Happiness is the buzzword today, isn’t it? Everyone is in search of it. If you walk into the bookstore, the self-help section is bound to have multiple shelves stacked with a hundred different perspectives on it. Multiple motivational speakers have videos online on how to be happy. But, it is almost always fleeting. By the time you realize you are happy and are all ready to grab it, it vanishes into thin air.
Where did our search for happiness start?
We have always been told some part of this tale from birth, that getting to some metaphorical place or the ability to do something will make us happy. The tale could differ on the actual destinations anticipated depending on varied family backgrounds. The dream could be to land the best education, take over the family business, run a successful multi-national corporate or save thousands of lives as a heart surgeon.
However, it was never just a macro dream we were asked to pursue. No, we were given sprints as pursuits. It was always a 1–3 years aspiration and we will get somewhere tale. It was believable. It seemed realistic and one could visualize getting there.
All our childhood, we have spent chasing the perfect grades. We were told getting the top percentiles will give us the best options for college and that is it. We are kids, we do what we are told. What happens when we get to that dream college? Another journey begins. Another chase. We now chase good grades in college for the best of internships. Assuming we do well and luck is also in our favor, we get that too. We are there, we have landed the dream internship. Any minute now, happiness should appear.
We wait in hope of finding happiness and before we know it we are chasing for the next dream. The coveted “Pre-placement Offer”. The one that will put one atop shoulders of all our envious batchmates back in college. That we think will definitely be “happiness”. Well, well, there is no surprise is there. We get that offer and we start with the next chase. We start networking, looking for an alumnus in those companies. “Which department am I going to get placed, who is a good manager to work with.”
We get that job, perform exceedingly well. We chase then for promotions, salary hikes, designations, high visibility projects. The list is endless and beyond a point aimless. We jump from one milestone to another mindlessly. Hoping this is it. This is going to be it. This is going to be it.
But is it ever? What really is an end goal?
Gradually, we start to see there is no end goal to this race. The happiness is fleeting at best and lasts for shorter spans of time as we cross more milestones. We begin to question everything around us, our existence, our purpose in this society, the meaning of it all. Diplomatically coined “Mid-life Crisis”. But with the internet, midlife is no longer something you expect to hit in our 30s. No, with every generation we realize it hits sooner. The more exposed our family is to this evolution, the sooner we get there.
When we associate happiness with a destination, we are only going to crave for more. Human Beings by nature are ambitious which is how we have managed to evolve and dominate to such an extent on this planet. So, if we aim for a destination and managed to get there over a period of time, it will never be enough. Because by the time we have gotten there, we already want something more. Just this will not be enough to satiate that.
There is a reason why it is called the Pursuit of Happiness for it is not the destination but a state of existence. Does that mean we all become complacent and not aim for anything better than today? Absolutely not. Our existence needs one to evolve with every breath we take no matter what. If we manage to get there in a lifetime, I think, then the dream was too small. Like Nelson Mandela rightly said
There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
So, dream bigger than you could ever imagine. But, this time remember to enjoy the journey in its pursuit.
3 simple steps that I believe can make happiness less elusive
Having something to be grateful for is the simplest way to change one’s mindset immediately. It is easy to crib on things that are not going our way in life. But we need to feel earnestly towards something to feel gratitude. Look back and observe, even at your lowest point in life, there would have been something you were grateful for. If this does not come naturally to you, start easy. Begin journaling, jot down one thing you are grateful for every day. You will soon find yourselves writing essays each night.
2. Go out for a run
Working out is scientifically proven to release endorphins. Endorphins create a positive feeling in the body which should help relieve any unhappy or negative thoughts. Personally, I love going for a run when I am down. Feeling that heart rate go and the legs pumping in a natural rhythm makes me feel liberated instantaneously.
3. Go back to your favorite form of art
Start doing something you love doing just for the fun of it. Read those books you have been hoarding to read someday, paint that empty canvas lying in your cupboard, pick up and play that instrument dusting away in the corner of your house. Art is a beautiful form of expression and has a calming vibe to it.
After all, happiness is not a destination but a state of existence. The longer periods of time you do things that do not make you unhappy are your wins. So, breathe easy, be grateful and a little less harsh on yourself. And do not forget to remind yourself
“Happiness is a state of mind and it starts with you”.