Tag Archives: pursuit of happiness

Defining Happiness

If I told you that I could provide you with everything you’ve ever wanted, how do you think your life would be once I delivered on that promise? Down to the smallest detail, what you seek and covet would be yours, no matter how valuable or rare or even humanly possible…you’d have it all. Initially you’d probably be in heaven…enjoying and soaking up all the riches and beauty and comfort that one can hope and wish for. After a while, however, I’d put my money on you growing bored with what you have. Regardless of how out-of-reach the things you’d been granted may have seemed before you acquired them, regardless of how complete you thought you’d be with everything you could ever desire, you’d grow bored.

Why?

When we are given things, when they come too easily, on some level we feel that there’s a catch somewhere…an ulterior motive, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, too good to be true. Hand-outs, in theory, are great, but when they actually materialize, they can end up feeling inauthentic, tainted…like charity or pity to some, laced with a simple sense of unease to others.

The fact of the matter is this: we feel happiness when barreling through obstacles and adversity in the pursuit of happiness. Overcoming the hurdles that we find ourselves facing in the pursuit itself brings about the goal. Our quest for happiness brings about happiness. As we attempt to find truth and insight into who we are and why we’re here, we feel like we are accomplishing something real, something relevant…we end up feeling responsible for our own happiness and that in itself produces happiness.

If I gave you the perfect yoga practice, would you still do it? If nothing challenged you, if you never felt like you were accomplishing anything, no matter how important you may or may not have considered it to be, would you still feel the way you currently do about your practice? About your job? About your marriage? About your health? About your relationships?

It’s not about the end result. The end result may come beautifully packaged and endlessly dazzling, but the glass and sheen eventually fade. The struggles, the challenges, and the moments of accomplishment are what it’s about. That’s what makes us happy.

With this concept now slowly sinking in, what does it change for you and your world view?

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Trivial Pursuits

About 12 years ago I lived in a massive apartment with my then-partner and our best friend. We three were always hanging out together, and we had decided that we might as well split rent three ways instead of rotating where we would hang out day after day…so we got this great place and each assumed our share of the (then-massive) rent. About a year after we moved, I walked into our living room (as one does) and noticed a pile of real estate listings with houses for sale, so I went to go speak to my friend to ask if he had any plans to move out in order to buy a house. He totally shrugged it off, saying he was just checking to see what was out there in the market but he wasn’t really looking. Cut to a few weeks later when he came home and proudly exclaimed that he had bought a house! So, trying to roll with the punches, I congratulated him and then asked him to give us his moving date as soon as he knew it because a) our rent was exorbitant and we needed to absorb his third of it, and b) our stove and fridge were his, and so I’d have to go buy new ones to replace his when he took them with him. Cut to a month later when I came home and saw the fridge being wheeled out the front door. Needless to say, our friendship pretty much ended there.

My partner and I dealt with the odd behaviour from our friend, and within a week or two we had re-adjusted to being just the two of us in the flat. We didn’t really have any communication with our friend, until a month had passed and I got a call from him asking why we hadn’t made any effort to come visit him and see his new place. I told him that I didn’t feel comfortable inviting myself as he had left in such an odd fashion, at which point he pretty much told me that he got caught up in the excitement of purchasing his first property, and by the time he found himself living in it, he had no one to share it with and found the thrill was less than he had anticipated it would be.

We are led to believe in today’s world that the pursuit of happiness lies in the pursuit of material gain. We are encouraged to get the job that might kill our soul, but man, will it ever bring in the cash that we need to afford the status symbols that are the house/car/watch/clothes/kids/spouse/gadgets that we tirelessly chase after. We’re conned into believing that these things will bring us happiness, and admittedly, when we achieve these goals, we do experience a thrill. Momentarily. And then it’s gone. And we sit wondering if we took a wrong step somewhere along the way, because we weren’t supposed to left with a void. We had done everything we were supposed to do. Why then wasn’t it enough?

This story is all too common these days. Believing that life is about getting what you want is allowing yourselves to miss the point entirely. It’s not about getting what you want – it’s about who you become as the experience unfolds. It’s about finding fulfillment in the process of working for what you want, and about making sure what you’re working towards is what you want, not what you’re supposed to want. Success without fulfillment is empty and meaningless. It reduces all our efforts and pursuits to the realm of the trivial. Every single one of us is looking for meaning, and we are encouraged to believe that we gain meaning through wealth, fame, etc…These things, if unable to provide fulfillment and without purpose at their very core, are not only useless, they can be destructive. My friend from 12 years ago learned first-hand that to be able to acquire things may satisfy temporarily, but to be unable to share them deprived him of any fulfillment he may have been expecting.

Look at everything you do, every endeavour you expend time and energy you assume, and ask yourselves if you can find fulfillment. Can you get there from here? You’ll find the answers you seek. You already know them.