see yourself. I used to live in Delaware, a small state where, sooner or later, everyone gets to know just about everyone else. At the time, I thought it important to be on first name terms with the state Powers That Be. I placed importance on being seen and intermingling with The Important People. I have since found that I lost a sense of my self striving to fit in with Society at Large. I now find I live a far more rich existence being who I want to be and living along my own values. Maybe there are others within my community who will feel a sense of connection to what I am doing, and join me. The most important thing is, I am living my own authenticity. And that makes me feel good about who I am.
What part of happiness is enjoyment? Is enjoyment experienced on the inside or the outside? To define happiness is to limit it. Happiness is boundless.