What Is Happiness Worth to You?
Will choosing happiness really change your life?
Posted Apr 21, 2017
What does happiness look like to you and what are the things that bring you happiness in your life? Are these people, places, or things? Most people who are chasing the traditional American dream seem committed to the idea that it is the things we acquire in life – the house, the car, and the other status symbols we value – that will up our “happiness quotient.”
People wrestling with heartbreak or unrequited love or an unhealthy addiction to sexual engagement may believe it is relationships with specific people that will bring us happiness – but these individuals are confusing “people” with “things,” in that it is the possession of a person for a particular purpose to fill a particular need that they are craving.
Others may believe that a life of leisure on the beach in some far-away-from-here spot might be the key to happiness; or an address in a certain part of town; or a vacation at an exotic spot might be the ticket to an untroubled life filled with happiness.
Unfortunately, happiness isn’t tied up in the people, places, or things that we want to possess; true happiness and life satisfaction are found when we engage in activities that are truly worth doing.
3 Interesting Truths About Happiness
1. Happiness Isn’t a Place
First, some of us may need to re-think and re-learn the meaning and experiencing of happiness. You don’t typically “pursue” happiness and end up smack dab in its middle; however, you can successfully open yourself up to a sense of satisfaction, life contentment, and a focused perception on the joys that can be found in the life that you are leading or the life that you are creating. If your own personal vision of the “happiness finish line” keeps moving further away, you will never have time to actually appreciate all that you have already accomplished!
2. The Curious Progress Paradox
Secondly, research indicates that happiness – or life satisfaction – is typically not going to be experienced by those who allow pressure and stressors to lock them into a sense of perpetual striving to meet consistently unattainable demands. Termed the progress paradox, there is a curious relationship that exists between the advancement of civilization and the satisfaction we find in our lives. It turns out that the more complex and advanced civilizations have become, the less satisfaction people are experiencing in their lives. Progress doesn’t’ necessarily bring happiness for everyone. As our typical hours of rest and relaxation have been decreased as technology and work demands have increased, our overall life satisfaction has gone down. In fact, the new stressors that new advances bring to our lives can create more problems on a deeper level than the lack of the new technology has solved.
A quote that is (probably inaccurately) attributed to Einstein goes something like, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Whether it was Einstein, or Schumacher, or even Woody Guthrie. Regardless of who said these words, they certainly describe society today. Show your own stroke of genius by finding a way to simplify your life . . . it’s amazing how much more time for joy you will find when you remove a bunch of complex machinations or extraneous time demands from your world.
3. What Efforts Are Required to Achieve Happiness?
Happiness is about letting go of effort, not clinging to it. You may be wondering exactly what it takes to be happy in life. Actually, achieving happiness isn’t about struggle or grueling pursuits . . . it is about letting yourself be content in this moment in this life. This does not imply that you should just quit trying and stop growing. It simply means that you don’t need to punish yourself for being able to accomplish only so much in a given timeframe. What else is required beyond self-forgiveness? Self-compassion? You’ve got to let go of harsh self-judgment, stop worrying about what the “other guy” is doing, focus on being satisfied with where you’re at – at least for the moment – and grateful for what you have, and offer kindness to the other strugglers you meet along the path in life. Researchers have found that being consumed with regret over past behaviors as well as immersing yourself in fear of the future are two sure ways to crowd out the time necessary for awareness of the present moment. And happy people spend more time being "in the moment" than living in the past or worrying about the future. Holding too tight to what might have been or what might be keep us too stressed to enjoy what actually is.
To Be Happy Is to Be Whole: It’s Worth It!
Allowing yourself to be okay with where you are, while still making space and time for growth and development, is a path that leads to a level of emotional and psychological well-being that is more than worth the effort. In addition, reflection and gratitude practices reduce stress and anxiety which also contribute to our well-being. Life satisfaction leads to fewer health problems, happy people are less likely to suffer from many cardiovascular or anxiety-related diseases. Happy people will live longer, sleep better, and enjoy healthier and more fulfilling relationships.
Don’t get so caught up with chasing goals that you don't have time to appreciate where you are. Don’t let your own personal "happiness finish line" keep moving so fast that you are never able to reach it.