A Secret to Happiness
Everyone wants to be happy.
In America, we are even guaranteed “the pursuit of happiness” as a sovereign right. And most of us are pretty darn good at pursuing what we think will make us happy. Everyone has their own way of going after what they want–some work hard; some cheat, steal, and lie; and others are simply lucky. And occassionally, after all that striving or manipulating or at the end of a rainbow, we actually find our pot of gold, the thing we’d set our heart on to finally make us happy. But at some point in life, everyone realizes the bitter truth in The Rolling Stones’ lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want.”
But there is a truth, deeper still, that surprises. To many, this truth is a terrible disappointment, an emptiness where fullness was needed. To a few, this truth comes as a welcome surprise, a gift of unexpected abundance.
What is that truth, this secret to happiness?
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything.
Yup, that’s it. Go ahead and chew on that for a minute. Now, I wish I could say that I came up with this concept on my own, but it is actually a direct quote from the greatest philosopher of all time, the Greek poetess Hieronymous Anonymous. (In other words, noone seems to know who originated the concept and you could find 101 variations of it online. But I digress…)
Do you see how this truth could be a bitter pill for some and a sweet balm for others? If we fix our hope for happiness on getting, having, achieving, we will never reach it. Sure, we may be successful at those things, but we will quickly realize they didn’t bring the lasting joy we were longing for. However, if we open our eyes to see that everyday life is a radically extravagant gift and that the ordinary air, objects, work, people we’re surrounded by hold tremendous value, then, in that process we will surprise ourselves with happiness.
It has to do with contentment and delight, creativity and humor, gratitude and selflessness. Which one of these words most jumps out at you? Hold onto that one word for a moment…
Now, think of a challenging situation in your life right now, something that you’ve allowed to rob you of some happiness. What would it look like if you applied your word to “make the best” of that situation? It might surprise you and turn something loathsome into a beautiful thing.
My word for now is delight.
PS: A warning: don’t be the donkey or the ostrich. By donkey, I mean don’t act like a martyr, moping about pretending you’re sacrificially making the best of everything to get people’s sympathy. By ostrich, I mean don’t bury your head in the ground, pretending everything’s fine and ignoring a situation that you know needs to change. This secret to happiness is meant to empower you to live abundantly in the midst of “ordinary”, not to keep you from truly living.