“I don’t believe in happiness, that’s not a reality, I can be happy today because I’m feeling tipsy and unhappy tomorrow because I have to finish some administration tasks. No, my life goal is not to be happy”.
I heard that quote when discussing with friends about one of my favourite topics, happiness. It was a reaction to me saying that everyone on earth wants to be happy, a statement I truly believe.
This reply made me understand that happiness is an umbrella term and that people define it very differently.
My definition of happiness
Happiness is for me a state of mind, it cannot be correlated to the immediate feel good moments that you have when being tipsy, when buying a new car or when receiving money.
And that’s the main difficulty. We as humans are mainly focused on immediate satisfaction instead of on the long-term effect. Why? Because long-term benefits are almost impossible to measure. Buying a new car is something tangible, making it therefore easy to think that it could make you happy. Studies, like the 1978 study by the psychologist Philip Brickman, have shown, however, that tangibles things don’t have any influence on your long-term happiness level.
Of course you can have a big failure at work, you can lose something or someone very important, and that’ll make you angry, sad or you will feel hurt. But that’s a temporary feeling, at the end, your happiness level should not be affected.
Reaching happiness is for everyone different. There’s no perfect recipe that one can follow to be happy.
In my case, the most important aspect is to have a positive mindset.
Happiness is a state of mind, therefore, if your mind is focused on the positive aspects of every situation you encounter, you will not be distracted by negative thoughts that could bring you down.
This is a difficult mental exercise. We tend to victimise easily, think negatively, blame others, because as a matter of fact, this is the most easy path for your brain.
But you need to build a new path in your brain, and make of this path a highway.
I’m practising “positive thinking” for more than 5 years now and the results are great. Like every exercise, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. You begin to see the world in a more positive way, you are more optimistic about your life and the world, you dare to deal with every difficult situations, etc.
One of the best result I had with being positive is that I now see every problem in my professional and personal life as a challenge to learn and to grow. So I don’t say “I’ve a problem”, I say “I’ve an exciting challenge”.
But that’s not all
Being positive is the first step but not the only one. I also feel the need to work on the following aspects in order to be truly happy, and being positive helps in maintaining these aspects alive and kicking.
- Love of family and friends. You need people that are close to you. People with whom you can be yourself, with whom you can share your funniest and saddest moments, your ambitions and your fears, your successes and your failures. Friends that “can look right through you and still enjoy the view” (quote derived from the book QBQ by John Miller).
- Fulfilment. At work and at home, you need fulfilment. Every person can define fulfilment in his own way, but you need to think about it and work towards? it. In my case, I define fulfilment by being able to work on challenging projects where I can constantly learn and help others. In other words, I define it by my current personal growth potential and the way I can inspire others.
- You need to feel safe, on health and financial issues. If you are strongly suffering on these issues, it will absorb all your energy. Of course, you will struggle with these aspects in your life, but it’s important to work on them with a positive mindset.
- Helping others. The feeling of helping others is one of the best feelings you can have. It doesn’t necessary mean that you need to give money to people in need, it can be helping the old ladies with the groceries, keeping the door of the tram open for someone who wants to catch it, sharing your knowledge with newbies, etc. When your focus is not on yourself but on others, you will reach a very high level of satisfaction (more in one of my future articles).
Is happiness overrated? Well it depends on how you define it. If you define it as a pursuit of “constant feel good moments with no life troubles at all”, then yes. Overrated, impossible and frustrating.
If it’s defined as a state of mind based on a positive attitude, then it’s feasible and satisfying. If fact, you can call it like you want, it doesn’t matter. What matters the most is the understanding that these exercises could improve your wellbeing and your life satisfaction, and therefore, the life of the people around you.