Happiness Is Nonsense

The nonsense about happiness is really starting to get in the way.

Posted Jul 31, 2020

“If I lose 20 pounds, then I will finally be happy.”

“If I get divorced/married then I will finally be happy.”

“If I get the promotion/new job, then I will finally be happy.”

“If only my kids would come back home and live with me and love me and tell me what a great mom I am, then I will finally be happy.”

“If I win the lottery, then I will be happy.”

Oh my. The lottery? That’s a high bar, isn’t it?

Notwithstanding that one, will we really be happy if we attain the things on our lists?   

No, probably not. Not actually.

In true human-ness, we would get the thing we sooooo desired, and then it wouldn’t be what we thought.

The promotion would come with new headaches. And the kids moving back home—well, we can imagine what that’s really going to look like (grocery bill, hello!). But we got what we wanted! We should be happy (queue the guilt and feeling bad). But... ugh, we aren’t. So then, we pick up right where we left off in the cycle: complain about our current reality, desperately wishing we had more, maybe even adding a new line item—then (this time we mean it) we will be happy.

That’s quite the human condition. We can see it alive and well and on repeat in our lives—if we look.

This fight for (and against) our own happiness is the fight that is inside of us: to never be content, to want more, to hustle harder, and then beat ourselves up about how it’s not enough. We can objectively admit this is silly and unproductive. At the same time, we can find ourselves on the hamster wheel of the same thought patterns. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So how do we get out of the trap of happiness?

Admit That Happiness Is a Lie

Happiness is a lie that we have been sold.

People speak of happiness like something we can just buy, or find, or meditate to. And therefore, marketers rejoice and try to sell it (all) to us. Like happiness is a destination that they can sell us, then we can reach it, and then (and only then) will we be okay.   

Drug companies try to sell it to us in all sorts of ways. The food industry does too, and then right behind, the diet industry. More furniture, things, experiences, shoes—happiness is everywhere for the right price, and you can just click “add to cart.”

The sale of happiness is everywhere—yet no one has effectively bottled it or shipped to me in three to five days.

If the current definition of happiness isn’t working for us personally, then we must rewire our thinking around happiness. 

Instead of happiness as a destination, we must focus on the “pursuit” of said happiness.

Live in the Middle of Things 

My favorite phrase is in medias res, a Latin term meaning “in the middle of things.” I remind myself that life—just as it is—is moving forward and I am right in the middle of it. There is no destination. Simply being in the middle of the thing is enough; it’s enough to elicit joy, moments of happiness, the sheer experience of living. (I mean, really what a miracle it all is!)

In medias res has been applied to “Hero’s Journey” tales like The Odyssey. If we think of ourselves as heroes of our own stories, the journey parallel slaps us upside the head.

Our life is a personal quest.

It’s the pursuit of this journey that creates the feelings of happiness, the moments of joy, the warm fuzzies we crave so deeply. We can look at life as a way to get better, learn lessons, and enjoy ourselves. The journey is the happiness. The journey is the heroism. The happiness is a part of life—in the middle of things.

Reality Check

Finally, because no one has yet to effectively bottle and sell happiness to us, it’s important to realize what we are actually seeking. It might help during our shopping trip.

We really desire contentment, connection, peace, and self-knowing. We crave a calm and peace within ourselves that is not the manic, blissful, high-charged happiness that is being sold online.

Again, to find a state of happiness in medias res, we must rewire our own expectations and thoughts around happiness. This is a personal quest. I don’t know—like a Hero’s Journey? Yes. You got it.

Next time you think about happiness, ask yourself: Is the happiness I am after right now nonsense? If I actually get this thing, will I be “happy?" Really ask yourself and listen for the truth to come forward. The answer is most likely no.

Does that mean you should stop going after it? Heck no.

Instead, take it all in and enjoy the ride on your own Hero’s Journey. The good news is because it’s your journey, you are empowered to choose the main things: what color armor and type of horse you ride in on. For me, I’m going to pick a shiny moped. (I’m deathly allergic to horses.)

I’ll be seeing you out on your journey while I’m on mine in medias res.