Happiness. It is not measurable, profitable, nor tradable. Yet, above all else in the world, it is what people seek. They want to have happiness, and want to know they have a lot of it. But happiness, like air or water, is a hard thing to grasp in one’s hand. It is intangible. So how does one know if they have it? Is it just a feeling? And if someone does not feel happy, how can they go about achieving that feeling?
Happiness is not measured by material wealth. A new car or television, a waterskiing boat or a three-level house does not equate to joyful feelings. They are status symbols, surely, and ones that make others assume a person is happy, but they do not guarantee a happy life. The clichéd phrase, “money can’t buy happiness,” is heard often… because it is true. People who have wealth can be unhappy, just as the poor can be living on cloud nine. Possessions can be gained and lost, and with that comes fear. And fear rarely leads to happiness.
So if it isn’t ‘stuff’ that achieves happiness, then what can? Well, goals can. People need to have a sense of purpose. It is no coincidence that Peanuts creator Charles Schultz died a week after ending his famous comic strip. Without a purpose, he was lost. But people that have a sense of purpose in their life often have a feeling of satisfaction about them. They sense they were put on this planet for a reason. To each person, this purpose can be different. Maybe they were meant to teach. Maybe they were meant to mother. Maybe they were meant to learn. And goals can be small things, like taking an extra moment each day to breathe. But having progress in life, a feeling of forward motion, can make people feel happy.
But taking that forward motion too far can be a bad thing. Success at the expense of everything else, for example, leads to the opposite of happiness. Life requires balance. And people that understand that there is a balance to work and play, strife and joy, are more in tune with the universe and, therefore, better able to achieve happiness. Life with a dose of humor is more pleasant. Comedians, compared to any other profession, live the longest because they understand that laughter adds the spice to life, and makes daily progress worth the minor tribulations.
So people can be happy if they have something to strive for and something to laugh about. But is that it? Can people with goals and a sense of humor still be unhappy? Well, yes. After all, the final key to happiness is the decision to actually be happy. Human nature can see negative energy anywhere. People can fixate on problems instead of solutions. So at the end of the day, “happiness depends upon ourselves.” (Aristotle). As Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Being happy with who you are and what you have, is a decision that has to be consciously made. Goals can help lead to happiness. Finding laughter in life is important. But at the end of the day, a person needs to make a choice about happiness. They need to agree they want it, deserve it, and have it.