I hope you did not come here looking for the perfect recipe for happiness. Really, if it was so easy-if happiness could say be bottled up as an elixir- there would be lots of bottlers hawking the magic potion. And if happiness could be boxed up in a neat little package, numerous companies would be selling it to you. And if you are more of a do-it-yourselfer and simply wanted to know how to get happy, there would be plenty of gurus pushing the pathways to paradise (via your pocket, for a fee of course!) Put it that way though, and it seems like happiness may not be such a difficult goal after all! There seem to be enough purveyors of pleasure out there – from those that promise you instant and convenient bliss at the mere sip of a beverage, to the ones guaranteeing the delight of your loved ones as they unwrap a package. It seems that happiness can, in fact, be produced, packaged and consumed quite easily and on demand.
What is happiness anyway ? Easier defined in the negative, happiness is definitely not quite the tangible entity or a fungible object. In fact if I had to describe happiness, despite my love of the English language I would resort to my limited knowledge of French and say that happiness is je ne sais quoi, that certain something, that cannot be explained or described but an exhilaration that can only be felt. Hence the song : If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. You don’t win or buy happiness, you feel it. But perhaps an even easier way to think about happiness is simply that it is one of the most basic goals of human life. (Don’t think so ? Try finding someone whose goal in life is to be unhappy !). We all – knowingly or unknowingly, actively or passively, seek happiness. And for each of us happiness comes in a unique flavor, bottled or packaged in a container so distinct that it comes in a quantity of one.
Now I am no expert on happiness (see disclaimer in paragraph one). But like any of you, I have had my share of happy moments in life, and have found that happiness often comes from a blissful confluence of a couple of basic principles.
The first is that happiness is not actually that complicated. We need to let go of our notions that happiness can only be felt when some things happen in a specific sequence with selected accoutrements or at certain locations in the company of defined people. When we do that we may find that happiness can be achieved very easily, and perhaps shockingly, at little or no cost ! Mammon is in fact “an inadequate God” – as argued brilliantly in a recent article in The Atlantic on the “Secret Fears of the Super Rich”. Do read it if you want some quantitative proof on why money, in fact, cannot buy happiness !
The second is that happiness often comes from just being true to yourself. Pointing to the true north on your personal compass will usually ensure that you will be happy wherever you are and whatever you are doing. And by “your personal compass”, I mean that definition of right and wrong that is your own and in accordance with your own core beliefs -hopefully one that does not violate any applicable laws of the land, but certainly not a version prescribed by your family or friends, or your cultural, religious and professional credo. It may be leisure that brings you delight- or hard work that makes you happy. Whatever it is, allow yourself to discover your true bliss !