“I just want to be happy.” I have had these words spoken to me, and likewise, I have spoken them.
I think many people, most people, are walking around making a lot of their decisions based on what they think will make them happy. What does happiness mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Is it in your present? Was it in your past? Do you see it in your future? “When I have more money I’ll be happy. When I pay fewer taxes I’ll be happy. When I have a family I’ll be happy. When my kids are older I’ll be happy. When I get a better job I’ll be happy. When I work less I’ll be happy. When I lose the weight I’ll be happy. When I can eat whatever I want I’ll be happy. When I meet the love of my life I’ll be happy. When I get some time alone I’ll be happy…”
Living in a constant state of looking forward to what you don’t have yet is living in a perpetual state of lack. If you, like a million other readers on the planet, have been reading Mark Manson, you’ve heard this before. Living in a state of lack means you are constantly removed from your present moment, always searching for more, never enjoying the here and now, or acknowledging that what you have is enough. That what you are, is enough. And if you never feel like you are enough, that there’s always something better on the horizon that will make you feel better than you do now, and that you must always search in order to “find” happiness, you’re basically fucked.
So how we do it? How do we find happiness? You guys! I’ve figured it out, and I know how to do it, how to be happy, and I’m happy to share what the answer is…are you ready?
We accept that we will never be truly happy, all of the time.
Wait. WHAT?!?! Did she really just write that? Did she ditch the relentless optimism thing and go straight up nihilist? Not the blog I signed up for here, sister. What is happeniiiiing?
I know, I know. But work with me here before you freak the hell out. Why?
Happiness is not a state; rather, it is a series of moments. Happiness is found in little blips, whispers, sudden realizations and breathless moments that “Oh my God. This is it – this is happy.” We are taught to believe that happiness is a destination, something you pursue. But living in the pursuit of happiness finds us in that lack state, perpetually feeling that we aren’t enough “until,” and aren’t happy “until.” That pursuit of Destination Happiness, the five-star all-inclusive resort with guaranteed sunny days and gorgeous pool staff serving beautiful food and icy drinks leaves us always wanting, wanting more, wanting what she’s having, and questioning why the hell his grass looks so goddamn green all the time.
The paradox here is that every time we have a problem, and we solve it, that solution becomes our new problem. For example:
Problem: “I am not happy because I don’t make enough money”
Solution: Make more money
Problem 2.0: “I’m stressed and exhausted from working all the time, and resent how much I pay in tax…”
Another good one is “I’m so lonely. I’ll be happy when I find that someone special in my life.” *finds someone special “Yeah, she’s great; I’m just kind of annoyed that we’re always together, and I don’t have any time to myself…”
You get it right? Every time we solve our problems, we still have new ones to deal with, so living in this weird pursuit of what’s to come doesn’t make any sense…unless you like the idea of never feeling complete, and always chasing more, needing to fix things.
Happiness is the profound acceptance that sometimes things are shitty, but when our timing and efforts collide at just the right time and speed, then they get better. When we turn inward, we can start to define what happiness feels like to us, and catch those moments over and over again. If you are a generally “happy” person, you know exactly what I’m talking about, because you probably have more of those moments strung together, some longer moments than others. Happiness isn’t sunshine all the time, with rainbow unicorn sprinkled cupcakes. It’s making even the most mundane things in life an adventure, seeing the bright side, and also understanding that sometimes life is really hard. Really bloody hard. Ignoring our feelings when things aren’t great doesn’t help, it masks our true selves and desires and fears, and can even set us back from moving forward.
So while it’s important (I would actually argue crucial) to keep a positive and optimistic outlook – ie the general belief that things work out, people are inherently good, in every action there is a lesson to be learned, and that no matter how dire things may get, we can start again – it’s also important to realize that it is through the struggle that we learn.
It’s in those times of challenge and struggle and shit that we learn a lot about who we are, and what we’re capable of. We develop tenacity and resiliency. We push ourselves to new heights and come out way stronger on the other side.
Happiness is also unique to each of us, and is whatever you make it. This is part of the richness of life, that each of us creates our own unique story, with different moments of happiness sprinkled throughout. When you learn to accept that happiness is simply a series of moments you find in and around you, and is not a continuous state, you’ll get better at finding them, and appreciating those moments more, and for longer.
Train yourself to stop and feel those moments. If you want to be happy, you need it look for it wherever you are, right here, right now in this moment. And once you teach yourself how to find those moments, you’ll notice them freaking everywhere.
It’s seeing your kids in a canoe, framed by the sunset, knowing that they feel loved by you, even in silence. It’s sharing the deepest and best soul cracking, nose sniffling, “OMG I can’t breathe and I think I’m going to pee” laugh with your best friend, catching her eye, and realizing she feels it too, that rush of how fucking lucky you are to share this life together. It’s sitting on the couch in that delicious space just before you know he’s going to kiss you, walking your fingers up across his arm, then chest, slowing your breath down just a little more in giddy anticipation, feeling the warmth of his hands pulling you in. It’s the first bite of a perfect sandwich, when the avocado butters the salty, crispy bacon, and the tomatoes are cut just right and seasoned on both sides and your entire mouth explodes in joy, craving more. It’s the extra three seconds of a hug from someone you love and haven’t seen for a very long time and hearing the words “I miss you.” It’s finding a little heart sticker on your sock and feeling overcome by love for three little people you created, knowing that you’ve done a great job raising these tiny humans. It’s noticing little synchronicities from the world around you, giving you the nod that yep, this is exactly how it’s supposed to be happening. It’s hearing the voice of someone you knew for a very long time soften and laugh, filling you with a renewed calm, because you haven’t heard that in awhile, and it feels like maybe things will be ok. It’s the feeling of your feet on the sand, toes in the water, wind in your face, sun on your skin, sitting in pure marvel of mother nature. It’s the feeling of winning anything, period – even a beer-branded lawn chair with “built in” speakers. It’s sharing a connection with someone so real, so raw, so powerful that you can literally feel the love through the massive amount of trust and vulnerability it took to get there. It’s driving on an open road and your the ultimate 90’s jam comes on at just the right time, so right it feels like they’re making a movie of your life right now. It’s lying in your backyard looking up at the night sky wondering how the hell you’re going to do this, and seeing a shooting star so clearly shot across your line of sight that you know it was sent just for you. It’s finding the perfect way to describe what you’re feeling, and hearing how you’re feeling described in a perfect way by someone else.
When you allow yourself to feel that surge of happiness in the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments in life, and you embrace the moments in between that maybe don’t feel as good, that is when you find happiness. Because when you let that oceanic flow of life carry you wave to wave, from moment to moment, you begin to appreciate that happiness isn’t something you find, it’s something you are. Whoa, right? Let me go ahead and quote “Trolls” and reiterate that “happiness isn’t something you put inside you: it’s already there.”
If you are gentle and patient, appreciative and aware, you can pause and let happiness find you, holding it close when it does.