Happiness – find it or create it?

Who doesn’t want to be happy? It’s a universal goal of all people all across the world. All peoples from all countries and all belief systems. Happiness is also free, completely unlimited and it’s possible for everyone to have it at the same time. No need to fight over it.

However, we often struggle to define happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Really happy?

Most people seem to think we have to “find” happiness. I wonder if we can “create” it.

happiness - cheering woman open arms to sunrise

How does happiness get into our life?

One good way to think about life is that it is a series of choices. Every moment, every present moment, presents us with an enormous range of choices. We have the opportunity to choose from these, every moment, and we construct our lives via these choices. I wrote about this type of idea some time ago in the post Present Moment Life Choices – the key to life? Sometimes external forces can limit our choices, but we always have a huge array of options. Unfortunately, many of us don’t bother to make choices, or we think we don’t really have any choice and we drift through life indifferently (see The Silent Power of Indifference).

Of course, the present moment of “now” keeps moving. We actually get what we want when we make a choice and keep making that same choice consistently in all the “now” moments. How often do we decide something big like “I’m going to give up smoking!”, only for one minute later to think “I’ll never be able to do that”, or “who am I kidding”. Straight after making one choice, we quickly make another that doesn’t fit with the first. The only way to get what we want is to consistently choose it in each present moment (or at least in the majority of them).

From the huge array of choices we have to pick from, some are low, poor choices that don’t really represent who we are or who we’re becoming and some are high, good choices that represent who we are very well. We could choose “I’m going to smoke more and I don’t care what anyone says and I don’t care what it does to my health” or we could choose “I’m giving up smoking right now”. We are free to choose and nobody can condemn another for their choice. All choices are valid. Some people might believe one is higher than the other, while another might think the opposite.

Ok, so how does happiness get into our life?

We feel happy when we believe that we’ve made a good choice for our lives. Here I mean real, deep happiness. If we’ve chosen to give up smoking and believe that was the highest choice we can make, then we’ll feel very happy even though the process is going to be very hard to get through. If we choose to smoke more and more, we might construct a facade of happiness on top of that but, most likely, we’ll feel less than fully happy underneath.

Consider the question “Was Mother Theresa happy?” I think she must have been deeply, very happy. Even though her work was hard and she was confronted with sadness and illness every day, she knew that she’d made a very high choice for her life, and she found deep happiness through this.

My personal example of happiness

I experienced a simple example of happiness the other day. I was driving between England and France (something I have to do regularly these days) and I felt happiness for what you might consider a strange reason. I’ve been trying to drive in such a way as to use the least fuel that I can (part of my Use 10 Percent Less initiative – also see Efficient Motorway Driving) and I’ve found that it’s quite easy to use 20% less that I did before, but one of the keys is to slow down.

On this day, I was driving on the French motorway between 60 and 70 miles per hour. The French speed limit is about 80 miles per hour, so most people were overtaking me.

Normally, this would have annoyed me greatly but, on this day I was happy!

I was happy because I knew that I’d made a conscious choice about how to drive. I’d chosen to pollute the atmosphere less. I’d chosen to be kinder to the planet and all other people by creating less pollution, as opposed to just trying to get to my destination quickly and not worrying about anybody else.

True happiness

In the case above, you could claim that the drivers who drove fast and arrived home much quicker than I felt happy about that as well. I argue that this isn’t true happiness and it’s more like satisfaction. I’ve been there before. In the past I was driving fast and trying to get home quickly. It only takes someone to pull out suddenly, or a truck to get in the way, and I’d have been acutely annoyed because “they” were spoiling my rapid progress! So there’s no deep happiness in this situation. It’s more superficial, like satisfaction.

I believe true happiness comes when we are aligned with our souls. When we choose to do something that deep down, really deep down, we believe is right, then we are truly happy. By taking the time to ponder what we really think is right we are listening to that inner voice and, if we choose to follow that voice, we can be truly happy.

Mother Teresa was certainly aligned with her soul. She had chosen to do deeply good work (even though it was hard) and true happiness must have been the result.

We all have a soul, and we can all choose to align with it, so true happiness is well within reach for all of us.

“There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.” – Mother Teresa

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