- Education and Science
What We Want
Having a fortune does not mean you're fortunate
Do you know what you want? All of us do – deep down. Problem is, at our surface level, in our conscious minds, we think we want the peripheral stuff of our lives, that which comes and goes; that which arises and passes away. I’m talking about health, wealth and such things as fame and fortune. Well, maybe not fortune. For fortune brings with it the word fortunate, and one can have a fortune in money, possessions and even the esteem of millions and still not be fortunate. What we all want is, in a word: peace, and its corollary happiness
Happiness cannot be found
Yes, we all want happiness. Many of us search for happiness. It cannot be found. It evolves. For most it precipitates into our consciousness every now and again and then is gone. We can remember happiness, but can we re-member it? Can we bring it back? Certainly there is a contentment, a feeling of satisfaction that resembles happiness when we relax and look back on times that we now regard as ‘happy days.’ There may even be a semblance of peace. But just as often as not we look back to days of trial and tribulation. Perhaps those years when we were young and enthusiastic, when things were not going smoothly but we had faith that one day they would. We were optimistic. We then look back on those times and say, in retrospect, “Oh, we were happy then.” We probably weren’t. We were involved with life. We were right into it, not giving a moment’s thought as to whether we were happy or not. The future would bring us happiness.
Cravings and aversions fill so much 'head space'
How often we think that. But if we are honest, most of us can measure moments of contentment, happiness if you will, in a few hours here and there over the years. The rest of the time we’re either listening to the mind chatter in our own heads which we regard as thinking – and generally this chatter has to do with wanting something or not wanting something, or some sort of imaginary fighting, or complaining- our self-image’s normal patter. Whatever it is, we can hardly say we are happy doing it.
Realize that Happiness is a Bi-product
To reiterate, happiness cannot be found. It springs up from somewhere within us. It comes to us as a by-product of something else. So it is important to know what that something else is if we wish to experience its by- product frequently and for sustained periods of time, rather than just a sporadic and unexpected moment every now and again – perhaps with gaps of weeks, months, even years between.
How can we experience more of it?
So how do we bring an ever-increasing amount of contentment, albeit, happiness into our lives?
Strange as it might seem, joy springs most readily when we are bringing happiness to others. Give someone a gift that you know they really want then make a note of how you feel knowing that you are making them feel good. Or take another example: Allow a spontaneous action – it needs to be spontaneous to gain the most out of it – such as handing more than just a few coins of loose change to a person living on the street, and you’ll get it. The look of surprise on their face; the feelings of joy as you watch their reactions. You gain even more than they do!
Envision an ideal and work towards it
But we can’t do these things one hundred percent of the time. What we can do, however, is make it a long term project to do nice things for others. We can have an ideal that will prompt us into actions. We can plan and work the plan. It is in this - this moving forwards, the journey towards making others happy - that we engender happiness within ourselves. The bi-product arises in our being ‘in the moment’ whilst we are doing this. Certainly as I write this I’m experiencing this.
Expecting gratitude can lead to disillusionment
Something that will detract from your happiness, though, is assuming that what you do to make others happy will automatically do so. It might. Probably will. But it might not. If it does, great. But do not think that it necessarily will. This is not to say that you should not aim at something which, generally speaking, does make most people happy. Use your common sense.
Don't forget yourself in all this
Just as importantly, do not forget yourself in this business of making other people happy. If it is to be long term, you need to undertake something that you find enjoyable. Short term? Well, of course you can work on something you find arduous, even abhorrent, if it will quickly solve someone else’s problem. But if you keep doing something you don’t enjoy, you will eventually become disillusioned and even bitter. You’ll start feeding your being with your own negative mind chatter about “not being appreciated.” No, if you are to set about a long term goal of making another person or persons happy, do something you love to do. This is very important to your own happiness. As the now hackneyed observation goes: ‘You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.’
Expand your altruism, yes. But remain comfortable
So let’s look at a few things you can do, assuming you love to do these things yourself. You love cooking- great. You can make a meal for the family, for family and friends, for a large scale party – even volunteer to feed hundreds at a shelter set up for flood or bushfire victims. I recall a highly qualified chef telling me that one of the most satisfying and happily remembered moments of his life was doing just that - supervising and cooking at a temporary shelter in Australian outback town which had been devastated by a flood.
Most important - Do what YOU love
So let’s say you’re a carpenter. You love to work with wood. You can make a friend a table, renovate someone else house at cost of materials only – or help build a centre were street kids can play and learn and grow.
Or you can teach. You have something you’re really good at, interested in, have knowledge of. Teach! To teach is to love. But first love what you do!
Let say you can do some of these things but want to go even further, reach more people. Well, you can do what I’m doing here. You can write so that others might read. You can go out and speak to groups of people. So long as it is something you like to do, enjoy undertaking, then you will be ‘in happiness’ but not realizing it, in all probability, until after the event. The bi-product of happiness is subtle. It is rare when we can both say and realize that we are in fact, at that moment, happy.
We make our own happiness
So, I hope you have gained something here. I hope that you realize that happiness is there with you much more than you realize. When totally involved in the moment, and you are feeling at ease and content and not ‘stressed out,’ enjoying what you’re doing because you’re probably good at it, you are happy. So stop searching for it. Realize once and for all that it is in you. Always has been, always will be. As the famous American naturalist and poet Henry D. Thoreau states, “Man is the artificer of his own happiness.” You simply need to be more aware of how you can bring it into your life.