I believe that this post is one of the most important that I have ever written, so therefore I have brought it up to my front page again. This was done because of a challenge that was put out by Alex Shalman.com called the happiness Project. He asks five questions:
- How do you define happiness?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?
- What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day)
- What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?
- What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?
- A feeling of well-being and joy.
- Now - 9 Child - 3
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For those of you have previously read my blog “Attitude, the Ultimate Power,’ aka “Monday Morning Power,” know that I have spent a lot of time discussing happiness and I have some very definite opinions on the subject. I am continuously trying to refine my thoughts and this is my latest attempt. I assure you, it won't be my last.
When discussing “happiness” most people speak of it in the following terms: “Striving to be Happy,” “Searching for Happiness,” I’ll be Happy when…,” and so on. To me, these statements conjure up a journey (a quest) with happiness as the reward for a successful journey’s end; in other words a successful result to the quest. If happiness is one of the rewards for successfully completing the journey then that journey, will more times than not, end in disaster. After all, not every quest is successful; with success being measured by achieving the goals that were set. The journey, or the “striving for,” is far closer related to one of the basic tenant of human nature, which is “not being satisfied,” than it is to “happiness.”
The basic fuel of Human Nature is "not to be satisfied." Human nature is to seek pleasure, to fulfill desires, to accomplish, to better our world, to never quit, to persevere, to constantly strive for "more." whatever the aspects of human nature that we strive for, we will never be satisfied. Insatiability and the resulting drive to be satisfied are at the heart of human nature. You can never have enough intimacy, food, love, accomplishment, money, success, etc. The problem that we run into is that many of us tie happiness to Human Nature”; feeling that we would be happy "if." For such a small word, so much can hang on it. "If" is considered a condition. As an example; polls show that people in general state that they would be happy "if" they had 50% more salary. Then, after that goal was reached and they were polled again, they would be happy with 50% more again. No matter how much we have, we want "more."
On the surface, not being satisfied seems to be selfish; a negative connotation. However, not being satisfied, which fuels the “striving” in human nature is actually a good thing, a very good thing. If it wasn’t for our basic dissatisfaction with what we have, the constant desire to have “more”, where would we be today? Without the desire for “more” there would never have been any inventions, discoveries, cures, art, etc. Again, where we usually go wrong is when we tie this concept of “more” to happiness.
Happiness must never be tied to human nature or else we are destined to be unhappy. We must learn to never qualify happiness. I am an absolute firm believer that happiness is a decision and that we can choose to be happy. I absolutely believe that anyone, anywhere, in any economic condition, in any health condition, with few exceptions, can choose to be happy. Why should the billionaire be any happier than the pauper? In fact, I bet there are, in relative terms, more happy paupers than happy billionaires. Sometimes it just gets down to “I’m happy to be alive.”
Now, to get back to the differences and ties between “happiness” and “human nature;” I have tried to sum this up in an original quote, “Human nature is what drives us; happiness is what sustains us.” Think of two perpendicular lines, one vertical (pointing up) and the other horizontal (pointing sideways.) The one pointing up represents human nature, a constant up-hill battle to achieve. The one pointing sideways represents happiness. We have the ability to maximize happiness no matter where we are on the vertical line, by the simple process of choice. What makes choosing happiness simple are two important concepts; “Gratitude,” and “Living in the Moment.”
By simply being grateful for what we have, no matter how much or how little, the choice to be happy comes so much easier. “Gratitude” is probably an entire article in itself. So for now, let’s just accept gratitude at face value.
The best way to get through life, with the most enjoyment and the least amount of stress, is to live in the moment. In order to effectively live in the moment you must believe in your ability to cope with whatever life throws at you. You must have confidence in yourself, the confidence that you will do the right thing. Knowing that you can effectively deal with any situation that comes your way will better enable you to live in the moment.
As a species, we have an innate ability to over complicate things. Unfortunately, this also applies to the simplicity of choice; now that’s not to say that choice is simple. We all have those inner voices that keep trying to drag us down, to influence us to make the wrong choices. To be able to quiet those destructive inner voices and replace them with constructive, nurturing and positive attitudes, again, is an entire book, which I am posting on my site.
Also, there are those instances where the individual does not have the choice; in the cases of clinical depression and chemical imbalance. These situations are unique and cannot be included in this article. I am not qualified to speak to these clear exceptions.
In order for me to best understand what my real choices are, my constant companion is Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Pledge: “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.” If we can apply this in everything we do, the ability to be grateful and to live in the moment becomes easier; thus enabling us to choose happiness.
In addition, I also believe that happiness is a moral obligation. With few exceptions, happy people make this world a better place and unhappy people make it worse. Let me ask you; how do you feel when you are around a happy person? How do you feel when you are around an unhappy person? See what happens around you if you choose to be happy. Even if you fake it, it becomes contagious and before you know it, you are actually feeling happy. Why are you feeling happy? You are happy because you have made the choice to both live in the moment and be grateful.
Let’s see if I can tie all of this together into a clear bullet-point summary/conclusion.
- Happiness and Human Nature are on different paths.
- Happiness should never be connected to a result or a condition.
- Human nature is what drives us; happiness is what sustains us.
- Happiness is as simple as a choice however, a choice is never simple.
- The choice of Happiness comes easier when:
- It is based in “gratitude.”
- You have the confidence to live in the moment.
- Happiness is a moral obligation;
- The more happy people there are in the world, the better the world will be.
happiness Human Nature confidence gratitude,