The pursuit of happiness is perhaps one of our easiest and, at the same time, most confusing endeavors. The irony of happiness is that it doesn’t necessarily come with novelty and excitement or popularity. Rather it is more often discovered in our everyday lives of family, colleagues, friends and other members of social groups.
Some of my happiest moments are experienced when I am simply conducting an intimate and thoughtful conversation with a friend, or writing or painting and even repairing something in the house (which is rare, for me, but pleasant.
And yet we seem to have made happiness into an elusive objective. Why is that? I think it’s about looking for happiness “in the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.” Maria Popova, creator of Brainpickings, wrote,
“Try as we might not to be blinded by society’s prescriptions for happiness, we are still habitually aspiring to the wrong things for the wrong reasons. We long for prestige, pleasure, and popularity.”
My problem, and likely many of yours, is linked to my perception that a major aspect of happiness originates from the “prestige, pleasure, and popularity” given to me by another person. If am perceived by another as prestigious then I, in turn, am immediately a most happy person.
This issue stems from our unruly need for the external affirmation of other people. When the truth is, what “others think” is of minor consequence when compared to our own uncontaminated understanding of our wonderful selves. In order to find that self-appreciation or self-love we have to rid ourselves of our destructive need for the external affirmation of other people.
I walked into the familiar room tonight, acquainted with half the people and a total stranger to the second half. We were gathered for the same cause and therefore had immediate connectivity. I frequently don’t look forward to these meetings yet almost always leave content and satisfied. Tonight I left happy.
Why is that? I think… (1) I accepted everyone as they were, and I was keenly aware of their presence and their essence for tonight, (2) I expected no admiration but only acceptance, and (3) I was thoroughly comfortable with myself, feeling I had no one to impress.
And I drove home… Happy!
The Elusive Quest for Happiness
Photo courtesy of Ridofranz at istockphoto