In my years of advocating for happiness, I’ve encountered many people who say that they just want to be happy.
I share with them that it’s natural to experience both happiness and sadness along the journey of life. A reality where only happiness exists is a fantasy that can’t be realized.
Happiness and sadness are intrinsic parts of life. Both exist in the experience of living. The harder you try to be happy, upbeat and positive, the more you may feel sad, down and negative.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is to not try to be anything other than what you are — accept how you feel at all times and find meaning and purpose in all you do.
In fact, it was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who argued that happiness comes from living in a manner that fulfills our purpose. He believed that happiness was not a goal but engagement in the process.
So here’s something to think about. What if we looked at happiness as simply a synonym for a meaningful life? And what if achieving a meaningful life required just a few components?
>> Connection: A part of happiness is a sense of belonging. Over the last several decades participation in religious, fraternal and civic organizations have seen a decline as has family time such as the nightly dinner around the table.
These cultural and societal shifts have made the experience of belonging more elusive. And despite quality-of-life improvements in health care and living standards, many people feel isolated and unworthy. Find ways to belong to something. Belonging must be cultivated for happiness to thrive.
>> Purpose: We’re constantly in state of reinvention as to “what we want to be when we grow up.”
It used to be that people had one or two careers in their lifetime. Now, many of us have several.
Our true job or purpose in life is simply finding something that inspires us at every stage of life, whether it’s work, volunteering or other pursuits that feel meaningful. When we apply our abilities to help others, we create a depth in our life that is fulfilling.
>> Transcendence: Recall a moment when you felt connected to a higher reality. Perhaps you were gazing at a waterfall, watching someone achieve something seemingly impossible or feeling euphorically breathless at the zenith of a hike. Maybe you were in the office blazing a solution to a problem or finishing a project. Any time you step in to a zone where you access a higher place creates those ethereal moments of meaning.
As you ponder these ideas, you might be surprised to realize how meaningful your life already is. Happiness could be something you’re experiencing right now.
Take time each day to reflect and be present. Be grateful for who you are. Be grateful for the life you live.
By appreciating what you have, you open pathways in your life to discover new possibilities for happiness.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.