What Makes You Happy?
We live in challenging times, where almost everyone is seeking happiness in one way or another. Many of us are desperately chasing things to bring us peace and joy, but long-term happiness appears to be an elusive and perhaps an unattainable goal.
For many of us, the idea of being happy is tied to money and material objects. We live in a material world, so it is logical to believe that wealth and possessions bring happiness. Yet once we obtain something, it is never enough. Those who make more money tend to spend more. As a result, they will always need to earn even more. The luxuries that we collect, such as clothing, electronic gadgets, and so forth grow lackluster and uninspiring with time. Have you ever been excited and happy about something that you purchased, only to forget about it months or years later? To keep the stimulation going, we continually shop for more stuff to fill our lives.
In some cases, things that bring us excitement and happiness today become a liability and a source of misery down the road. How many of us can recall feeling giddy on our wedding day, only to regret ever getting married years later. My wife, who I fell deeply in love with eight years ago, is having an affair. If we get divorced, I will lose most of what I own and be on the hook for alimony and child support payments for years to come. How many people were excited about purchasing a home before our nation’s housing crisis, only to seriously regret the decision later? As C.S. Lewis once said, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” I would argue that long-lasting happiness cannot be found in a marriage, a home, or any other possession.
The act of pursuing happiness is a pointless endeavor because the entire quest is an endless cycle of temporary exhilaration followed by misery. In the end, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” If you want to feel joy and peace in your life, you are the only person that can deliver it. There is no source of happiness outside of yourself.
Once you become tired of chasing your tail and give up the pursuit of happiness, you will discover that you already have the key to lifelong joy and peace. The key is a synonym for the word happiness, which is contentment. It’s all a matter of being satisfied and grateful for all aspects of your life. This starts with being content with yourself, and everything that you perceive to be your shortcomings. When you can accept and appreciate yourself, you can begin to welcome everything that comes into your life. Without mental and emotional resistance, you have the fundamental conditions to allow long-lasting happiness to blossom.