One of the greatest misunderstandings in life is this….that happiness is something to be pursued – Happiness is conditional, and you have to go out there to get it. Well, that is one way of living and I would not judge anyone who live by that philosophy (yes, I understand that it’s also part of the American Declaration of Independence).
It does seem that happiness is present when you get certain things, or when certain conditions are met. For example, you may feel happy when your bank account balance is in the healthy level, when your love ones tell you they love you, when you feel appreciated by your close friends, when you enjoy yourself on a beautiful vacation, when you buy yourself the latest MacBook, when you got promoted in your job, or when you indulge in that delicious chocolate sundae ice cream.
In this post, I invite you to be open and look in a different direction – that happiness is already in you. You just have to return to it.
Your happiness is NEVER dependent on external conditions, although it may appear to seem that way.
I invite you to consider the following metaphor (by Jamie Smart) as an illustration.
Imagine a dog that’s chasing after its tail. If it doesn’t understand the nature of its own tail, it might think along one or more of the following lines of thought:
1) “I need to work harder and faster! Boy, this thing I’m chasing sure is fast. Therefore, I need to work at least twice as hard if not more.“
2) “I need to be more agile! Boy, this thing is so super nimble and more agile than me. Therefore, I need to gain more agility and pace.”
3) “I need a better strategy! Think, why is this thing always one step ahead of me? Whenever I pounce on it and so close to reaching it, it seems to know what’s coming and somehow able to get away from me….EVERY TIME! Therefore, I need to come up with a better strategy….no, I need the ULTIMATE strategy and think at least 3 steps ahead.”
Most of us have fallen into this same trap of misunderstanding because we do not understand the nature of happiness and where it comes from.
Your Default Way of Being
Like happiness, our sense of peace, clarity and security are our DEFAULT STATE of being. If you investigate the biochemistry of our physiology, you would know that this is already true. And our physiology has an innate mechanism to navigate its way in the midst of the most adverse conditions (things often go wrong in life and in our health) to its default state. It rewires itself. This natural auto-correct system is in-built. You are already happy by default.
Many times, we get in our own way and try to manufacture happiness from external stuffs. Of course, there are also many who want to ‘enhance’ their happy state with substances like booze, drugs, sex etc. Soon they would be addicted to these external stimulants in order to get ‘high’.
Your happiness is not dependent (we may misunderstand that it does) on conditions. It just is…..if you let it. When the dog understands that it is its own tail it’s chasing, it would breathe a sigh of relief and just rest knowing that there’s nothing to do.
Let’s consider little children for a moment. They have a natural state of well-being and happiness. They are at their natural and authentic self by default, until later on in life when they’re gradually conditioned to look for external stimulants to make them feel happy. And they start comparing what their parents give them with what other kids gain from their parents. They inevitably (unnaturally) start to look in the ‘outside-in’ direction to be happy. They even came up with sweet, ‘innocent’ songs like these: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey….” We were taught that our happiness is made by someone else, under favorable conditions etc.
When you look in the ‘outside-in’ direction, you tend to live in the past (regret of what happened) or the future (worry about things that are yet to happen), except living in the here and now and enjoying what’s happening in the moment.Happiness is your factory reset setting, your default way of being. You can return to it anytime. Click To Tweet
Be Happy and Go For Whatever You Want
At this point you may ask, “So you mean to say, I don’t need to do work hard towards a better future or pursue success?”
You see, most people think they need success (defined by the society anyway) in order to be happy. Actually it’s far easier to be happy and go for whatever you want. Both may have the same amount of work, but the quality and your experience of every moment cannot be more different. In fact, when you’re happy, you can go full out. That changes everything.
If the outside-in approach works, all the richest celebrities who seem to have it all would be the happiest people on the planet; except that we know that it’s not true. I have read many stories of people who could achieve what they thought they wanted, only to realize that those are not really what they want. Or when they finally have whatever they thought was their ultimate goal, they felt, “This is not it. There must be something more than this.” Sounds familiar?
I’m sure you have many ‘buts’ in your head and think this can’t be it (I’d like to hear them), which are exactly the thoughts I had a few years ago.
When I first came across the inside-out understanding of the nature of life and happiness, I thought it was ‘too easy’…..until I realized I was trying hard in intellectualizing these things, which wasn’t very helpful. The day I truly ‘got it’ without struggling, I just smiled and rest in the knowledge that I’m already okay (I was stuck in a rut, my bank account was low, and many other gripes) and I regained a newfound excitement for life and the dreams that I’m going for. I happily let go of my old strategy for happiness.
So at the end of the day, you can ‘chase after your own tail’, or you can rest in the clear understanding of the nature of what you’re pursuing, yourself and what you already have – the quality of innate happiness. And you can look towards a new direction and run (with even greater vigour) for whatever you want in life.
I’m open for comments, stories, whatever that is in your mind and heart to share.