Let’s talk about happiness…
What does it mean to you? Are you happy?
In a Facebook group, a question was posed recently that ignited a dialogue about happiness and what it meant to me and others:
“What are you doing right now to get closer to your true self and feel happier?”
WOW! Great question! The first aha moment for me was the implicit assumption in the question — in my mind at least — that being closer to one’s True Self equates to a greater degree of happiness.
But is that true? If I am totally aligned with my True Self will I be completely happy? If I am out of alignment with my True Self can I be happy at all?
For me, being happy is not necessarily an outcome of being closer to my True Self. Happiness is a choicefor me, a way of experiencing the world. I can be happy even when I don’t know exactly what’s happening in my life or what’s coming next. I can find joy in life’s possibilities.
I’m happy because I’m committed to creating an authentic life and seeing the world through the filter of happiness and joy.
And no, I’m not happy all the time… I experience pain, sadness, frustration, loss, anger and grief like all of you. But my underlying state is happiness and I choose to interact with the world from that place.
Is being happy as simple as the difference between optimism and pessimism?
I recall a story told in an undergraduate psychology class years ago, likely apocryphal in nature. It concerned a psychologist who was studying optimism and pessimism variants in twin pairs of children, and whether one’s fundamental nature or outlook on life could be modified through experience.
The pessimistic twin was placed in a room full of brightly wrapped gifts, yet sat there glumly leaving the parcels unopened. When asked why the youngster replied,
“I probably won’t like any of them and they’ll probably get broken anyway.”
The optimistic twin was placed in a room full of organic fertilizer and a shovel. S/he gleefully started digging into the pile. When asked why the child replied,
“With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.”
What makes you happy?
I have posed these questions to friends and clients to see if optimism or pessimism makes a difference, and to see how others felt about finding or creating happiness:
- When are you happy?
- If you’re not happy now, when will you be happy?
- What stops you from being happy?
- What are you doing to feel happy?
The answers are as different and varied as the people I was speaking with. Many saw happiness as cause-and-effect:
🌞 I will be happy when I meet my life partner
🌞 I will be happy when I lose (gain) 20 pounds
🌞 I will be happy when I finish my degree
🌞 I will be happy when I have enough money to retire / buy…
🌞 I will be happy when poverty is eradicated
🌞 I will be happy when I find a new job / leave this job
🌞 I will be happy when I truly know my life purpose
🌞 I will be happy when I am free of pain
All of these may be true. We can certainly be happy — and proud, excited, joyous, satisfied, etc — when we make positive change or manifest a goal… or just because life is pleasant and satisfying. But many of these states of happiness people described are predicated on some external event or criteria that may or may not be within their control. I was certainly very happy when knee replacement allowed me to be mobile and once again free of pain… but I certainly had a happy life even with those conditions.
Does not meeting the criteria mean one cannot achieve happiness?
Does meeting the criteria guarantee happiness?
If one meets a goal of losing/gaining 20 pounds, there are definitely positive outcomes such as potentially better health and more. But if that person has underlying issues with self-confidence or body image, will that change how s/he feels about the Self? One possible outcome is that s/he continues to be a self-doubter who also weighs more or less than before. But they may not be happy. The work —and happiness —is on the inside.
How many folks complain that too many hours at work robs them of their health, their personal time and relationships? Perhaps you are one of them? They complain that they literally do not have enough time in the day to do a good job AND find balance in life. They frequently complain that every job has the same problem and that by finding a new job the problem will disappear… yet the same thing happens in the next new job. And once again, happiness eludes them. For “job”, substitute “relationship” or “health” or any other goal. The external conditions may change…. but the internal landscape remains the same. The work —and happiness —is on the inside.
In many cases, the tendency to create a happiness dependent on future criteria allows us to mask our inability to deal with our underlying self-limiting beliefs or challenges in the Now. We may not know HOW to nurture our Self. We may not know HOW to create a healthy relationship. We may not know HOW to manifest our dreams or passions. For instance, by choosing to overwork, we can blame the job, our manager, our finances for our failure. But by doing so, we are avoiding our deeper issues and challenges, and robbing ourselves of the chance to explore other ways of being. Again, the work — and happiness — is on the inside.
I believe it all starts with how one defines happiness: Joy? Contentment? Elation? An outcome? Satisfaction at completing a goal? All of the above?
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness defines happiness as:
“the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being,
combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
WOW! And for me, that is the key… the sense that happiness is an internal spiritual process — a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile — and can be felt and achieved in the absenceof external conditions and criteria. We can be happy if we choose to be happy.
Happiness is a spiritual choice.
The following quote, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln (but not until 50 years after his passing, so likely not his words!) says it all for me:
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Make up your mind today. CHOOSE to be happy. CHOOSE to let the happiness bubble up from within even if you don’t have the new job… the new outfit… the life partner… CHOOSE to be happy because you deserve to be happy.
If you find that happiness is still eluding you, it’s time to gift and honour your Self by exploring what beliefs are getting in your way. Do what work’s best for you:
- Take a shamanic journey
- Delve into shadow work, on your own or with a healer/therapist
- Explore your self-limiting beliefs through a PSYCH-K balancing session
You CAN choose to move forward in a positive way and manifest the happiness that we as humans are entitled to.
And ask your Self this :
What would it be like to have happiness as a starting point rather than a result? How might that rock your world?
You can find the Spiritual pony in Life’s manure!
You ARE good.
Your life IS meaningful.
You ARE worthwhile.
You CAN choose Happiness.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Happiness. Please share in the comments area.
2 thoughts on “Happiness: Looking for the Spiritual pony in Life’s manure”
I’m happy almost all the time since I’ve learned to master my fears. Still, when someone close to me is desperately unhappy, I ‘feel’ that as if it were my emotion. I need to learn not to let it affect me so deeply, while maintaining a suitable level of empathy.
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Being empathic is a gift… and a challenge. Ditto with being an HSP (highly sensitive person). It sounds like you are managing it well. This is also one of my challenges. I am learning what it truly means to “hold space” for someone else — to create that safe space, that container, of love and acceptance and support… But not to dive in to “do” for them (unless requested, and for valid reasons) and not to take on their emotions. A therapist friend of mine once said that 80%of our emotions come from external sources rather than our own internal dialogue or situation. We can debate about the actual percentage, but I strongly believe the concept to be valid🌞
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