“Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”- John Stuart Mill
A lot of us go through our lives searching for happiness – that perfect state of mind filled with utmost joy, only likened to flying without wings. We condition ourselves to believe that once we get that thing we desire, be it a new job, promotion at work or even get married, our lives would be just perfect and we would have nothing else to worry about.
So we spend each waking day fully focused on the fulfillment of this goal, toiling really hard only to be rudely surprised that we are back to the same state of unhappiness just weeks, even days after reaching our goal.
Like junkies, craving for the next high, we set even more lofty goals, work even harder, achieve them and then find out that we are back to the same point, the cycle continues…
This reminds me of the time I was studying for my Masters Degree. I had set myself a target to earn a Distinction in my course of study. I worked so hard, denied myself of many pleasures, spent countless hours in the library and computer lab (to the extent that the out-of-hours security men did not need to see my ID to sign me in, because I was a known face there). When I finally reached my goal, I was surprised at how quickly the thrill of earning a distinction faded. It took just days for another reality to set in – I needed to get a job. So the cycle began again…
What I quickly found out on looking back is that life seemed to be filled with series of short highs and many lows made up essentially of chasing these highs. I literarily didn’t give myself the chance to be fully happy and content with what I had.
On further interaction with people and research into this subject, I found out that this behavior was not at all unique to me. A lot of us have busied ourselves with the idea that we would be happy once we achieve our goals (see related story here). We have equated happiness to a destination and strive so hard to reach it. Little wonder why there is a rising number of depressed people over the world. It is said that a shocking number of 121 million people worldwide (based on 2011 data BioMed Central 2011, July 26) are depressed and this depression is tied to discontent with their current life.
While some cases contributing to these figures could be as a result of serious mental illness, I can’t help but wonder if some of these cases could actually be avoided just by altering the way we think and approach our goals.
Rather than living life in short bursts of happiness, perhaps a more fulfilling way to live could be by realizing that happiness is a journey and then living life with more focus on gratitude and enjoying that which we have in the now.
Perhaps it would be better to think, “Well… I don’t have the perfect job now but I will do my best with the one I have and enjoy the family I have been blessed with” or “I am not a perfect 8 but I am alive and I do not need a tube to feed” or even, “I don’t have all the money I could do with, but I sure can dance to this lovely tune without help from medical practitioners”.
Once you start thinking this way, you would be surprised and perhaps even pleased that as you dwell on being thankful for what you have, your mind would bring to your memory even more reasons to be thankful. Before long, you would be surprised at the abundance of things in your life that you have overlooked in the past. This in turn creates excitement and a positive energy and dare I say, a certain spark.
This excitement would then affect your outlook on life and give you the zeal to work towards your goals, not from a frustrated place but from a place of immense joy and thankfulness.
Till you read from me again.
Do enjoy the rest of your week
Image credit: Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown