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In Pursuit of Happiness

Updated on May 7, 2011

In Pursuit of Happiness

For those of us lucky enough to be living in the Western world, this alone should be reason enough for happiness. Life is pretty good, economies are booming and living standards are better than ever. Our pantries are stuffed with food, and our wardrobes overflowing with clothes. We've got so much choice it's mind-boggling.

Trouble is, with all these choices, it doesn't seem to make us any happier or more contented with our lot. In fact the opposite seems to be true. All this choice only adds to our stress levels. If you don't believe it, watch a mother and her child shopping for breakfast cereals in the supermarket. It's scary stuff.

We are becoming more stressed and disgruntled than ever. So what is the problem? Why are we unable to find happiness or even cope with modern life, when the reality is it's so much better than our predecessors enjoyed?

Part of the problem is that as a society we have become more materialistic and feel a need to acquire more of everything. Our insatiable demands for goods are powering the economic boom. Once on the merry-go-round it is very hard to get off. However, things change and evolve all the time, so current trends, won't last indefinitely.

How does this affect the individual in their pursuit of happiness? What measures can be taken towards a more fulfilled and balanced life. A lot of the time people don't really know what they mean when they say, "I just want to be happy." They don't actually define it in terms that they can relate to. It is just something that is out there. Just out of reach as it were.

Taking time out to come to grips with what happiness means to you is a big step forward, because when you actually know what will make you happy, you can start working towards it.

Take some time to analyze your situation, choose somewhere quiet where you won't be disturbed and think about where you are in your life and what you are doing. A very sobering thought is that you are where you are because of choices you have made in the past. If you are not in a good place you will want to dispute that, but if you honestly think about it , you will find it to be true.

The first thing you must do is to stop playing the blame game. Stop blaming the world, the government, your boss, your landlord, your partner. Once you take ownership and responsibility for your own life, you will get control of it as well. Only then will you be able to put your life on the road to happiness.

Don't confuse short-term gratification with deep-seated happiness. Sure buying a new outfit will give you a buzz, but put a strategy in place for long term happiness. Being miserable or unhappy can become a habit, and deep-seated unhappiness can lead to depression. In this case, though, we are talking about being unhappy in a very general sense

If you're not happy with your life, try to narrow it down to specific reasons. It might be that you hate your job, or where you live. It might only be small things, but enough of them that in the end you just flat-out hate where you are at. The good news is that as you put yourself in this unhappy situation, you can get yourself out!

Think back on your life and see if you can remember a time when you were really happy. What was happening then that made you feel that way and is there anyway you can draw on that experience to help you now.

Ask yourself what you would do if you were told, you could do anything you wanted. Now see if any part of what you really want to do can be incorporated into your present circumstances. Here is an example.

Friends of ours loved to travel and felt caged in their present job. Given unlimited funds, they would travel all of the time, the reality was that they don't have unlimited funds, and have to earn a living. They've been in the hospitality industry for years. So they set up a business where they relieved the owners of other hospitality operations for their holidays. This way they were always on the move, visiting new places and they are now definitely happier.

There will be compromises, but getting some of what you want is an improvement on putting up with something you are not happy with. Given your circumstances, just how much are you prepared to do to change the situation. If you're in a relationship and your decisions affect someone else, you really need to get together and discuss it It takes courage to take a good hard look at ourselves and even more to do something about it. Quite often it's not the big things that make the difference, but a series of little things, and it doesn't all have to happen at once.

Happiness is like everything else, it's achievable, but you need to make it happen. The good thing about happiness is, there is plenty of it. So when you find it spread it around.

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