Happiness as a goal
Everyone wants to be happy. This sentence implies that happiness is some kind of goal we create and work towards. Then what comes about when we diligently work for our happiness – are we unhappy, miserable, in anticipation of future bliss? Further, what happens when we achieve the goal – are we permanently happy or does the happiness fade and we have to set up another goal and strive for happiness again?
I really do not think that the “Happiness as a goal” theory and practice are feasible. They appear to our Western mentality but do not make us happy.
Fake it until you make it
Another theory is “Fake it until you make it”. This theory and practice is based on the premise that ultimately mimicking the body language and mindset of a happy person will make you happy. I can see some potential in this theory. If you smile more you feel, if not happy, at least better. Nevertheless, I do not think this practice is sustainable. There is not a solid foundation for happiness – you feel that your happiness is fake and other people feel it too.
Happiness as a sidebar
Therefore, I am suggesting the “Happiness as a sidebar” theory and practice. It is not my idea but I have instinctively practiced it throughout my life. In a nutshell, if you do what you love or like, what inspires and motivates you, happiness appears as a side effect. If you dare to go into uncharted waters, have a leap of faith, explore the unexplored and try the impossible, or even try something new – happiness occurs as a sidebar on the screen. So, the indirect way is quite direct.
It sounds very easy so there should be a catch. What happens if an unhappy event occurs in our very happy lives? What if we face betrayal, non- acceptance, ignorance, illness, loss or an injustice?
Then the story of the “Two Arrows” helps tremendously. The first arrow is the pain – the accident, the loss, the failure, etc. It is painful, we accept the pain and it takes time to deal with it. Sometimes, paradoxically we even experience happiness . Looking after my dying mother and losing her 18 months ago brought unbearable pain but my husband was there for me – rock solid as the Hans Christian Andersen’s steadfast tin soldier. The tragedy brought us even closer than we were before with absolute trust between us.
What we should not accept and be aware of is the second arrow that could hit us – our mind, people’s words or opinions, group’s judgements and the pressure of society. This arrow brings layers of pain and unhappiness (we are not talking about support and encouragement from other quarters). People’s words speak volumes about them and not about the person they talk about. What we should know is that there is a very brief moment before the second arrow can reach us when we can decide our reaction. And we usually know who is sincerely there to help and encourage us and who is there to upload their negativity on us. So practise stopping the second arrow before it reaches you.
How? By performing the lost art of observation.
More about it in a future post.