“Where can I find happiness?” This is the wrong question. It sounds like happiness is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If I run faster and try harder maybe I can find where someone hid it. But what if the question is: “What is keeping me from experiencing happiness?” This is the way Jim Taylor Ph.D put it on a blog post in Psychology Today in September 2012. Dr. Taylor writes, “I feel that we’re trying way too hard to achieve happiness. Most people have come to see it as a goal to accomplish, like all of the other aspirations (e.g., wealth, celebrity, beauty, power) that our culture tries to foist on us. But, in truth, happiness is not a condition that we can actively strive for, but rather can only encourage to happen.” Dr. Taylor compares it to sleep. You can’t force yourself to sleep. You have to let yourself fall asleep. What prevents you from falling asleep? Too much alcohol? Too much caffeine? Too much anxiety or stress? We have to create an environment where our bodies are relaxed and our minds are clear and unburdened.
Happiness, it turns out is a state of mind, not another goal to be achieved and checked off our life “To Do” list. Happiness is something that is the result of our practice; practices that help us to release fear, anxiety and worry and also focus our attention and intention on doing things we love to do.
Brene’ Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, in a 2010 special for CNN entitled, “Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect?” blames pervasive perfectionism as the culprit that steals our happiness. We worry about whether we will measure up, be good enough, get the approval we seek. She writes, “Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.” She says most of us don’t believe we are worthy and we have a whole list of worthiness prerequisites. Here are a few:
• I'll be worthy when I lose 20 pounds
• I'll be worthy if I can get pregnant
• I'll be worthy if I get/stay sober
• I'll be worthy if everyone thinks I'm a good parent
• I'll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together
• I'll be worthy when I make partner
• I'll be worthy when my parents finally approve
• I'll be worthy when I can do it all and look like I'm not even trying
So what’s the deal? If happiness is not something I can pursue, achieve, or buy then it must be something I experience. If it is something I can experience then happiness must be something within me. Mark Manson writes in his blog post “Stop Trying to Be Happy,” October 10, 2013, “It’s not that happiness itself is in you, it’s that happiness occurs when you decide to pursue what’s in you.” It is in the simple act of moving your hands and feet toward something you love that you move away from your fears, worries, and anxieties. Those are the very things that prevent you from the experience of happiness – a quiet mind, a peaceful and generous heart.
What is your passion? Is it something you pursue now or is there something you always wanted to do but you’ve put it off until you have more time, more money, or when you retire.
When you are doing what you love to do – time flies by.
When you are doing what you love to do – you are filled with energy.
Stop putting it off. Spend more time doing what you love. Start today. Start this weekend. Because . . . When you are doing what you love to do . . . happiness finds you.