Saturday, January 08, 2005

Living a life of lasting happiness

Can one live a life of lasting happiness?

Most cultures emphasizes happiness and pleasure in life; the natural tendency is to avoid suffering. If you read the USA’s Declaration of Independence, it proclaims the right for the, "pursuit of happiness."

Unfortunately, happiness is a transient state that cannot be reached and kept. Happiness never lasts. Happiness is related to the Middle English word "hap," the root meaning come from the word "happenstance". This implies that happiness is more due to luck -- happenstance -- than effort. If lucky, we might be happy, at least, for a short time.

The American Heritage Dictionary records the definition of the word "content" as "satisfied" whereas happiness (a derivative of the word happy) means "(1) characterized by good fortune; and (2) having, showing or marked by pleasure.

From the above definitions, it appears that happiness is a state of mind or attitude that is induced by the presence of favourable circumstances. To be content (based upon the definition of satisfy) means "to gratify or fulfill a need or desire". Hence, it represents a state of mind that is induced when a need or desire is fulfilled not necessarily as a result of favourable circumstances.

Too many times people seek happiness as their goal in life…their sole objective. Many times you will hear individuals mutter, "If only I had enough money, an exciting career, a better marriage, a sensitive lover, more time for my leisure activities, was slimmer, etc., I would be really happy".

All of us at one time or another have felt this way. We begin to equate happiness with the things (objects, talents, people) we don't have in our lives rather than by things that we do have in our lives.

Often times, we always looking for things outside ourselves to make us complete, feel whole and successful. We look to our spouses, lovers, careers, children,friends, hobbies, etc., to validate our existences and to substantiate our worth to ourselves. We expect our partners to make our lives work for us (co-dependency); we expect our careers to ease our sense of insecurity about ourselves (workaholism); we starve ourselves to almost to death in order to look slim, glamorous and sexy so that others will accept us rather than reject us (vanity); we buy the latest clothes, cars and accessories so that we can appear to have it all (materialism); we ingest potent drugs such as alcohol, ecstacy,cocktail and designer drugs,cocaine and valium to help us deal with our unpleasant reality for a while (addictions); we have secretive affairs because they make us feel alive and vital again because we can see ourselves differently in the eyes of a lover (adultery) and on and on.

We will do anything that we believe can help us to achieve the state called "happiness"…a state where all is perfect without any flaws. Just like Snow White or Cinderella and Prince Charming who lived happily ever after.

Then problems arise because too many of us expect that life will be like a fairy tale and are bitterly disappointed when it doesn't turn out that way.

We can change our clothes, hair, face and relationships in search of that perfect state, but until we focus on changing our attitudes about such ideals as happiness, we will always be looking somewhere else for it or looking for someone else to provide it.

To be happy denotes a state of being that relies on positive experiences to reinforce its existence. So when difficult times occur, you can fall from the state of happiness into the state of fear (anger, depression and chaos) until the negative stimulus is eliminated.

However, to be content denotes a state of mind that is not based upon positive or negative stimulation …it is a feeling akin to peace of mind. To be content means that one accepts all circumstances as part of the natural rhythm of life, the cosmic flow that contains both peaks and valleys.

A contented person accepts themselves for who they are regardless of their faults and talents. They accept others as they are and vice-versa as well as the path upon which they walk. They realize that to be satisfied is an experience without words yet brings them such peace of mind, they need not explain it.

Thus, to be or not to be content is a choice we all have to make. If we continue to look for the ideal state called "happiness", we can feel like we are on an emotional roller coaster never knowing when the downs will come with the ups.

However, living in the state known as "contentment" can be likened to sailing or just sitting in a boat on a calm lake. It may not seem as exciting; but to anyone who has done it, it is a most tranquil, peaceful experience and perhaps truly a slice of heaven on earth.

For most people, the things that are of major importance to maintaining lasting happiness in their lives are :

1. Wealth
2. Physical appearance
3. Age
4. Power/Influence
5. Children
6. Possessions
7. Fame
8. Education

If you have all these things in your life, would you be really really happy?


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