Most of the times, when somebody asks you if you are happy, it is very likely that you will have to think about it. It seems like such an easy question. Are. You. Happy?
Turns out, not that easy to answer. And I feel like often people are measuring their happiness the wrong way. We all have an idea of what our perfect life looks like. And in measuring happiness, people are often trying to figure out how far off they are from that perfect life. So often, when asked the age-old question, the response will be something along the lines of “I wish I had more money”, or “I’m not quite happy with my current job”, or “I still haven’t found the love of my life”. In my case, it would be “I’d like to exercise more” or “I want to spend more time writing”.
But creating and analyzing the gap between your actual and your ideal life does not happiness make. Nor does it measure happiness. If anything, it shows you that you want more. More time, more money, more love. But even if you have a million dollars, you have all hours of the week free to spend on the hobby’s that you can choose… You will always want something more.
Maybe this effect is created by our current society, or our culture. Maybe it’s all the motivational speakers screaming you can do anything you like and be anyone you want. Maybe it’s fear that always tells us to strive for more.
Whatever it is, it will always be there. We will always want more. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it does mean that if you will measure happiness based on this gap you create by wanting more, you will never be happy. Because guess what. Goals expand. Goals multiply. Goals change.
You also hear many people say that if you appreciate what you already have, you will be happy. This makes more sense to me: stopping the focus on all you don’t have and focus on the things that you do have, the goals you have already reached. Gratitude is a good thing, for sure. And although gratitude alone is not the key to happiness, it will make the gap between your perfect and current life less prominent.
I’m currently reading a book about mindfulness and I read an interesting part that I’d like to share. We are all very hard on ourselves nowadays. And I don’t mean giving ourselves a hard time if we fail in striving towards all these goals we set, although, yes, that too. But we are constantly analyzing how we feel and why we feel that way. Maybe in your life, if you think about your job, your family, your possessions, you are sure you have it all. The ingredients for the ambrosia called happiness are there. And then you wonder why it is then, that you don’t feel happy all the time.
Instead of accepting this feeling, we challenge it. We fight it with all our power, because we want that happiness. It is the ultimate goal. We question our feelings and wonder where they come from and scold ourselves for not being happy or content. I believe this causes a downward spiral that in some cases can be called depression.
It has been really bothering me lately that the world has these preconceived notions on what will make us happy, when the majority of the population cannot say with any kind of certainty that they are in fact happy.
I’ve recently read Fightclub (and watched it too) and I was really struck by the part shown in the link (which is more elaborate in the book). Parents tell their kids to go to school. They have to go to college afterwards. Then they should get a job. Marry. Mortgage. KIDS. And then what? They seem like clearcut ways to become happy. They are blocks that can make up a life like pieces of Lego create all sorts of awesomess. They are perceived as the normal way to live your life. But they never guarantee it.
I hate that the world, our society, what- or whomever has decided that we have to follow certain paths. That we are limited to certain pieces of Lego. We have to go to university, we have to get a job, get a spouse, have children and that’s that.
That. Is. Not. That.
You don’t have to do
shit anything and you can do everything.
People sometimes tell me they envy the life I’m living right now. Living in different places, traveling, meeting people from all over the world. I get it, but I don’t get it. It’s not like I have anything going for me that others don’t. I just decided to do it. I saved up money, and I’m not the kind of person to do anything that I don’t like to do.
So I don’t.
So in a way, maybe I am like these motivational speakers encouraging you to do whatever. And to not do whatever. Yes, lead your life, set goals. But let your life flow. Go with it. Let things happen. Stop trying to control everything. Enjoy what you have, and take time to figure out what it is that you want to do, not what society wants you to do.
These themes, happiness and normalcy have really been keeping me busy lately. I’m living an awesome life right now and yet there are still the inevitable moments during which I feel unhappy, and those who know me personally may know I’m the analyzing type of person. I want to know why I feel unhappy, but feelings are simply not easily caught up in logic. There is not always a reason and in fact, I believe that the only reason for unhappiness is you. It is your mindset that decides if you feel happy or not.
But that’s kind of a confronting thought, isn’t it?
Because it means you are responsible. It means you cannot blame your job or the people around you. You cannot blame your life.
Because it’s you.