There was a moment in my life where I gave up on happiness.
It is not that I felt I could not experience happiness or feel happy, at least in blips. No, it was just that I felt what I wanted in life was now impossible—the life I envisioned for myself that epitomized happiness could no longer happen.
I won’t go into detail on this, as it’s not the point—the point is, it all hit me like a stone wall. I would not be able to get what I wanted most in life—so, what would I work towards? If I knew I would not be able to find my idea of happiness, then what was the point? Yes, I could come up with a new dream, but I would always know in my heart that it was what I had settled for, because what I really wanted was impossible.
So, I decided to give up on happiness.
I stopped looking at things as a path to my happiness. I stopped thinking about what I could do or needed to do to attain that happiness. It is an amazing thing that I discovered—I had been spending the vast majority of my time obsessing over all of that!
At first, that was not really a positive discovery, as I got stuck in a “now what?” frame of mind. What was I supposed to do with myself now that I could no longer spend my time in the pursuit of happiness?
That is when the first revelation hit me…
If I am not able to pursue happiness for myself, why not spend that time helping others pursue their happiness? And so, I did. I set out and took every opportunity I saw to help anyone and everyone in their pursuit of happiness. I made it a point to praise people, let people know that I noticed them and appreciated them, and I cheered them on, encouraged them.
At first I was stuck looking for profound ways to help others, but I soon realized that it is often the small things that help the most. However, as I did this, I would often become jaded. I was left wondering why no one was there for me in the same way I was there for other people. It was not that I wanted anyone I helped to reciprocate, it was that I thought the universe was content in just taking when I was being so giving. That is when I became convinced that no matter what good I did in this world, it did not mean that I would be rewarded.
But I decided to do good anyway. I could either become bitter and give up, or I could continue doing good in this world. It came mostly from a grim determination to do my best to prevent people from ending up in the unhappy place that I had ended up in my life.
That was when the second revelation hit me…
The world does not simply reciprocate. Things are not like for like, and that really shouldn’t be our reason for doing good in this world. In order for the good we do to be genuine, it must be done selflessly. So, I decided to put as much good as I could out in this world. Regardless of my struggles. Regardless of my mood. Regardless of how the world treated me. I would give freely of myself entirely for the purpose of bringing happiness to others and into this world.
I found that the more I did this, and the more I saw people happy, the happier I felt. At first I thought it was me feeling accomplished because I helped someone—but then I started to realize how infectious happiness really is. Connecting with other people in a positive way, and being a part of their happiness filled me with happiness.
As I made this discovery, I found that I didn’t have to directly be a part of bringing the happiness; I could share in their happiness just by appreciating and truly caring that the happiness was there. I started to find that this was true with strangers in passing. As long as I appreciated seeing happiness in the world, I felt the happiness inside myself.
And that was when the third revelation hit me…
Happiness is truly infectious. It spreads to everyone that can see it and appreciate it. The trick is having an open heart to receive it. Watching children play and have fun, seeing beauty in this world, and even interacting with animals can fill you with happiness—if you let it. This world is full of happiness if you really look, but we have to look at the small things as it is typically not always big or obvious.
It is all around us! The more I started paying attention to happiness around me, the happier I felt. I started seeking it out and really cherishing those moments of happiness. The more I started focusing on helping other’s find happiness, sharing in other’s happiness and really opening myself up to experience the happiness around me in the world, the happier I felt. And the happier I felt, the better I was at spreading happiness, and the more I noticed happiness around me. It is a beautiful cycle.
And that was when the fourth revelation hit me…
Happiness is a state of being in the present. The happiness I was working towards was not really happiness. It was a carrot that kept me moving forward with the delusion that I would find happiness when I reached that goal.
Don’t get me wrong, having goals is a wonderful thing. So is having hopes and dreams—they are all very crucial to our being. Just don’t let them steal your attention so much that you miss experiencing true happiness, the happiness that surrounds you right now.
Hard times will happen, sad times, bad times and trying times—but that does not cancel out all the happiness that you’ve been a part of and that surrounds you still. Yes, we must deal with all those other things, and that’s okay. Just don’t hold onto them—instead, hold onto the happiness, and let everything else go.
Seek out opportunities to help others, to bring others happiness. Share in that happiness, and share your happiness with others. Look closely around you at all the small bits of happiness, and collect those, cherish those and keep them all in your heart. No matter what happens in the future, no matter where life takes you, you will have a vast collection of happy moments, you will be happy, and you will always know that happiness is always possible right now—in each moment—so take heart that it is always there, even when you have to stop and deal with life’s problems.
And then the last pieces fell into place…a side-effect of living this way. As I let go of that elusive future happiness I believed I was working towards, the fear of losing that happiness subsided. As I realized happiness was all around me, readily available, I became unconcerned about finding happiness or being happy. I started to feel secure in my ability to be happy. This made dealing with hard times, sad times and everything not happy, much easier—and easier to let go of once I worked through them.
I am now able to meet these things head-on without fear, because the fear was entirely about losing my happiness—and that was the final piece. My happiness…your happiness…happiness cannot be owned.
There is only happiness—and it is everyone’s to share, regardless of the source. I do not recommend haphazardly going around sharing the people and the things that make you happy, no—but I do recommend sharing the happiness you feel with the world, and likewise, enjoy the happiness that already exists in the world.
I discovered all this by happy accident. It wasn’t until I gave up on chasing a future of happiness, that I could finally experience the simple state of being happy.
Author: Andy Smith
Image: Tareck Raffoul
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Caitlin Oriel