The Key to Happiness
I want to be happy. I wish I could be happy. If only things were better, I’d feel happy.
Wanting to be happy is a universal desire. We all want it for ourselves and our loved ones.
Wishing happiness and being happy are two different things though.
If only wishing to be happy made someone happy. Wanting, wishing, or if only-ing life doesn’t usually make us happy.
What’s the secret to happiness?
So if happiness doesn’t come from wanting or wishing, how do we get to be happy?
The answer is simple, but one of the hardest things to do.
Stop chasing happiness.
Here is why.
Desperately seeking happiness
Imagine if happiness were a person you’d like to hangout with. How would you approach her?
Would you run after her and beg her over and over be your friend?
How would happiness feel if the only thing she hears from me is: I want you to be my friend so badly. I’m miserable without you.
How would this person react? Wouldn’t happiness feel that our desperate neediness and reliance on her is unrealistic and would lead to disappointment?
Happiness might feel that you’re making a big deal out of her and that once you connect with her, you’ll realize that the whole thing was much better in your head than reality.
It’s best to stop stalking happiness and focus on our lives. At one point we’ll meet happiness when we least expect it.
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” ~John Barrymore
One thing we have under our control that we can work with instead of wanting happiness is to let go of negativity.
Don’t choose happiness, un-choose misery
The other idea about happiness that often comes up is: choose to be happy right now—a nice idea that I used to subscribe to. But …
How can I be happy when I’m broke, or going through a difficult separation, or my body is giving up on me? How can anyone be happy while navigating the rough waters of adversity?
I don’t think we can choose happiness. We can, however, choose to let go of holding on to misery that hasn’t been helpful in the least bit. And when we let go of negativity, we clear the way for happiness to emerge from within.
If we look at unhappiness we find that it’s based on holding on to past painful experiences, or resisting the reality of this moment.
Holding on to the pain of the past
When it comes to painful past experiences, we tend to not only own them (my divorce, my bankruptcy) but identify with them as well (I’m divorced, I’m broke). And we hold on to all the emotional turmoil and relive it over and over as if it’s happening now.
We feel attached to the painful emotion as if letting it go will create more pain. But the reality is the exact opposite.
Holding on to the painful feelings keeps us stuck in the same miserable emotional state without any benefit.
Even when we think recalling the past helps us do better, the action is usually tainted with emotional reactivity, not based on calm and conscious choices.
Resisting the reality of this moment
Rejecting the reality we’re dealing with is a major source of struggle.
When we’re dealing with a tough situation, we have a choice: we can either roll with it and do the best we can, or we can whine and complain about the problem.
Going with the flow of life doesn’t mean we feel like dancing when we’re truly miserable in the midst of a life altering situation (separation, illness, financial problems).
It means we feel miserable, but do what we need to do, and allow ourselves to feel the pain as it unfolds with the experience—without judging ourselves, or questioning why it’s happening.
There is peace in surrender that guides and empowers our actions We will not only cope, but we will overcome and grow.
On the other hand, when we avoid the problem, or fight it every moment, we create another layer of pain and struggle. Once mighty resistance takes over, it’s misery all the way. This pain, unfortunately, doesn’t serve a purpose other than fueling more of the same.
When we surrender to life and let go of resistance, we won’t feel happy, but we will feel okay. In the calm stillness of being okay, we release the desperation for happiness.
“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
Getting to know happiness
Once you let go of misery, you can start actively choosing to do what you enjoy, or better still, finding joy in the things you normally do.
Joy comes from the smallest or grandest acts equally. You can enjoy brushing your teeth, or climbing mount Kilimanjaro. You can have a five course meal at a fancy restaurant or a homemade salad and savor every bite of each. You can find joy in riding your bike around the neighborhood or skydiving far away from home.
“Don’t shade your eyes from the bright joy of the world.” ~Terri Guillemets
Happiness will meet you at the gates of joy. And it will greet you with open arms. Happiness then becomes whatever you feel it is for you—fulfillment, peace, contentment, satisfaction, gratitude, or fun.
The secret to happiness is to let go of wanting to be happy.
Your power lies not in wanting happiness but in finding joy and letting go of misery—both are within your ability and reach.