In any given month tens of thousands of people hop on the web, visit google.com, and ask “how to be happy.” Digging a little deeper I unlocked some related search phrases that also ranked high in terms of monthly hits. “How to be happy with what you have,” and “how much money to be happy” topped the charts.
I just have to wonder, why are we so unhappy? We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, during one of the most prosperous times in history, and yet, we cannot figure out how to be happy. Why are we searching the web for answers on how to be happy? How do we find happiness?
Although the question has not changed over the years, many argue that the complex webs of modern society have changed the method of finding happiness. I disagree. What the complexities of our world have done is make happiness more difficult to find by creating more opportunities for us to aggrandize the quest for happiness, not by making the process of achieving happiness different from our predecessors.
Put simply, finding happiness today is more difficult because we are addicted to chasing happiness and afraid to just be happy.
Chasing is Purpose
Our work lives have changed how we look at challenges and define our purpose. In order for businesses to become efficient, lean, and profitable we turned every job possible in to a process.
Process work relies on following quantified, data focused processes to drive work decisions. Purpose work focuses on using a person’s greater purpose and desire to serve a larger good through the work one does.
We went to college, and hoped to follow our passion, our purpose work. What we found was that the work we studied in school is no longer the work that exists in the world. Work requires we follow a blueprint that has been proven to make money, not a purpose that seeks to do good.
The loan officer no longer takes in to account the character of the person whom the loan is for, just the credentials required and laid out for him on paper by a large, corporate entity located thousands of miles away. The doctor must now keep in mind insurance company premiums when diagnosing and treating. In many respects, our work has been turned faceless, disconnected, mindless, and boring through statistics, business objectives, and data.
What would you do with happiness if you found it? Have you ever wondered that?
Given enough time, process work defeats purpose work, and work that once connected people to an intrinsic good now connects them to something that “pays the bills” or “lets them afford the things that actually make them happy” because of depersonalization.
But, humans are industrious, and what we lost in work we made up for in other areas of life. We like challenges because they give us purpose, and the greatest challenge is the quest for happiness.
So, happiness has become an unnamed ideal. We do not know how to get there. We do not even know where there is. We just know that we want happiness, and that everyone tells us we deserve such an ideal.
What would you do with happiness if you found it? Have you ever wondered that? We’d get used to happiness and in that normalcy we would again become unhappy. We are afraid of normal- of houses, marriage, kids, and anything our parents have. Chasing allows us to constantly seek the end goal without ever reaching it. The thinking is that if we never achieve the lofty aim of happiness then we can never discover unhappiness. After all, if you have not achieved the goal how can you lose it?
So, we chase and chase, meditating, and doing breathing exercises, putting ourselves on a vegan diet, and reading self help books about living a good life. We have an addiction to searching for happiness, and a fear of being happy.
How to be Happy in Modern Society
Our relationship with happiness is a classic example of believing the journey is the destination. By continually finding new ways to chase happiness we are happy. What that chase really gets you, though; is a dependency on finding new ways to squeeze an ounce more of happiness out of your current situation. The hope is that the process of wringing joy morsels out of life will bring happiness.
In reality, being happy is like going to the bathroom. You walk up to the toilet and just do it.
But, we can never be happy if we continue to look for the things that define happiness. This mentality presumes we lack something and are searching for that which we lack. How can you expect to be happy if you believe you do not possess the ability to be happy in the first place?
In reality, being happy is like going to the bathroom. You walk up to the toilet and just do it. Strategizing, thinking about, and planning your use of the restroom does not relieve your bladder. To get the result you must take the action. This is where that lovely phrase “s$*t or get off the pot” came from. Happiness is the same way. You must just be happy, in order to be happy.
You cannot talk about, brainstorm, and white board the components that need to be in place for you to be happy. If you wait for your life to be perfect before allowing yourself happiness then you will wait forever. Life is never perfect, and happiness is about finding joy despite life’s setbacks. All those caveats you hold as prerequisites to happiness ultimately prevent you from succeeding in your aim.
Just be happy. When you do this something amazing happens. You become happy, and you realize that all the hacks, tricks, tactics, and shortcuts to being happy are just roadblocks from the simple truth that all you need to find happiness is the right mindset. Barriers to joy will always exist, but what can always persist across changing circumstance is mindset.
Stop focusing on the things you cannot control, and start owning the things you can. One of those things you can control is happiness. So stop holding it in, and go to the bathroom already.