The Pursuit of
Regardless of your profession or career path, your culture or language, your age or where you live in this vast planet, the pursuit of happiness is one common goal to all of us, human beings. Every time we have a dream, set a goal, pray, or wish for something, the underlying emotion we are seeking is happiness. When we have an experience that causes pleasure or has meaning to us, we bring about a positive feeling that translates into joy.
According to the dictionary, happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. One definition I found at a Princeton University website says that happiness is a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
I believe happiness can be compared to an elusive butterfly going from one flower to another in the garden of life. Let’s use this analogy and imagine a young child walking in the park on a sunny day.
The child walks with his arms stretched out towards the flower where the butterfly is resting on, but as soon as he gets within reach, the butterfly takes off to land on another flower.
Determined, the child follows the butterfly to the next flower, and then the next, and the next… but no matter how much he chases it, the butterfly always remains out of his reach.
As adults, happiness can seem like a butterfly, always a few steps away… over there… out of our reach. To some, it may become an obsession. They believe that if only… this or that would happen they’d be truly happy. Their minds are caught up in the ‘if only’ mode continuously…. If only I had more money, a better job or my own business… if only I was in a great relationship, if my partner was more loving or my child was a better student… if only I could have the SUV I’ve been dreaming about, live in a bigger home or travel to Hawaii for a week or two… then, I’d be happy.
Even if they were to achieve one of their ‘if only’ desires, the bliss would be temporary. They would sooner or later get accustomed to what they got, and start feeling unhappy because they don’t have –or they want- something else. This feeling gives birth to the next ‘if only’ desire perpetually. Do you know anyone like this?
See, when you go through life feeling blue most of the time, you tend to believe that external events, things, or circumstances you want will give you the happiness you are seeking when these things happen. However, let’s realize that material possessions, circumstances, and events will just bring short-term happiness. These things will never have a lasting effect in your life even if you get to keep them for a while.
Just like the saying goes… “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, if you base your happiness on things, you’ll always be chasing happiness based on things out there, “on the other side of the fence.” Subsequently, your focus and perception are always based on outer events, which will harbor feelings of dissatisfaction, discouragement and unhappiness in your heart and life experience as a whole.
Every human experience encompasses a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant circumstances. Because of this, no one should rely on experiences as a source of happiness unless they want to live in constant turmoil or experience the eroding ups and downs of an emotional roller coaster ride.
If what you want is true, long-lasting happiness, you must become aware of the fact that living happy is a state of being, not a state of having.
Happiness is an inner condition that can be attained by all who truly desire to live in happiness most of the time. Yes, I say ‘most of the time‘ because certain unavoidable life events will bring sadness, that’s just a part of life. However, if your normal state is that of happiness, sadness will be temporary as you will recover faster from sorrow or despair.
There is no gene that determines who’ll be happy and who won’t. You and I are capable of becoming happy people and living happy lives IF we understand that happiness is never related to the world out there, but to the world within.
The inner contentment that allows you to navigate through the ups and downs of life has its roots deep within your being. Thus, the only true source of happiness comes from finding and embracing who you are as a person, and from there you can live a happy life overall. Finding peace in every aspect of your life is also important… the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.
Once you accept yourself ‘as you are’ and find peace in all of these areas, you get a sense of completeness in life; and the result is a flowing state of happiness.
If you neglect any one of these areas, you’ll experience a sense of emptiness. You may not be able to identify this nagging feeling right away. It just feels like something is missing. If this happens, it will be hard to get a solid foundation for building permanent happiness within. Like I mentioned above, many will try to fill this incompleteness by looking for outer stuff, such as the cars, the trips, the things.
This is the reason why falling into the “elusive butterfly” syndrome is quite common for so many people. They may get what they want and feel happy for awhile, only to discover later on that they’re feeling empty all over again. The feeling of frustration lingers and the cycle repeats itself once and again, unless they learn the secret to being happy despite life’s circumstances which starts with working on their inner self.
So… is happiness an elusive butterfly for you? If so, spend some time in quiet reflection. Ask yourself how you’re doing in regard to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of your being. If you notice that you are neglecting one of these four important elements of your being, you’ll know why you are experiencing a sense of emptiness within. This is a good starting point that gives you direction to modify or improve your life experience.
Remember, it is perfectly fine to desire more and get some things to make your life easier, more comfortable or pleasant, but do not confuse the euphoric feeling of getting things with real happiness. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. You deserve it. But, do not let the object possess your happiness, ever.
The more you experience happiness as an inner job, the more often you will experience the butterfly of happiness landing on your shoulder.
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