“The ‘pursuit of happiness’ will never guarantee a victorious end.”
Welcome back to the third class on happiness. Last week, the question of how to get out of those moments of unhappiness was posed and the assignment was to explain what actions are implemented to convert them back into pleasant moments. It is a rare human who can display a cheerful countenance all the time, but isn’t that largely what we are attempting to accomplish? Imagine for one moment if your life were a continuous string of positivity, smiling faces, and endless joy; wouldn’t that be an amazing way to live your life?
There is a simple reason for posing that last question. I believe people who seek self-improvement and awareness are doing so because it ultimately will make their lives better – or in essence, bring them more happiness. That is not to say that only those seeking personal growth will ever achieve it. Every human alive wants to be happy; it’s just a matter of how much time and effort a person prioritizes to achieve it.
Which brings to mind the next subject for this class. How early in life does happiness become an objective? Can you recall what age you were when the concept of happiness became important and you began diligently seeking it? We often see children playing and having fun; seemingly without a care in the world. It frequently appears that being happy is mainly all they’re concerned about. If they’re not pursuing or experiencing a happy moment, they’re pouting or trying to find ways to make it so.
I do recall as a young boy, being a fairly happy kid. I earned good grades and was a decent athlete. These, however, were probably good reasons why I was not a frequent target of bullies; a well-documented cause of childhood unhappiness. However, around the age of 12, thoughts of being happy were no longer a goal nor even a desire. I began to experience extreme feelings of unworthiness which made it feel like having fun was wrong or perhaps even selfish. My shame had begun to take it’s toll and all the negative things which people told me I was, drastically influenced me to think that happiness was not important and when there were joyful moments, those were a gift rather than something I earned or deserved.
Truthfully, my young adult years were not torturous and there were definitely lots of cheerful memories but happiness, to a certain extent, seemed wrong to pursue. It felt like I was being selfish for wanting to be happy. This is precisely the power that our own shame has and can influence us to sabotage our own success or happiness.
This week’s homework assignment is to think about your days of pursuing happiness as a child and how that journey changed and/or progressed as you got older. Was there a mentor in your life who helped shape your current aspirations? Was there perhaps an abuser who thwarted or greatly impeded your development? This exercise will help clarify your happiness goals and help motivate you in this pursuit.