What would you say if I told you to stop worrying about being happy all the time? What if I told you there is so much more to life than happiness? Would you breathe a sigh of relief?
I think all too often we become so consumed with the pursuit of happiness that we lose sight of what we’re really here for. We lose sight of the fact that a good portion of life happens outside of happiness. We lose sight of the fact that all experiences, good, bad or indifferent, lead us to who we really are.
I am the queen of chasing happiness. I won’t even tell you how much money I’ve spent on books, programs, and guides promising happiness in one form or another. I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, but let me tell you where all that happiness-seeking ultimately landed me. In a deep, dark depression, that’s where. A time in my life where happiness didn’t even seem fathomable. It was a struggle to maintain the will to live, let alone entertain the idea of happiness.
Now I’m not saying that seeking happiness was the sole cause of my depression, but it was a factor. When we’re so focused on being “happy”, we tend to forget who we are and to appreciate all the good things we already have. We think we have to try harder, move faster and do better in order to achieve the next level of success that we think will bring us happiness. But that is exhausting and depleting and leaves us constantly feeling not good enough. Truly happy people know that happiness doesn’t lie in the next best thing, it’s in the here and the now, and it’s inside of us.
Recently, I came across a quote from a character in a book I’m reading that really resonated with me relating to this topic. It read:
“I haven’t the slightest interest in being happy. I prefer to live life passionately, which is dangerous because you never know what might happen next.”
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Living a life full of passion, a life you can look back on and be proud of. How different would your life be if you weren’t so concerned with being happy? What if, instead, you embraced every twist and every turn? You celebrated the good and the bad. You accepted every emotion and every different phase of life. You loosened up and let the mysteries of life unfold as they should for your greatest good instead of trying to control and manipulate. Would your life look a little different than some? Probably. Would it sometimes be messy and chaotic? Yep. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Another issue I have with happiness is the tendency to compare our lives to others as a way to gauge what level of happiness we should allow ourselves to feel. When I was so concerned with being happy all the time, I started comparing my life to those around me. And by society’s standards, I just didn’t measure up. My life didn’t follow the traditional path of job, marriage, house, kids, and I felt ashamed. I felt like a loser for being single and so completely unsure of what life had in store for me. I felt like a failure for not having all the things my friends have – boyfriend/husband, a nice, perfectly decorated house, etc.. You get the picture. I felt defeated.
Seeking happiness and falling victim to the idea that life has to be a certain way lead me to the darkest time in my life. A time when I should have been focusing on all the freedoms my current life affords me. On how lucky I am to have a job that I love and amazing friends and family. And on how blessed I am to be living out my dreams.
Now, I’m not saying that happiness doesn’t have its place in our lives. Happiness is fun and it’s essential. But so are the dark periods. The times when you fall so hard, you aren’t the same person when you stand up. The times when you have to break down to break through. The times when you truly think you might not make it through. The combination of the ups and the downs help us appreciate what we have, help us live with more compassion and help us strive for more meaningful and purposeful lives.
So, what’s the answer? If we aren’t chasing happiness, what are we doing here? Well, we’re experimenting with all that life has to offer. We’re chasing dreams and making memories. We’re learning and growing, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We’re living the life we’re meant to live.
No matter where you are on your life journey, you’re on the right course. The path may not be what you expected, but that’s okay! It’s okay to be different, it’s okay to feel sadness, it’s okay to not know what’s next. Just do me a favor, dear reader, look beyond happiness and live a life of passion. Live a life you’re proud. Live it like you mean it. Live it out loud.