No matter where you go in the world, human beings are pretty much the same. From the lunatic to the saint, the beggar to the king, we’re all just struggling to find some happiness in our lives. And while there are some of us throughout history who’ve adopted truly insane techniques by which to find their versions of happiness - igniting war, oppressing others, destroying the environment - thankfully most of us have come to rely on decidedly less drastic methods that, while not necessarily harmful to others, are nonetheless just as damaging to ourselves.
Looking For Happiness In Another Person - Expecting another person to make us happy is one of the biggest blunders we make, leading to most of our personal miseries. If your happiness depends on another - like a spouse, child, friend, or even spiritual guru - what happens if the marriage comes to an end, the child grows up and moves out of the house, the friendships sours, or the guru turns out to be a charlatan? Does your happiness also come to a screeching halt? Placing that kind of burden on someone else is not only unfair to them, but even more importantly, it robs you of your personal power to create a Life based on choice . . . that being the choice to be as happy - or as miserable - as you want to be.
. . . In Another Place - There’s lots of great things about traveling - you can relax and learn about different cultures all while creating priceless memories - but one thing traveling doesn’t give us is true happiness. Jetting off to some exotic locale is at best a temporary ‘sensory’ pleasure, but it’s not a lasting one. Lots of people dream of ‘getting away from it all,’ but what they don’t realize is that all the unhappiness they’re carrying around inside is still going to be waiting for us right there on that pristine beach in Tahiti. And no matter how overcome with joy you are when first glimpsing the Egyptian Pyramids, sooner or later the exuberance is going to fizzle. Sure, I’d love to see DaVinci’s Last Supper in-person, but if I don’t ever make it to Milan, will I be any less happy? Of course not . . . because my happiness doesn’t depend on where I go in the world. The key is being happy wherever you are whether you’re strolling through a nature preserve in Costa Rica or waiting in line at the DMV.
. . . In Material Wealth - Sadly, untold millions around the world still buy into the unconscious notion that the stuff you buy will somehow magically make your Life better and more meaningful. It doesn’t. If material things did actually make you happy, then once you’d finally snagged that shiny new sports car, you wouldn’t ever need - or even want - another one. What would be the point? But just for a moment consider comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s collection of nearly 50 Porches. Housed in their very own two-story parking garage in NYC, this monument to material excess gone crazy begs the obvious question: who on earth needs 50 sports cars? Think about it: If material wealth really led to happiness, wouldn’t you expect the happiest among us to be the richest? And how often is that the case?
. . . In Notoriety - If you’ve ever fantasized about how amazing it would be to be famous (most of us probably have), then just take a look at the tabloids - or rather, don’t . . . they’re too depressing. Sure, you could argue that possessing some amount of notoriety has its perks, but are you seriously prepared to give away your freedoms just for a bit of fame? I’m serious. Famous people can’t just stroll down the street unnoticed, sit quietly on an airplane engrossed in a book, or do their grocery shopping in peace. If your sense of ‘Self’ depends on being well-known in the eyes of our fickle masses, then you’re essentially placing your happiness in the hands of complete strangers. Yeah, there’s a reason why that sounds completely absurd. That’s because it is. And in these increasingly shallow times of non-stop Twitter feeds and Facebook ‘likes,’ your time in the spotlight has about as much shelf-life as a quart of milk left out in the sun. Andy Warhol’s famous prophetic quote that ‘In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’ has definitely come to pass. But instead of 15 minutes, these days it’s more like 15 seconds. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a very sturdy foundation for lasting happiness.
The Big Lemon
There’s a huge misconception about happiness, a big ‘ol lemon we’ve been sold that’s been passed down to us from previous generations. Most of us have been taught that the real joys of Life are to be found out there in the external world . . . a ‘great’ job, lots of money, a mansion on the hill, power over others, fame, an alluring partner, etc. But it’s actually the opposite that’s true: authentic happiness begins within and extends outward into the world. That’s a major reason why so many people are mixed-up and unhappy . . . they’ve got it all backwards.
Anything outside yourself - jobs, money, partners, fame, awards adorning your mantle . . . all of it - is just a temporary illusion that’s going to fade sooner or later. Plus, these ‘things’ have a nasty tendency to lead us astray from deeper, more profound truths. But as I’ve stated in previous posts, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these external things, so long as you don’t fall into the age-old trap of believing that they’re an honest reflection of your true Self. This is precisely why you can ‘have it all’ and still be unhappy.
True happiness isn’t something that must be found out there in the world. Anytime you go looking for it, you’re subconsciously reinforcing the notion that there’s something missing from you . . . that you’re somehow lacking or incomplete as is. You’re not. Happiness is found right here and now within you. True lasting happiness is more about your mental attitude, not your external conditions.