People want to be happy. Young or old, rich or poor, more educated or less, we all seek happiness. When we can’t find it on our own, we look to someone else to make us happy: a friend, a spouse or even a child. But the truth is, it is up to us to generate our happiness, and on the day that we stop creating it, we won’t have any.
In relationships, couples can become dependent on each other for their individual happiness. This works to a degree, particularly at the beginning of the relationship. But if it continues, and if one or both are unable to be happy in his or her own right, the relationship becomes strained.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GENERATE HAPPINESS?
Some people believe in fate, luck or destiny. Leaving your future in the hands of the Fates, with no guidance of your own, is a dangerous gamble. I wrote this for people who seek to guide their destiny. Life dishes out enough unpredictability, disappointments and even tragedy. Whatever faces us, let’s not take it lying down. We must strive to create our own happiness and live our dreams; or else, why live?
Whether in a relationship or not, and regardless of what goes on in your relationship if you have one, there is always something you can do to improve your situation. There are always some factors you can control that will make things a bit better.
For instance, you can always set a goal, no matter how small it may be, and work to attain it. You will find that if you work toward your goals and make progress on the path to their attainment, you will start feeling better. You will in fact be generating some happiness.
“Diligence is the mother of good luck”
WHAT IS HAPPINESS?
The sense of joy or contentment that we call happiness is a condition that is best created by the person himself/herself. Yes, happiness is something you create, not something that “happens” to you.
Some unhappy people get into a relationship hoping it will bring them happiness. This could become a great burden on their mate. The way to be happy is to have goals and dreams that you pursue and personal accomplishments that make you joyous and proud. Then you will have positive emotions to bring into a relationship, a friendship or a job.
If people are content, each in his own right, together they will experience even greater happiness. On the other hand, if they are miserable in their individual worlds, they will bring negativity to their relationships and will be a drain on each other. Soon they will believe that their relationships made them unhappy. Not so: they brought their own unhappiness into the relationships, and being with someone did not remedy it. But remedying individual unhappiness is not the role of a relationship. A relationship isn’t there to “save” you; its role is to enrich and empower you further. Except that you must provide a good foundation on which to create even greater happiness.
GOALS AND YOUR HAPPINESS
Goals are essential to happiness. People who have no goals are unhappy. It’s as simple as that.
Have you ever known an aimless teenager? Are they trying to accomplish anything? No. Are they happy? No. Do you see the correlation? A person who isn’t pursuing some goal will be unhappy.
Some parents soul-search endlessly in an effort to discover where they went wrong: What might they have done to make their child unhappy? Usually, it isn’t what they have done but what they haven’t. Unless they’ve helped the child set goals and work to attain them, he or she will be purposeless and unhappy.
Most youths turn to drugs because they are bored. They lack goals, either because they already have everything or because they feel hopeless about being able to achieve anything. Drugs offer some excitement to counteract the agony of boredom. They generate new problems and provide new “goals” to achieve: avoiding getting caught; lying without being found out; stealing to support their habit. These are goals, destructive as they may be. And they provide something to do, challenges to overcome and a “game” to play.
People need a game. Without goals to attain, there is no game, no life and, also, no happiness.
Consider old folks: The goal of raising a family has been attained, and the kids have moved out. They are no longer needed like they used to be. They retire. They don’t have to do much. They pass the time, pleasantly or unpleasantly. They get busy aging.
What goals do they still have? How to avoid slipping in the shower and breaking a hip? How to have their diapers changed without losing too much dignity? Without new goals, the aging process accelerates. They get dementia. With the help of modern medicine, they can live for years as a vegetable using up their long-term-insurance benefits. But they aren’t happy.
It is interesting to note that dementia (defined as “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life”) commonly occurs after retirement age. Is that a coincidence? Or could it be this has more to do with running out of goals than with physical deterioration?
I am reminded of an artist friend of mine living in Europe who, in her nineties, still sculpted, held art shows and did community service. She pursued her goals and was happy and relatively healthy. She lived a long life and was sharp as a tack to the day she died.
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
A RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS
There is a recipe for happiness, and you can use it to create your life much like a chef creates a banquet. It will enable you to uplift yourself if you are down and to create your own happiness.
Consequently, you’ll be a better friend or a better spouse. You’ll be an asset to any relationship and have a positive and constructive influence on the people in your life.
But be forewarned: This recipe is simplicity itself. If you expect some complicated instructions, you may be disappointed.
TRUTH IS SIMPLE
Many years ago, a friend gave me an invaluable piece of advice (I was having a bad day). “Whenever I am down,” he said, “I go help someone. It always makes me feel better.” I never forgot this nugget of wisdom and have used it beneficially time and time again. It never fails to work, because it is true. Yet it is simple.
“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
Truth is simple. If you think back to some helpful advice you’ve received from a parent, teacher, mentor or some other significant figure in your life, it was simple, wasn’t it? Most of the time we respond to truth with, “Well, of course! I’ve known that!” We recognize it when we see it.
Deep inside, you know the truth: about yourself, relationships and life; except that you haven’t been acknowledged for knowing and have sometimes been made wrong for it. You’ve been told that your elders know best, that truth is complicated, and that it can only be found in thick, hard-to-understand books written by authors who have multiple initials after their names. Yet all along, truth has been inside of you, simple and easy to grasp.
Complicated “solutions” can’t be true, because if they were, they would be simple—and they would work.
Have you ever met someone who, after years of therapy or other work, “understood” what was wrong with them, only it was still wrong with them? Obviously, they haven’t found the truth, or they wouldn’t still be trapped by the very issues they now “understand.”
“Truth will set you free.” Truth leads to solutions. When such solutions are put into effect, they bring about change and improvement. With truth, you can do something about life to make it better for yourself and others.
The following Recipe for Happiness is simple. It deals with you. We start there, because you must be happy as yourself before you can be happy with others.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
YOUR BASIC RECIPE
To be happy you must continuously have goals and work to attain them. Your basic Recipe for Happiness is as follows:
- Set a goal (any goal).
- Work to achieve it.
- Make good progress, and then (do not skip the next step) . . .
- Once you have achieved your goal, set a new one and work to achieve it.
Then repeat these steps over and over.
Achieving a goal or reaching a mountaintop is not the key to happiness. It is the fruitful journey that makes for happiness, not the arrival. Once you’ve arrived, you may rest on your laurels for a day or a week; but then look ahead and choose the next “mountain” to climb. Otherwise, your happiness will fade away.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” Until then, keep setting goals and working to achieve them. “Can’t I ever relax?” you ask. Of course you can. But even if you desire a vacation, you are still striving to achieve a goal.
“Roads were made for journeys not destinations.”
EXPANDING YOUR HORIZONS
Once your basic life goals have been achieved, what else could you strive for? A lot. For instance, if you remember that the world needs help—a lot of help—you’ll never run out of “mountains” to climb. The people of the world are our brothers and sisters, so to speak. They are our extended family. How could we regard ourselves as true winners if the world we live in is losing?
There is always something out there, a group or a cause, that could be helped.
Nothing compares to helping. If we help successfully, we might become the happiest people on Earth. So help your spouse; help your family and friends; help your community and the world.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”