Today while driving to work I read a very intriguing bumper sticker. It read: “ It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”. Needless to say my mind always needs something to ponder and with a 45 minute drive I lowered the news radio I normally listen to and thought about that bumper sticker. My thoughts quickly drifted to many questions:
What makes me happy?
What is happiness?
How often are we meant to be happy?
Why is happiness so important?
Why is it so difficult to obtain or keep that happy feeling?
As I pondered it, I reflected on the moments in my life that were the happiest. It was in those times that I really felt alive, that my life felt like it had purpose and meant something. Happiness defines us, in a way we are exactly what we are happy about. Our personalities, priorities, time, all is spent to fulfill some sort of happy moment we seek.
Having young children reminds you of your own childhood, and one of the first things parents begin to understand is how happy children constantly are. They seek happiness in every moment, this is why they cry easily too, because when they don’t get to their happiness it is devastating. For them the only expression left if something is not fulfilled is the emotion of crying or throwing a tantrum. As adults we ‘mature’ in thought and this brings about two fundamental changes in the way we pursue happiness:
1) We don’t pursue happiness as often – we begin to realize that happiness is not guaranteed, therefore we limit our tries, and we calculate our moves to effectively manage our failures.
2) We become jaded and less and less disappointed when we don’t get to our happy place – when we don’t get to our happiness we hide our disappointment and emotion with a strong face, or a careless attitude of telling ourselves, we really didn’t want it anyway.
So though we are all constantly seeking happiness, it becomes an elusive element in our lives. The main effort is not placed on the feeling of being happy but on how we can get there. Therein lays our problem instead of focusing on the moment of being happy, or in a happy state we begin to tell ourselves, I will be happy when….
We begin to call these, goals, achievements, but we are just masking the truth about setting destinations of happiness. Of course there is no harm in trying to achieve success and pushing ourselves to become better in whatever realm we deem important, the fault comes because we as humans begin to see those destinations only. Our happiness is then offset for another time, not the current moment, not every moment we are living, not every experience we are having, but only those we are striving for.
This is the reason children can find happiness in just playing with dirt, they do not care about the end product of playing with that dirt, what they can build with it, or what goal they will achieve after playing with it. They only care about that moment, about that current state their mind is in, they are doing something they want to do, and to them that is their happy state. Sadly we begin to live our lives as adults and then we teach our children the same thing that happiness is a destination, not every moment.
In our fears we tell them that happiness is found in success. In better grades, in being the best at everything, in putting rewards at the end only if certain conditions are met. You will get ice cream if your room is clean, which means happiness will only come ‘after’ you have achieved some level or satisfied a requirement.
I am about to turn 40 and maybe this is my midlife crisis talking or just my normal insanity. This whole notion is crap, it’s full of shit, and honestly it makes me sick to know that it’s what we teach our children. Instead of learning from them, to live each moment and in a constant happy state, we teach them that the happy state will only come if we accomplish something.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying we should teach them to be lazy; however there should be rewards, there should be celebrations at random for no other reason than we have that moment. It would benefit us, and them if we started to take away some of this ‘achievement’ based happiness. It would benefit us if we ourselves started to enjoy moments of happiness at every breath, not because our goals have been reached, but because we actually have this moment, this particular second in time to let ourselves feel good about our journey at its present state.
I’ll be happy when I get to high school, when I get to the college I want, when my career is set, when I have money, when I have no mortgage, when I retire, when my kids are set, consistently we push our happiness away, instead of embracing it.
Happiness is not a destination; happiness is in every moment of our journey. It is in fact our natural state, when we take away judgments about ourselves, or comparisons with others. When we focus inward, we find that within ourselves there is a treasure of great happiness that we began to ignore when we became ‘adults’ as we matured we buried that treasure even deeper. We forgot how to look up at the sky and marvel at the clouds, listen to the wonderful sounds of the chirping birds, feel the wonderful/warm the sun rays hitting our face. We forgot that it is our maturity that causes us strife, our intellect that causes us stress, and most of all our inability to be satisfied with the moment of time we are given, the present, to feel blissful in every situation. The beauty of life is in every second, and somehow we miss it because our attention is not in that second but some hour/day/year in the future.
Happiness can be found in every breath, moment, touch, glance, and smile, in the simplest and most natural way, all we have to do is stop trying so hard.