This is the opening statement, from the Dalai Lama, in the book “The Art of Happiness“. When I read this, I felt relieved. In my early twenties, my view was that we’re on this planet to enjoy life – what would be the point, otherwise? As I got older, though, I started to think my purpose should be more worthy, like “saving the world single-handed”. It rather took the fun out of life!
Doing what makes you happy – while at the same time having the intention to cause no harm to others – gives you a greater sense of enjoyment in life. It also makes life more enjoyable for those around you, because you become a much nicer person to be with.
In the beginning, you might encounter opposition – friends and family might become jealous and try to scupper your plans. Eventually, though, by refusing to choose a path which makes you unhappy, you’ll win them over and encourage them to seek happiness for themselves. The first step, then, is to choose whatever makes you happy – not what gives you instant gratification, but what truly makes you happy.
In the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” – based on the inspirational story of Christopher Gardner, who went from sleeping rough to becoming a millionaire – Christopher questions whether happiness is a state we can ever hope to achieve, or whether it’s a utopian ideal which we chase after and never reach.
So what might keep us from finding happiness? Sometimes, day-to-day pressures get in the way: financial worries, job-related stress, family problems or health issues. Often these problems are fuelled by unhappy memories of something which happened in the past, or by worrying about something which we imagine might happen in the future.
If you ask yourself: “do I have a problem right now?”, the answer will quite often be “no” – unless you’re in immediate danger or pain, or, for example, the bailiff is repossessing your home at this very moment. And in the absence of an immediate problem, what is there to prevent you from feeling happy?
This has been a really tough year for me. There have been times when I’ve felt down – when I couldn’t see the rainbow, let alone the pot of gold at the end of it. Nonetheless, I can honestly say I’ve felt happy most of the time, because I have good friends and family who care about me, the sun has shone on occasions, I’ve still got a roof over my head, … and for lots of other reasons.
If you can cultivate the ability to recognise when you don’t have a problem right now, to allow yourself to enjoy where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing, and to feel happy in the moment, gradually you’ll be able to join all of these moments together like a string of pearls, to create a sense of lasting happiness.