The End of Happiness

Northern LIghts

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

Please don’t be alarmed. Happiness has not somehow escaped us. This is simply the third in a series of articles which included thoughts and ideas about happiness. In the first two, (click here to read the first and here for the second) the aim was to touch on its definition and how it may be pursued. As promised, I wanted to give my thoughts on the subject and welcome yours below.

While consulting with my clients, the topic of happiness is frequently discussed because not only is it something which we all seek, its pursuit, as Thomas Jefferson penned, is one of our “certain unalienable rights”. The human species has been gifted with the ability to elevate ourselves by striving to be happy, joyful, peaceful, or any other adjective which defines your idea of contentment.

Because there are a myriad of ways to define it, this is what can create the difficulty and confusion. Some who believe they have found it and were so moved by its discovery, may want others to experience it in the exact same ways which truthfully, will do more to defeat their intent rather than nurture it.

If happiness truly is different for each person, then we MUST allow everyone to decide its own genuine meaning. However, I believe there is even a more straightforward way to achieve it. Happiness very well may be as simple as a choice. Yes, something as unassuming as deciding “I want to be happy” even when our circumstances and surroundings influence and seemingly contribute otherwise.

This may sound ludicrous but please take a few moments to think about it. Have there not been times in your life when a difficulty has arisen and you chose to have a good attitude about it? I am not naïve to think that happiness is a total state of complete bliss in which nothing can shake us from it. Life is filled with troubles and many times on a daily basis. Ultimately we do have a choice as to how we will react. By no means am I saying that this is easy and the patience of a saint is a requirement. But our emotions can and most certainly have changed in an instant. Have you ever been driving along in a car when suddenly another driver cuts you off and your cheerful mood swiftly switches gears? Was there ever a time you were in a sad mood and a favorite song came on the radio which made you feel much better? These are not meant to be good examples of happiness but rather to demonstrate one’s control over your emotions. While there are countless factors which contribute to your emotional state, I believe that choosing is the crucial first step to finding our own happiness.

No amount of money, victories, triumphs, or successes will guarantee or ensure happiness. While they may provide momentary periods or be a contributing factor, I believe our own ability to choose to be happy, in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves, is the best way in which it can be pursued and ultimately discovered.

I sincerely wish everyone the greatest success in their own personal journey. If you have other, more personal thoughts which you would like to share in private, please feel free to message or send me a connection request. There are many difficulties and obstacles which can be overwhelming and it is a great privilege for me to help. Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful photograph. Find out more about her on LinkedIn by clicking here and I look forward to your comments.

My articles are now being published in Arabic by Rana Khaled. The link will be posted very soon. If you would like to publish my articles in other languages, please contact me.

 

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While in Pursuit of Happiness

Waterfall dreamsIn the last post, “The Cost of Happiness”, the premise was how each of us defines happiness and to figure out the moment when we’ve finally attained it (click here to read it). Although its definition and methods of acquisition are different for each of us, I wonder if sometimes during the pursuit of this elusive prize, it is possible that the quest becomes more of a distraction rather than an honest journey towards this cherished goal?

For some, happiness comes with a feeling of accomplishment. It could be as simple as giving a bottle of water to a stranger or as complex as building a successful business from the ground up. Many entrepreneurs have struggled profusely and against all odds, created an ostensibly successful business for which they deserve to be proud of their efforts. But is it possible that this struggle can become a distraction or perhaps even a barrier prohibiting them from finding happiness? How could something which has produced such a positive outcome ever be considered destructive?

By no means am I suggesting this is the case for all successful businesspeople; however, please stay with me for one moment. You’ve probably heard some wealthy person who is getting back into business say something like, “it’s not about the money, it’s about the win.” That is certainly a fair statement but why is it about the win? Is it possible that after their first go-around the accomplished feelings wore off and they are now wondering why all of those achievements and accolades did not bring them a longer and more fulfilling happiness than it did? During their struggle, they spent endless hours of hard work, sleepless nights, and level of dedication reached by few. Although there were painfully difficult times, the end result far outweighed the adversities and made the victory even sweeter to enjoy. There was no doubt it brought happiness to their lives and those who accompanied them along the way. Now that the victory was long over and the emotional high began losing its initial excitement and exhilaration, it could lead one to believe that the “pursuit” really was what gave them happiness.

After all, where did that person find the joy? It was in the struggle. The journey filled with seemingly insurmountable hurdles and a myriad of other quandaries, provided an ample amount of excitement and exhilaration which, after resolving and overcoming these obstacles, delivered enormous feelings of accomplishment. It would stand to reason that once the “happiness” wore off, the best way to regain those feelings would be to get back in the game.

This is not just a wealthy person’s issue. I believe that many of us distract ourselves during our own pursuit of happiness in numerous ways. How many life coaches or consultants overwhelm their schedules with struggling clients hoping that by helping them and seeing satisfaction on their client’s faces, will somehow supersede their own efforts in finding joy within. It is a noble thing to help others, don’t get me wrong. However, it should not be an attempt to replace, distract, or overlook issues that plague our own lives.

Happiness is a fascinating subject and I will continue next time with more thoughts on what it means and how do we know when it is within our grasp. It was however, important to present the possibility that sometimes, while we think we are headed in a specific direction, our goals might be impeding us from the things which can truly make us happy. Thanks as always to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful photos. Find out more about her here. I look forward to some very interesting and diverse comments.

 

 

The Cost of Happiness

Pristine

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

Happiness is a fascinating word. As much as we all crave it and want to be able to say that it is within our grasp, the journey to achieving it is a rarely discussed subject. It certainly is not a forbidden one nor does it provoke controversy or discomfort when brought up during a conversation. It would lead one to wonder what are the reasons that such a prized possession is a difficult topic of discussion for many.

According to Merriam-Webster, happiness is “a state of well-being and contentment or a pleasurable or satisfying experience”. However, if each one of us were to define her or his own meaning of happiness, there would be nearly as many answers as there were people. Perhaps happiness – our own as well as others – because it is so difficult to quantify, that may be precisely the reason why it eludes so many conversations.

It not only makes infrequent appearances in dialogue but it also is just about absent in the world of business. Happiness is never the number one goal of a business. Even in those where it would make the most sense. Therapists and counselors focus on getting to the heart of the matter but is their ultimate goal to help you find happiness? Even motivational speakers and life coaches, those for whom it would make complete sense to emphasize the “H” word, may mention it but tend to concentrate on other areas. And the reason may be the same as to why it escapes everyday discourse. It is too difficult to measure how successful your effort is.

As in all business, measuring progress is important. Resources and energy spent in areas that have no way of calculating gain are not conducive to a good business plan. Money, cash, income, these are all easily quantifiable and help us measure the amount of success. But no matter how much money is accumulated, it can ever buy happiness.

Many of you may be thinking, “Well it sure does make it easier” or some other slogan hoping to contradict this idea but that does not negate the first statement. Even if you had all the wealth of this world you still could not walk into a store and purchase happiness off the shelf. So how do we measure happiness especially if there is no way of determining whether or not someone else even has it? Does money make it easier to attain or perhaps even measure?

In next week’s post, I’ll cover why I believe there is so much emphasis on money rather than happiness and why for some, it can be more of a distraction. In the meantime, please feel free to put in the comments what your idea of happiness is. And not only your definition of happiness but how do you (or will you) know when you have it. Thanks as always to Rachel for the beautiful photograph. Please find out more information about her by clicking here.

 

The Absolute Value

Shell underwater

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

Everything has value and what determines that value is also, as they say with beauty, “in the eyes of the beholder”.  Some items have an absolute or predetermined value such as money. Although some may toil extraordinarily long and hard to earn that dollar, it does not instantly increase in value simply because we want it to be. Our hoping will never change its accepted rate of exchange.

Most people, I would imagine, consider themselves extremely fair when asked to give an opinion about an item’s value.  When it pertains to something more intangible such as a law or principle, we become still more assured of our judgement. Ultimately, when it comes to our own “core values”, most are unwilling to compromise or budge one inch because those are exactly what determines who we are and provides the foundation on how we live our lives.

While we may cherish our individual freedom and ability to respond uniquely  in any way we choose, ironically we don’t always allow others that same independence which we so fervently demand and expect for ourselves. We strenuously object when others perceive us as a stereotype or slap a label on our backs. Being viewed through a predetermining lens is not how we ought to be observed ty others but are we guilty of doing that which we so adamantly despise? Even those who pride themselves on being open-minded have been culpable of this same offense.

While you struggle to maintain your individuality, do you unwittingly make absolute conclusions about others? The human species has  always tended to categorize others, defining people in ways that are convenient to our own (mis)understanding whether it be by race, religion, gender, or in numerous other ways. It appears to be reaching epidemic levels and while some may choose to blame the media for its upsurge, it is quite evident in everyday conversations.

Before pointing the finger at others, ask yourself if have you ever said something like, “all conservatives are stupid” or “all liberals are useless”. Have you recently generalized about people from a particular region or country? Do you assume those who are less educated or experienced do not have any knowledge or wisdom that can be imparted to you? During this time of a globally unstable political climate, it is more important than ever to afford others that same courtesy. This kind of stereotypical thinking only leads to a greater separation, adding no value to society but only widening the gap.

However, as with so many other problems, the solution begins with you. Be that change which you expect to see in others. Ask yourself what you can do to change the conversation. I have been guilty of this same thing but I try and remedy it by catching myself in this situation and reminding myself to be more vigilant and work hard at giving others the same consideration. It is always easier to see bad behavior in someone else because no one wants to look into a mirror and see their own faults.  We all want the other person to change however, that is similar to saying I want my dollar bill to be worth two.

Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful photo. All of her amazing photos are available, find out more here. I am anticipating some interesting comments.

 

To Agree or Not To Agree? That is the Question

Rainbow2

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

Recently the world has been experiencing tumultuous times. Political instability has given rise to unimaginable conditions creating refugee crises, food shortages, religious persecution, and many more polarizing situations. The conflicts are not merely confined between two combatant nations but there seems to be an unprecedented level of discord amongst many country’s civilians.

The rapid rate at which it appears to be growing could also lead to speculation of a worldwide cataclysmic event creating an illusion that makes any remedy seem meaningless. However, there is a solution to every problem and this one is no exception. It is not a simple task. The amount of effort and struggle will not doubt be immense however, when it’s properly applied, it will give renewed meaning AND put the word “civil” back into “civilian.

We can all agree that there is a problem, that is blatantly obvious. But what we seemingly cannot  agree upon is the solution. Searching for an answer upon which we can all agree will also be futile.

So where does the answer lie? It is in the manner upon which we confront our disagreements. We must listen to those in opposition in order to ultimately find a solution Not listening but rather digging in our heels only widens the gap and heightens  tensions. It is simple to listen to those with whom we agree and at times it is important to receive validations which support our beliefs. But this type of dialog doesn’t teach us anything new. Expanding beyond what we know often comes from listening to opposing points of view. However, this is extremely difficult to accomplish because it completely disrupts our comfort zone.

Since the U.S. election, I’ve listened to several news reports which were contrary to my views. Although it increased my heartbeat and blood pressure, despite the discomfort I continued to listen. Forcing myself even while at the same time shouting disapproval, I was able to gain some understanding on that point of view. It may have never changed my outlook but it did provide some meaningful insight.

Disagreements are inevitable and part of the human condition. Focusing on how to manage these differences is the art of human relationship. It’s not about dismissing those with whom you disagree. Belittling others to minimize their opinion is not the mark of good leadership. Surrounding yourself only with those who will humbly obey and praise your efforts is nothing more than an outright attempt at demagoguery. No doubt loyalty is important but abusing others for the sake of an unbridled ego will ultimately create a larger disparity from what it intended to fix.

Issues are complex and I don’t mean to imply that a simple handshake and a smile will solve the world’s problems. This approach is not a normal human reaction. It takes practice to listen and pay attention to someone with whom you disagree but it is the best way to find a peaceful and successful resolution.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the amazing photograph. Find out more about her on LinkedIn by clicking here.