I came across this article by Omar Itani who has an interesting view about happiness, and this really resonated with me as this is something I have wanted to share for quite a while.
Everything we think we know about happiness is wrong
“I spent the core of my twenties chasing happiness.
At 22, while working at a Fortune 500 company, I thought: when I move to a new country to do my master’s degree, I’ll be happy.
At 25, I finished up that graduate degree and thought: when I get a job and start making money, I’ll be happy.
At 27, a year after I got that job at Google, I began to think: when I am desk-free roaming the world, I’ll be happy. So, at 28, I quit my job and travelled.
While traveling, I thought when I start my own business, I’ll be happy. So, at 29, I launched a company because I thought, maybe this will make me happy.
Today, at 30, I’ve realized that all through the years, I’ve set goals and relentlessly pursued them thinking that their achievement would set me on that path of perpetual happiness, but they never did… until I came to learn that everything we think we know about happiness is wrong.
The Lie We’ve Been Sold
We’ve been programmed to believe that happiness is achieved when we arrive at a future destination. This is the message we’ve been receiving over the years.
Coca-Cola’s global marketing campaign of “Open Happiness” associates consumerism with happiness. It reinforces the idea that happiness is something you feel when you buy or consume a can of coke.
Likewise, one of the most famous lines from AMC’s TV Series, Mad Men, is Creative Director Don Draper’s: “What is happiness? Happiness is the smell of a new car.”
And in a way, it’s true. We do feel a spike in happiness when we buy a new phone or get the promotion we’ve been working so hard for. But after a while, this boost dies back down — the effects wear out and we go back to our neutral state of happiness.
In psychology, this is referred to as hedonic adaptation (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006). It’s the theory that people repeatedly return to their “baseline” level of happiness after the occurrence of positive (or negative) life events.
With that said, modern society’s obsession with “the search” for happiness has transformed our thinking of happiness into a conditional “if-then” proposition.
If I get that promotion, I’ll be happy. If I lose 50 pounds and fit in that dress, I’ll be happy. If my business breaks 6-figure sales, I’ll be happy. If I find a new girlfriend, I’ll be happy. If I buy a new house, I’ll be happy.
But there are two major flaws with this approach to happiness:
- It plants the subconscious thought that happiness is something ahead of us and the only way to attain it is to chase it.
- It directly associates happiness with the outcome of a result. If you achieve a result, you’ll be happy. If you don’t, you’ll be miserable.
And so, over the years, we’ve become obsessed with seeking what we believe is perpetual happiness — but in reality, it’s conditional happiness. We go through life with this mentality: “if I achieve my goal, I will be happy.”
If you want to be happy, you need to stop chasing happiness
You need to realize that happiness is not something you seek — it’s something you become. It’s similar to gratitude and fulfilment.
You do not seek gratitude, you become a grateful person by practicing gratitude every day. You do not seek fulfilment, you become a fulfilled person by doing work that makes you feel fulfilled every day.
Similarly, you do not seek happiness, you become a happy person. How? You raise your “baseline” level of happiness as a whole and separate it from life’s events.
You begin to see yourself as a happy person who despite the setbacks, and the failures and the pain you experience in life — you still choose to be happy.
Happiness is not something you seek — it’s something you become.
There is no “condition” to live by. There is no destination to “arrive to”. There is no “end goal” to reach. There is only “the now” and the choice to be happy.
“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.”
Happiness is in how I grow and expand in the process of working towards my goals. Happiness is in the joy and struggle of working on my craft — writing. Happiness is not in material consumption, but in living with intentions and doing things that are challenging, meaningful and worthwhile. Happiness is in the friendships that I have and the relationships that I grow.
Happiness is in the openness to the journey of everything that lies ahead — despite its inevitable pain, vulnerability, grief, confusion, and discomfort because these are emotions we cannot escape.
We spend a lot of time trying to figure out the next thing that will make us happy, but not nearly enough time trying to enjoy the happiness that we already have. If you want to be happy, you need to stop chasing happiness.
This kind of thinking has changed the way I see the world around me. It helped me break the cycle of “when I achieve X, I will be happy.”
I feel calmer, present, and more confident. I’m no longer rushing to get somewhere or searching for the next big thing. Instead, I’m just enjoying the growth that’s happening through the process of “figuring things out” in the day-to-day.
Happiness is defined by the way we live our lives, because “happiness is the way” and I know, deep within, I’m already there. This is how — and why — I stopped chasing happiness. I hope you do too.”
I had this same revelation
I had this revelation around 5 years ago when I had a near fatal car accident, and it made me assess my life and how fragile life actually is. Right there and then I decided that I was going to make sure that I am happy at least part of every day because no-one is guaranteed to wake up tomorrow.
I have been a very driven man for most of my life, always striving to achieve goals and hit targets. I would be miserable all month long until I hit my monthly target then I would celebrate for 2 hours then my full attention would go towards my next target, and I would be miserable again.
It changed after the accident
Then after the accident everything changed. I started to look at my life and appreciate the fact that I am alive but also that life is good if I just take the time to look around me and appreciate the wonderful things and people around me.
I am grateful for the simple things in life like feeding the birds and watching them eat, or watching a box set on TV with Julie or working on my next Masterclass in a coffee shop with a pot of tea next to me. I spend much of my day thinking about the things I am grateful for, and this makes me happy.
It’s so often the simple things in life which are the most important.
The more I have worked on this the more content I have become, and I have now reached a place where I am extremely content with life even though I am not living in a mansion, and I don’t have millions in the bank.
But I can tell you this – I have never been happier in my entire 68yrs on this planet.
Thoughts for the week.
- Are you driven to hit your goals and targets?
- Is your happiness based on your success regarding these?
- If it is then you are at the mercy of outside events.
- This week see if you can develop an internal compass where you can choose to be grateful for the things around you every day no matter what you are going through.
Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and be happy.