Happiness is not achieved, it is experienced.
I want to achieve a state of consistent happiness in my life. The kind where I wake up refreshed and eager to tackle the day with a smile on my face long before anything “good” happens in the day.
I would say that we consider this the ultimate dream—and for good reason. But most of us, including myself, have fallen victim to chasing happiness with the idea that it is a destination instead of a journey—that once I reach it, it’ll stay for good and I’ve “made it” in life.
Wrong move, cowboy. Happiness, in all its glory, is not a destination. It is a journey—and despite its highs and lows, this journey will ideally be filled with so much content and action that it’s impossible to not reflect back on it and realize just how good it’s been. If we can begin to make this mindset shift to realizing that happiness is not something you actively try to achieve, we are able to lead more fulfilling, present, and rich lives.
Let me start by saying that I’ve been in the shoes of one who chases happiness, thinking that one day I’ll wake up and just be. Happy, enlightened, full of joy, and full of eagerness. That day never came, and while I naturally felt let down day after day, it was far from unsurprising. But I tried anyway. Picked up meditation. Read a bunch of self-help and self-growth books. Wrote down things I’m grateful for. The list goes on.
Now before I move on, let me say that these things helped, and they helped tremendously. To quell their effect would be irresponsible on my end. I have been able to see things in new light, focus more on the things that mattered to me, and achieve more inner peace.
But that feeling of pure happiness eluded me, and I couldn’t figure out what the missing piece was. Then alas, I came across an article I can’t even remember anymore except for one solid piece of paraphrased advice: do not chase happiness; instead, pursue things that you find interesting and are passionate about and that help others, and happiness just might find you.
So simple, yet so precise. I already had one piece of the equation down—I was showing self-love and selfishness in the best way possible by focusing on myself. The meditation, the reading, the deep introspective work was all wonderful.
The piece I was missing was actually going out and trying things that I found at least somewhat interesting—and potentially helped people. Cue the fireworks; my brain was in overdrive formulating things I needed to try and it was time to get crackin’.
And with that, I was off. I began writing about the things I was reading and soaking in for myself, because I found writing interesting. I pursued a completely new career, because I knew my last one wasn’t ideal. I began connecting with others who had a similar mindset. And, like before, the list goes on.
Now if you were to ask me if I wake up with that coveted refreshment every morning, full of zest and smiles? To keep it real, the answer is: no, not yet. But I know with every new thing I try for myself and for the benefit of others, I am much closer to it.
I can already see the effects, and we’re all capable of achieving it. To keep it real again: even if we do achieve that wonderfully refreshing feeling of happiness on a regular basis, it won’t be every day. Life is a wave, and we’ve got to surf it. Mornings won’t always be full of life and joy—but with time, it can become a more regular occurrence.
We must believe this to be true, or we’ll be behind the curve. One must have the confidence it’ll happen before it actually does. It doesn’t work the opposite way, in which we have to see it to believe it.
So, I urge my fellow zesty humans to begin exploring the things that make you tick. The payoff will show itself sooner than later. We’ll drop the notion of chasing happiness like it’s at the end of a grueling 100-mile marathon; and instead, realize that happiness is like a life partner—if fed the proper fuel, it’ll stand by your side day in and day out.
How a Fortune Cookie’s simple wisdom led to my Happiness Contract.
Author: Adam Bergen
Image: Unsplash/Josh Felise
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
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