What Is Happiness Anyway?

“There is no way to Happiness.

Happiness is the way.”

- Wayne Dyer

Everybody wants to be happy. And this is both a healthy, ideal drive in all of us. The problem is that happiness (especially in our modern world) is often believed to be a subjective state of mind. For example, someone saying they are “happy” when relaxing with a cold drink on a hot beach, or when having fun with friends.

In reality happiness is something that comes from the totality of one’s life experience. It’s not something you can gain or lose within a few hours (like sensations – for example joy or pleasure).

Aristotle believed that happiness is more like the ultimate value of your life as you’ve lived up to this moment, and how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being.

To create a happy life, we must become and live Happiness itself. How exactly do we do that? Especially during times like these?

I was approached by someone recently with the following:

“My friends tell me I get upset too easily but I don’t believe one can be happy all the time. I think that pretending problems don’t exist is foolish and unrealistic. Also, don’t we need the “down” times help to us appreciate the “up” times more?”

It makes sense to be concerned over negatives in your life. Evolutionarily speaking, focusing on negatives would have a big pay-off. Hearing a twig snap in the brush 100,000 years ago and reacting to it strongly might alert you to an animal that was intent on having you for dinner. A heightened sensitivity to negatives might have saved your life, thus allowing you to pass on your genes.

This reaction today is just not necessary. Yet society has evolved much more quickly than human genetics, leaving most of us “stuck” with this ancient tendency to focus on negatives. That said, it’s also not a good idea to pretend that problems don’t exist at all.

The difficulty occurs when you constantly focus on negatives. 

So what do you do? 

Well, start by focusing only on what you can control. If you have a problem take time to think about and deal with it effectively, then let it go. If you can’t do anything about it (i.e. you don’t have control), then let it go. Either way whatever you focus on... will expand. 

Therefore the more you focus on the abundance of positives in your life – while at the same time dealing with your life and any problems pro-actively – the more positives expand. Similarly, the more you focus on the negatives in your life, the more they expand.

Some people incorrectly believe that we actually require negatives to help us appreciate the positives in life, and without them the positives would have no meaning. Not true. 

First, we will all have some negative experiences in life; no one escapes this fact. We do not require more to let us know how good life can be. When was the last time you heard someone having a great time at a party say: “Boy, I can’t wait to have something bad happen so I can appreciate the good times even more?” 

Or imagine saying this: “I wish I would have had something bad happen yesterday so I could really enjoy today.” How crazy does that sound? 

We don’t require more negatives to show us how good life is or can be. Positives can stand alone and be appreciated for what they are, like being captivated by the awesome beauty of a South Seas sunset.

Second, if we’re being honest, nobody gets rid of all the negatives in life. 

The difference between happy people and unhappy people, is not the amount of negatives in their lives, but how they have learned to think about and then deal with those negatives. 

Happy people have all the same problems as unhappy people. They just don’t make a big thing over negatives; they change them when possible, grin and bear it (“cope”) when they can’t change them, and then quickly focus on the positives and what they can do to improve their own lives.

Try reshaping how you think about your problems to be more realistic, using the technique of asking yourself these 3 questions:

1. Aren’t most of your individual “problems” more of a hassle and a concern than truly catastrophic?

2. Eventually, aren’t you likely to solve the problem and find a way to be happy?

3. Aren’t you really the type of person who is strong and able to handle any problem? (Hint: Believing this will help you make that a reality).

Many people around the world are enduring real loss during this moment in history. If you have experienced a significant loss in your life (a loved one, a business, a marriage), allow yourself to grieve by giving yourself space to feel through the pain and sadness. When you're ready, gently begin to focus on the positive aspects of your present, and what your hopes are for the future.

Bottom line: Most of us are dealing with less than ideal circumstances in many ways at present. Don’t adopt a mindset that you'll become more appreciative after the negative circumstances have passed, or because of them. Appreciate today now. Whatever it looks like and however way you can.

Because yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is promised to no one


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