Many childhood fairy tales end with the phrase, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Unfortunately, as we mature, we realize that happiness isn’t simply finding your “Prince Charming,” or discovering a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But, many of us are still waiting for that knock on the door or that special “gift” or achievement that will bring us true happiness for the rest of our lives. We don’t realize that happiness is a journey – a pursuit that takes us down a long road of learning and weeding out those things in our lives that cause unhappiness or that we have to work at to overcome.
How do you know when you’re happy? It’s a surge of well-being that puts a smile on your face and a skip in your steps. You may know it when you feel it, but it only lasts a little while – like the first time you see your baby smile or celebrating that big promotion.
To find real and lasting happiness in your life, you need first to explore what you believe about happiness. What if you have it in one area of your life and not another?
Happiness is a pursuit that you have to work at -- and to do that you need to know what it is and what it means to have it in your own life.
What is Happiness?
The dictionary defines happiness with many words such as contentment, joy, glee, good spirits and well-being. It’s a state of mind rather than a tangible object that you can hold in your hand and use when you need it most.
But, happiness is difficult to come by unless you know what will help you experience it. You may think that good luck in the form of a promotion, a windfall of cash or a loving relationship would bring happiness to your life.
You may be surprised once you reach those goals, that happiness is still eluding you. You may even think there’s something wrong with you because you can’t seem to grasp that ultimate goal of true happiness, no matter what good comes into your life.
The problem may be that you’re limiting yourself to happiness only in certain areas of your life. Maybe you’ve achieved business or relationship success, but still, feel a void that keeps you from being happy about it. You know you’re unhappy, but you don’t understand why.
Broadening your scope of happiness to other areas of your life can help you to understand what real pleasure is and to pursue it in a systematic way that’s sure to enhance your lifestyle and finally bring joy into those areas that were lacking.
How to Pursue Happiness
You may not realize that happiness is a life-long pursuit and not an “event” of something particular. Everyone has a right to pursue happiness. It’s so important that it’s even included in the Constitution of the United States as an “inalienable” right.
To pursue the happiness you’re entitled to, you need to know how to do it correctly. There are some direct routes to that sense of well-being and some ways that will never get you there.
The route to happiness begins with assessing the most critical areas of your life and discerning if you’re happy in that area. Are you emotionally satisfied – does your spiritual life need some more work to be happier?
Your relationships, job, and physical well-being are all part of the circle of happiness. If one link is broken, you aren’t as wholly fulfilled as you could be.
Think about various areas of your life and whether you’ve achieved the happiness level you long for. For example:
Physical Fitness – You may be happy with your weight, but how about your physical stamina? If you need to add another dimension to your fitness routine (or begin one), it will not only help you have more self-esteem to follow through and succeed – it will make you happy. Your physical well-being is a vital link in the happiness circle.
Spirituality – You don’t have to belong to a church or to a particular religion to gain happiness from spirituality. Connecting with nature and helping others are just two examples of how you can find and enjoy spirituality in your own life. Developing and living a belief system is vital to your overall happiness.
Love Yourself – You won’t be very loveable to others if you can’t love yourself. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself, to make time for only you and to build your self-esteem by surrounding yourself with positive people rather than negative ones. When you love who you are, a certain level of happiness is reached that others can’t provide.
Take Care of Yourself – Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise to feel better and have more energy for things you want to do. A big part of happiness is good health, so take steps to improve that link in the circle if needed.
You can probably think of other areas in your life that need work to make you enjoy and be happy with them. Research happiness as you would a place you’re moving to or a career path you think you want to take. Leave no stone unturned in your quest for happiness.
Looking for Happiness in All the Wrong Places
Every day, we’re bombarded with advertisements about “things” that can make us happy – a new car, bypass surgery to lose weight, a different hairstyle or a new dating partner. Billions of dollars are spent each year on things that are touted as “sure things” to make us happy and content.
You may feel great when you first drive that new car, lose weight or sport that new hairstyle, but eventually the glitter wears off, and you’re left with the same unhappiness you felt before you bought the “things.”
Contrary to popular belief, that multi-million dollar home, expensive jewelry, exotic cars, and world travel doesn’t bring automatic happiness to your life. There’s no doubt that money can make your life easier, but it can’t make you happy unless everything else falls into place.
The world is full of mega-rich people and families who live their everyday lives in the throes of depression and unhappiness. There are many reasons why money isn’t making these people happy.
Lousy health could be one reason, and fighting and angry discourse about the money they have could be another. Inner happiness isn’t determined by how many things you can buy or how many degrees you’ve obtained – it’s an emotion that’s both elusive and attainable – if you know how to pursue it.
Pursuing happiness is the right of all of us, but it may not be easy for some. It helps to visualize happiness as a circle which is linked together by several happiness goals and methods of achieving those goals.
When there is happiness in each link of the circle, true happiness is achieved, but a break or crack in a relationship can cause the sphere to weaken, and your joy won’t be complete.
Rather than spinning your wheels in trying to bring happiness to your life on outside pursuits, it’s far more effective to pursue happiness from the inside. Studies of history and recent research prove that materialistic comforts haven’t led to complete satisfaction.
Part of the problem is not knowing what will make us happy – and part of it is not knowing how to pursue it. Whatever we seem to do and acquire, happiness remains out of reach.
Just as true happiness is often confused with acquiring things, the pursuit of happiness can be confused with having a “perfect” life – which isn’t attainable. We can reach a level of contentment that makes us complete without always having things go our way.
Problems and obstacles are needed in our lives so we can learn along the way. It may be challenging to feel grateful for a problem, but viewing it in that light can bring a type of happiness into our lives.
Giving Happiness a Chance
After you take a careful look at your present life and what makes you happy – and what doesn’t, you’ll be better able to formulate a plan for happiness. Rather than waiting for it to arrive at your doorstep, you’ll have a clear path of how to pursue it.
Rather than spending your hard-earned money on things that will make you happy for a few minutes or a day, spend it on gathering knowledge and experiences that will improve your outlook on life and make you a better person.
One way to make yourself happy is to become debt-free. Pay off those high-interest accounts and begin to save money for pursuing what you love in life. Maybe you could take more trips or invest in the education of a child.
Those types of things you can do for yourself will serve to bring more lasting happiness than material things and boost your self-esteem and life-experiences. Donating your time to a worthy cause rather than writing a check is also a great way to get in touch with who you really are and what makes you happy.
If you don’t have peace of mind, begin now to discover what happiness means to you and how you can pursue it successfully. It’s a journey that will bring you much satisfaction and finally complete the circle with links that genuinely make you happy.