Usually, the measure of a good life depends on how happy a person is. If you interview people about what is happiness, they will be so humble about it and answer something about health, security and family. Yet, is this what they call happiness as they go through their day? Are we being honest about what we consider happiness should be? I think not. Happiness has a tough crowd to please.
Many of us are very fortunate of living in a time of relative peace and wellbeing. I say relative because during this year we have all been fighting a global pandemic and facing the reality of social injustice. Our families aren’t being sent out to war and in the grand scheme of things, there exist different economic opportunities that we can follow to make a decent living. This time of prosperity has changed the focus from saving and sacrificing to enjoying the moment, since it can be afforded.
Prioritizing enjoyment brings other things to the table. We tend to spend more time on unfruitful hobbies, like watching TV. We spend more money on things that we want. We might not work as hard in the office, at home, or anywhere for that matter, because we don’t feel like it. We are moved by what feels good on the spot, and not by our responsibilities or dreams that take longer to show results. As a consequence, we can become lazy, underdeveloped, sick, and poor.
Happiness is fleeting and even likes to hide. It is an emotion that results out of our circumstances. When things aren’t looking good, we don’t feel good, and try to cope by going to substances, activities, or people, whether any of these are good or bad. We then evaluate our life and think that it should be much better than this. We may consider ourselves a failure or think that we should have more or accomplished bigger things.
When we use the word “should,” we are referring to expectations. In a world where so much is at our feet, these are naturally high. What are our expectations of happiness? Well it seems that for many happiness is like air: you should be on it 24/7. It also is like your favorite treat that you want to go to all the time. These expectations are unreal. Life is life, not a fairy tale.
Your life might be amazing and you might not see it because you have a speck in your eye or are carrying a load you rather not. Your job might only pay decently or not keep you interested, but it allows you to serve your family. Your family might be going through some issues but going through it together can bring you stronger on the other side. You might not be as healthy as you want to but that is no reason to hate yourself.
Perfection does not equal happiness. If that is your goal, then you will always be unhappy. We cannot attain perfection because we are naturally flawed. We cannot aim to have no problems and call that happiness, because there will always be something. Happiness is accepting that above the issues with life, there are still great things around us.
I can share very quickly how I have arrived to these conclusions. It’s been through two different ways. First off, I have learned to identify what is truly important to me, and prioritize that. The process has been interesting for I have had to recognize the voices of others and keep chipping at finding mine. The second way has been through what others show as happiness. All around us there are always beautiful pictures of people smiling or having a blast while on some sort of adventure. I recognize those picture-perfect moments in my life and say to myself: “this is happiness.”
With these two in line, I have come to name the happiness in my life, and it is all over. Not because we have or don’t have this or that, or because we get to or don’t get to do this or that, but because happiness lives in the little things as well. I find it while hearing my baby’s giggle during a tickle session, walking as a family in the afternoons, baking and then eating dessert, listening to an intriguing book, getting in bed after cleaning the kitchen, witnessing my friend’s engagement…
Thankfully many of these, I can experiment again and again, and they fuel me to continue going on this path of life. There isn’t a “happy place” where I get to go, stay, and never experience a care or pain again. Life is not stationary, so neither am I. I have to learn to be happy as I go. There are tough, rough and uncomfortable times where it is a struggle to not stay in mourning, or to let go of the pain so I can keep going on. Even in those dark days, there is a little bit of happiness for me, and of course for you too.
Living life on a high is not living: it is experiencing an imaginary perspective of what isn’t. Don’t go after perfection, which doesn’t exist or even someone else’s expectation of what you should do. Go after the joys that breed in the common life. and that even explode in abundance many times as well. I challenge you to experience your life, and find the happiness in the little things.