Are you happy? The reason I ask is that many people tend to judge their life goals or where they are in life based on their level of happiness.
So, for our purposes, I describe happiness as “our level of satisfaction with what we have at the moment”. Now, when we say, “with what we have,” that could be our material goods, job, career, relationships, or anything else. So, taken in the context of my definition of happiness, are you happy?
This may sound strange, but I promote that happiness is not a goal to strive toward. Why would I stay away from a goal of happiness? Well, the reason that I say this is that we tend to look at happiness as “Am I satisfied with what I have right now?”
The problem with that question is that the answer changes over time. I might, as a child, be satisfied in life playing with a cardboard box. But, all that changes when I become a teenager and young adult, as that box may no longer make me happy. As I advance through adulthood, the whole notion of happiness changes again.
So, when we look at the idea of “my life’s goal is to be happy,” are you saying you want to be happy right now, or are you talking about always being happy? If you want to always be happy, how are you going to do that? Is that a reasonable goal?
Happiness is a fleeting emotion which comes and goes. As such, happiness can’t be a life goal. This is why I don’t encourage people to seek happiness as a life goal.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not saying, “Don’t be happy.” It’s important to be happy and to want happiness. What I’m saying is that happiness to fleeting to be a goal. If you think back on your happiest moment, can you feel that emotion again? If you can find that emotion again, can you live it to its fullest as you did then? Odds are, you can’t. Emotions are fleeting.
For me, I encourage people to find their inner peace. “What is inner peace? How can I achieve this inner peace?” I’ve come to realize that many of us feel stressed and anxious when we feel out of control. So, if I’m dealing with something in life that I feel is totally out of my control, and I think there’s nothing that I can do about it, I’m going to feel pretty stressed over that because generally speaking, we like to be in control. That’s just human nature.
When we’re not in control, then the stress goes up. When we find ourselves in situations we think is in our control, then our stress goes down. We can also find our inner peace when we are in union with ourselves. What do I mean?
Think about your values, those ideals which are important to you. What holds meaning for you? When you reflect on yourself, are you acting and thinking in ways that are in union with those values, those beliefs?
When we can become more in tune with what’s really important deep down then we begin to live that. We think and act in ways that unite us with what we are thinking and doing. That’s when we start to feel an inner peace because we are joined with our values and actions. Therefore, I’m at peace with myself since I’m in union with myself.
When I do things that go against who I am I’m no longer in sync with who I am, then I’m going to lose that peace.
Here’s a quote I often use, from the Talmud, that says, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” In other words, the way that I believe about and view myself influences the way that I see the world around me; other people, situations, and the like.
So, if I really don’t like myself, if I’m having issues with who I am, if there are things going on in me that seems negative, I am not going to look outside and say, “Oh, look at that wonderful sun,” or “Look at that beautiful sunset.” No. That’s not how I’m going to view it because I don’t view myself that way.
Here’s a true story from when I was in college. There was this professor who, every morning, if you walked up to him and said, “Good morning,” he would look at you with the sternest look and reply, “Don’t tell me what kind of morning to have.” He was not a happy man. He wouldn’t even let anybody sit with him during meals.
He had his reasons for this attitude given his history, but other people had similar histories as well and lived a more peaceful life. Yes, he had a reason to be upset, but even so, that was his past, and we still have the choice of how we wish to live in the present.
The bottom line is that we have choices in life. If you want to live miserably go ahead. Live the way that you want to live, but don’t complain about the situation in which you’re living if this is something that you’re choosing to do. You can’t choose your circumstance but you can choose the way that you view that circumstance, and for me, this is why I don’t promote people saying, “Well, my life’s goal is to be happy.”
Happiness is too dependent upon feelings, too dependent upon things, too dependent upon situations. You see if we promote living in conjunction with who we are and seek a life goal to find inner peace it doesn’t matter if I’m happy or not. Inner peace has nothing to do with my circumstance but everything to do with my response to the situation.
I could feel miserable; I could feel sad; I could feel angry; I could feel out of control; I could feel any of those things, but still have peace within myself because regardless of what I’m feeling, I’m acting and thinking in union with who I am.