Why I Don’t Fight to Be Happy All of the Time
The Pursuit of Happiness
It sounds like wishful believing. It seems only as if it exists in our imagination. It feels elusive.
Happiness, or lack thereof.
Chasing. Reaching. Striving. Always out of grasp. But we try to grasp anyways.
You aren’t there now. Not yet. But you will get there. Maybe. For the time being just keep pushing, grinding, and hustling. You’ll make it. Eventually. Or so you hope.
Every day you show up and do the work, smile and nod when needed, debate constructively, share opinions, have a strong social circle, and live a rather healthy life.
You’re doing what you're supposed to do, right?
Why then, when this life is examined, we uncover unhappiness, not more happiness? Maybe it will be there in the future, awaiting your arrival. Right now you might feel a bit empty, when you sense that you should feel full. Moments that once gave you massive doses of reward, now feel like faulty prescriptions.
There will always be suffering with a belief that happiness is a point on a map, and we aren’t there just yet.
I believe that as many people out there that are chasing happiness, there are a lot who understand the fault in this belief. This post is for those that are at a point to either let go of this false narrative in chasing happiness, or who already understand happiness is within our control, but feel that something is lacking.
Let’s move along.
Creating Happiness Now
A portion of us understand that the pursuit of happiness is an illusion. That by chasing, you fail to grasp the present moment, and experience it fully. The sin by living this way is that happiness is occurring right now. “It’s a mindset,” some will say. Your thoughts makes up your perspective makes up your emotions makes up your beliefs.
From here, it makes sense to ask the following question:
“How can I create the mindset to be happy right now?”
The goal then becomes:
Cultivate the mindset for happiness in this moment.
This is very insightful because it poses two things, at least to me. One is the fact that by “creating,” and “cultivating,” this mindset, we understand that it is within our control. It is something that we can practice, as challenging as it might be. Secondly, we grasp the concept — the illusion — of time. Time in the sense of past, and future. Now is the only moment that exists, and by working at becoming mindful, we can become aware of where our mind is at this exact point. This allows our mind to remain still, and at peace — not to be pulled by the weight of the past or the pull of what the future could hold.
Yet something is missing. At least in my experience.
Here is a beautiful quote by Victor E. Frankl that will lead nicely into what I am feeling.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.
Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
This is precisely why the goal for me is not “happiness.” Rather it is to do the shit that I love, that keeps me engaged, and focused. To practice challenging principles on a daily basis as my values and beliefs stay grounded, yet adaptable.
By natural extension of this, I am creating more moments of happiness.
We know that happiness cannot be pursued. We know that we must create the mindset to foster happiness right now.
So, what’s missing?
You Don’t Have to Be Happy All of the Time
I want to propose another layer. My thought process on this topic has lasted long enough in my head, to the point I felt that it was time to write it, and share if anyone else thinks the way I do.
Here’s the final piece I consider:
“I don’t have to be happy all of the time, and that’s okay.”
It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel angry. What’s not okay is to react irrationally out of an overstimulated emotion.
Why is it okay? Because to feel anything other than happiness, might make you feel like you are failing. That you aren’t doing something right. That there is something wrong with you.
This is what I have felt incessantly over the past few years. I felt like I was doing everything I should be, but I made one of those “things” to be another daily check to my checklist.
Be Happy. Check. (Or not).
By doing this, I found myself constantly worried that I was not really happy, or that I could be happier. As when Frankl said about the error with aiming at success, because I was so engrossed with just be happy, I missed the mark entirely.
Humans are complex. We are more than just our thoughts. We have the ability to view our thoughts from a particular vantage point. We can witness them come an go. And it might be from this place we find stillness, and potentially happiness.
What I have learned quite recently, is that I must accept myself wholeheartedly, and with self-compassion all of the time. Not just in the good moments because for starters, that’s the easy part. When I’m excited or passionate, it’s very easy to pat myself on the back. But what about when I feel crap, or if I’m pissed off, or completely miserable? Then I become self-defeating. I talk badly about myself, to myself. This just creates a loop of garbage negativity.
By becoming self-aware and mindful of where my mind is at now, and accepting it, I have become fully capable of adjusting my reality. The main reason for this is that I understand I am more than just my thoughts. There are many inputs that influence and feed these thoughts. How these thoughts manifest themselves is constantly changing. There are just too many variables at play to try and control everything with our precise, perfectionist, and rational mind, that it inevitably becomes something like lunacy.
There may be a better path to happiness than the one I propose here. But I know from experience that this has shaped me into a much happier human, with much less anxiety, and pain.
When I say that I don’t have to be happy all of the time, it can be said another way:
Welcome everything, as is.
This is a lesson I learned from Frank Ostaseski’s amazing book, “The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.” We tend to meet whatever we experience as ‘negative,’ with resistance. We try to dig in our heels, and push away what we don’t wish to experience. By doing so, we fail to embrace uncertainty.
The paradox is that life is uncertainty!
There are so many things outside of our control, that constantly change without our input, which consistently ebb and flow. An angry boss, a bad driver, a death in the family, the weather, cellular and organ functioning, financial markets, what others think about us, and on and on.
By attaching ourselves to these scenarios which we can’t control, and focusing our efforts on pushing them away, or dwelling on them and letting them eat us up, it teaches us that happiness is not present. All it takes is one moment to choose to resist, then view this resistance as ‘bad’, and that you are not happy, to cascade into other areas of your life. It makes it easier, so the next time you do anything, you are constantly self-critical, and judgmental.
Life cannot be possessed. It is in constant change. So do not try to reach, grasp, and cling to things outside of your control. Instead, give your loving awareness, and space towards everything, and everyone.
What we give space to, can move freely.
Happiness comes from within. Sit still with yourself. Observe yourself. Give happiness. We can’t wait for it to come to us. Happiness is mindset and action.
When we view things from the perspective of our individual personalities, we only see how we are affected. When we view things from the vantage point of happiness and love, we see the connections of ourselves with the greater whole.
Where to Begin
Step 1: Become aware of wherever it is that you are, in whatever state of mind you are in, feeling the particular sensation (physical/mental) you sense.
Step 2: Accept it. Welcome it. Be self-compassionate towards yourself. Embrace it fully.
Step 3: Do one small thing that could make you one percent happier. You could text someone you care about. Maybe play the guitar. Read a book. Go for a walk. Or you might just try to smile.
Notice that all of these things are not distractions. They aren’t about opening our phones to check notifications, or doing something that gratifies our shallow selves.
We want to continuously make consciously deep, and meaningful choices.
It all starts with being aware of our mindset, accepting whatever it is that we feel, and then making a conscious choice to view what we feel with love and kindness, and from their to take action.
As I finish, let me open up to you:
“I am feeling a bit sad and irritated as I write these final words. My neck is tight, and my breath is shallow. And that’s okay. Breathing in. I love who I am, and how I feel. I am not sadness. I am not irritable. I am loving awareness. Breathing out.”
From a place of awareness, space, and self-compassion:
I am one percent happier.
Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.