Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Search for Happiness

I recently read an interesting book called, "Hector and the Search for Happiness." If you have the time, it's a quick read and offers some interesting insights on what makes people happy. It's about a psychiatrist who travels the world trying to figure out what makes people happy. He begins his search because he wonders why some people who have everything you would think they'd need to make them happy are miserable, while those who have next to nothing are quite happy.

Over the course of his journey, he comes up with a list of lessons about happiness. They are each good things to consider when we evaluate our own happiness or lack thereof. Below are a few of his lessons which I've found to be thought-provoking.

  • Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
How many times are we unhappy not because our lives are 'missing' anything but rather because we are all too aware that someone else has it much better than we do. A better job, more education, nicer house, more recognition/status, etc. If we didn't have the comparisons to make, we would stand a better chance of being happy.
  • Many people see happiness only in their future.
We miss out on lots of moments of happiness here in the present because we are too busy looking for it in the future. We say things like, "Once I've paid off my house. . ." or "Once I make more money. . ." THEN I'll be able to enjoy my family, pursue this dream, etc. The list goes on and on. If we can't be happy in this moment, what makes us think that we'll be happy in the future?
  • Many people think that happiness means having more money or power.
I think most people already recognize this as an assumption about happiness. Even if we don't necessarily believe it, how often do we live as if it were true? Once again, we often delay certain things we could do in the here and now that would give us happiness and quite possibly bring happiness to others as well because we are too concerned with having MORE.
  • Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
There are a lot of examples of where this can be true, but here's one from my own life. Before I'd traveled overseas and seen the extreme poverty that many people live with each day, it was easier to enjoy luxuries of any kind. However, knowing what I now know, some of the things that once made me happy make me pause and say, "Can I really enjoy this in good conscience?"
  • It's a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
This is perhaps the most interesting one to me and perhaps the hardest one to get my mind around. We often live as though happiness is the goal, and so much of our modern culture propounds this way of life. And yet, if we work to make ourselves happy, can we really do it? Or does happiness come from something else? Are we more likely to become happy by working to make ourselves happy or by considering the happiness of others above our own?

We all want to be happy. I don't know anyone who would rather be miserable than happy! But perhaps we have to let go of some of our long-held, cultural assumptions to truly experience it or else to recognize that we already are happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment