Spending your life searching for things, events, people or places that will make you happy is a fool’s errand. Aristotle was right, however you look at it. The line that follows this quote says, “…similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” – the message seems clear.
A happy life is not spent chasing happiness
Happiness is hot topic right now – in fact it’s probably the hottest topic of all time because it’s something we seem to search for relentlessly. Being happy is so important to us that it dominates almost everything we do, and new ways to get there are always being studied.
But the problem is that looking for happiness leaves us dissatisfied. It leaves us dissatisfied because happiness isn’t something that can be found in the way that you can find a lost set of keys. To truly be happy is a constant state of being.
Our understanding of happiness is based on the assumption that it’s something that can be pursued. That assumption has even spawned its own film with Will Smith in it – how could we not be convinced?
The problem is that looking for a happy life in things, people, places or future events is that those things are all transient – they don’t last.
The only thing you can find true happiness in is the one consistent truth: you exist. Your sense of self, your own existence, is the only thing you can ever be absolutely sure of – so try starting there.
A happy life of travel
Happiness is not a destination. You can’t get on a plane and get to happiness, and no amount of time will bring it closer. Again, I understand where this idea comes from – so much of what the western materialist viewpoint teaches says if X then Y.
- If you work hard, you will be rich.
- If you eat food, you will be full.
- If you drink too much vodka, you will be unconscious.
If you try and apply that reasoning to happiness, you’re at risk of chasing your tail which can actually do more harm than good.
World travellers, myself included, are often massively guilty of this. We seek experiences, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but when we’re seeking experiences in search of a buzz, we’re definitely doing it wrong.
Moving from country to country when you get bored goes against what most seasoned travellers will recommend – instead try to stay, and be, in one place. Start to look a little deeper into your present experience – the here and now – rather than letting your thoughts take you into the future.
Remember: less is more.
It’s inside yourself that you will begin to cultivate happiness, rather than find it.
A happy life starts inside
Things that are external to us cannot bring us a long-term happy life – they can influence our mood in the short term, but nothing beyond that. The first bite of the Big Mac tastes great, but we always end up with the McSweats, and they stink.
All of these external stimuli have a ‘happy limit’ that we hit after a while, and this leaves us looking for the next quick fix.
The path to solving this problem starts with realising that there’s a problem to begin with, and the sooner we realise this the sooner we can start to pay attention to the ‘me’ that’s here right now.
Slow down and breathe for a moment. Try a simple meditation and turn inward, presently. Quietly observe what the weather’s like inside yourself and how it’s constantly changing, chasing thoughts that appear from nowhere.
Is what we want what we think we want, or is there more to happiness than a 6-week round the world ticket and a new Macbook Pro?
When we’re able to stop taking happiness like a drug and focusing on contentment in the present moment, a long-term happiness at the core of our very being will emerge before we even recognise that it’s there.
Did this post strike a chord? Let me know in the comments – your feedback is the most valuable thing I have, because it’s for you that I’m writing.