Some people say that happiness is not a goal. One has to strive for measurable and controllable outcomes not chase feel good moments of no consequence. That probably explains why people lose their smile as they age, they give up on joy and judge it in others too, after all we are not here to be happy, are we? Yes, we are! If you don’t make happiness a goal, how do you expect to achieve it? Everything in your life that was worth doing took planning, effort, focus and consistent pursuit. You didn’t get into college by just letting it happen, you will not become happy by just letting it happen. Happiness is not a state, it is a healthy emotional habit and the measure of a disciplined mind.
If people dedicated one hundredth of the time they spend on bettering their bodies to healing their spirit the results would benefit us all, but it is somehow considered unseemly and self-serving. After all life is hard, right? It surely becomes so as an effect of this way of thinking.
Is happiness controllable? Absolutely. It is controllable because it springs from inside, you exude it like fragrance, you create it from nothing, it is a part of you. You have to love it, want it, expect it. Nothing comes from its opposite, happiness doesn’t come from its opposite either. In brief, if there is no reason to be miserable, why not be happy? If you are not happy under normal circumstances understand that is a force of habit, not the state of fact.
I am not happy, I choose to be happy and this makes the fundamental difference in my world. I chose happiness as I chose my calling, my relationships, my passions. I decided how I wanted my one life to be and chose happiness. If one were to purposely choose to be miserable people would think it strange, but if you don’t fill your life with happiness it will be overrun by misery, the universe abhors a vacuum. I choose to be happy and my happiness is very much a goal.
Is it measurable? Social scientists analyzed the basic human needs: safety, food, shelter, love, significance, contribution, awareness to a greater purpose. These are very measurable factors, not difficult or elusive but simple and fundamental. I wake up every day grateful for the absence of war, enough food to eat, a warm bed and a roof over my head, the love of my family, being a part of this very complicated society of ours, having something to offer and my immortal soul.
On top of that are the little things, how come nobody notices the little things, the flavorful cup of coffee, the purring kitten, fluffy snowflakes thick as feathers, hyacinths, children giggling in the background, a blooming apple tree, sunshine on a July morning, that recognition you got even though you didn’t deem yourself worthy, Champaign bubbles, the unexpected vacation, love, the list is different for everyone, of course, but you should definitely make one. Put it on the fridge, next to the list of chores, and every time one of the items on the list happens, put a check mark next to it and acknowledge the fact that at that very moment you should be happy.
Happiness makes many people feel guilty and guilt is a toxic and dangerous emotion, a scourge on the soul. While marginally acceptable when warranted, left to the realm of pure emotion it poisons the psyche and keeps people enslaved to misery and suffering. For instance, if there is more to love about you and you reach for the ice cream in the freezer, taking one spoonful and being happy about it will not add to your problem, crying bitter tears, feeling helpless about overeating and finishing the pint will.
Is your list too short? Are the items conditioned by other people’s cooperation? Do they have prerequisites? Did you list what you thought would be appropriate and acceptable by other people’s standards as opposed to what would really give you joy? Are you ashamed to show it?
The way to measure what makes you happy is the same as to measure what is worth doing: ten years from now would you still choose this state of mind? Will making this state of mind a habit help or hurt you in the long run? Are you subduing your beliefs to gain acceptance? Is achieving a certain state of mind worth the effort you put into it?
One method to realize how engrained your habit of not seeking happiness is pay attention to how much resistance you put forth to fun activities that children usually bring up: baking cookies, building a pillow fort, catching fire flies on a warm summer evening. Is the first thought that comes to mind “I’m too tired, I don’t feel like it?” but you spend endless hours following everything on TV? Do you curtail all activities that are not mandatory but stay up until three in the morning to finish your chores? If you are prevented from pursuing your regular obligations for one day do you get into a panic and have nothing to do? Did you ever stop or take additional time during an errand to notice something extraordinary like a colorful sunset, frost on the grass, kids running after balloons? Did the world continue revolving despite this unforgivable lapse in diligence?
Watch your happiness just like you watch your weight, your finances, your children’s progress. Clean your mind like you would a filthy room, even if it’s someone else’s filth, you still don’t want to live in it.
Happiness is the reason to wake up in the morning, the only memory that endures in good times and bad, the fortune that can’t be taken away from you: all the moments that you cherish, the recollections that make you smile, the events, expected or not, that you remember as joyful, the scents, the lights, the colors, the very fabric of being. If you don’t realize that having this taken from you is akin to losing your soul you will never understand the imperative of planning for happiness, for all of world’s misfortune is a composite of a myriad individual miseries.