The Pursuit of Happiness
One of my most critical lessons in life came a few years back at the hand of a Luluemon bag. It’s a “thing” here in DC and a staple metro-ride accessory for women who are part of the movement. This woman’s bag was covered in quotes (later which I learned to be part of their manifesto) — but the one that stuck out most to me was:
“The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness”
I wish someone had told me this, as bluntly and directly -- that basically my quest to be happy, was the reason I pretty much was not. I sat back and thought about the motivation behind most of what I was doing, and realized the root was trying to be happy.
My Happiness Misconceptions
I was working out, not for my health -- sure that’s a plus, but really it was because I wanted to be smaller and be happy with my body again. At the time, I was in a particular graduate program, because I was supposed to go to grad school post undergrad, and both my parents and I would be happy I achieved my goal. Never mind that I hated my program and it was a means to an end -- happiness. Happy, happy, happy. I was out here trying to stockpile happiness waiting for it to have some magical impact on my quality of life.
But it didn’t stop there, I began to realize that not only was pursuing happiness running me ragged, I had no idea what I really defined as my own happiness. The body I was chasing in the gym, was not based on my actual physical body (it was Beyoncé, duh)! And that graduate degree I was suffering through was not in a concentration I even cared about. It was nothing more than an expensive "good look". I shamefully quit, and felt like a failure (but God...another story for another day). As though my own perceptions of how to be happy were not fragile enough, everywhere you look there are competing ideals for happiness. Literally, everyone one is trying to sell you happiness and fulfill your pursuit -- for a price. I kid you not, this list of slogans includes:
- Coca Cola: Open Happiness
- Lay’s (a unit of Pepsi): The Happiness Exhibit
- Best Buy: Buyer Be Happy
- Ben & Jerry’s: Scoop of Happiness
- General Mills (Honey Nut Cheerios): Bee Happy, Bee Healthy
- Humana: Live Happily Ever Now
- Golden Corral: Help Yourself to Happiness
- French’s Mustard: Happy Starts Here
- Rita’s: a) Ice – Custard – Happiness; and b) What Flavor is Your Happiness?
- Comcast: Happiness is Only a Power Button Away
- IHOP: Come Hungry, Leave Happy
- HomeGoods: a) Be HomeGoods Happy; and b) Spread Happiness
- Friendly’s: Happiness. One scoop at a time
- Nivea: a) Happy Sensation Lotion; and b) Touch of Happiness Body Wash
The Truth About Happiness
Everybody and they mama wants you to believe they have the missing piece to your happiness puzzle. The reality is, nobody has the key to your happiness but you. We all have the ability to be happy, once we recognize that it doesn’t come from people, places or things. It’s a choice and a mindset that takes a daily concentrated effort. Despite how it may be portrayed, happiness is not an end destination as the term “pursuit of happiness” implies, but a lifestyle. Happiness does not mean there will never be a bad day, troubling situation, or upsetting circumstance in your life ever again. It means understanding that those situations, do not have to steal your joy. Your happiness is yours, it is created and destroyed by you. It is as real or as fleeting as you choose to allow it to be.
I learned and lived the truth, that you cannot lead a positive life with a negative mindset. I was unable to see the happy in my life, because I was looking at it from a lens of lack. If you don’t know where to start your perspective shift, to foster a more positive mindset that is open to happiness, there are a million things you can do. My first and favorite step is gratitude journaling. I wrote 5 things daily that I was grateful for, no matter how large or how small. When I focused on these aspects, my thoughts and mindset began to change, I expected good in my life and I saw it. I wanted to be happier and I am.
So if you ever again find yourself wondering where your happiness went — just remember that true happiness lies within you, and remember
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln