The pursuit of happiness is one of our key drivers in life. We go after things in life because a part of us feels that when we get those things or have those experiences, we will feel happy.
While our desire to experience happiness drives most of the things we do, the truth is those things are not essential to be happy now.
I remember early in my management career, I wanted to climb the corporate ladder because I wanted to get a company car. Hey, don’t judge me! I was young and naive!
I thought if I had a company car, it would give me a lot more options to do things and also travel more since I wouldn’t be paying for it. After four and a half years, an opportunity came up and I was offered a new role and along with a new company car.
Without much thought, I accepted the role just so I could get a company car. Unfortunately, the excitement of having a company car lasted for a month before the reality of having additional responsibilities kicked in.
While on one hand I had achieved a goal, on another hand, it did not bring me the joy I thought it would. Did not having a company car prevent me from doing any of the things I wanted to do previously? Absolutely not! I could do the things I wanted to at any time, without waiting for an external condition to be met first.
The lesson for me was I did not need something outside myself to be satisfied first in order to be happy. Happiness is really a choice and we don’t need most of the things we are going after to be happy now.
Here are ten things not essential to be happy now. Once we have the awareness of these things, it will be so much easier to let go of them and experience joy and happiness, instead of deferring it to the future until some condition we have totally made up is met first.
- More material things. We don’t need a bigger house, an extra car, the new gadgets or more things in our house to experience happiness. Sure, those things may make our life more comfortable, however, they don’t necessarily lead to long-term happiness. If we don’t feel happy inside first, it is very rare that something externally will make us happy.
- More status, power or recognition. Chasing fame and wealth is never a good long-term strategy. They should be by-products for the things we do or the service we provide in the marketplace. We often hear of rags to riches then back to rags stories, and along the way, so many lives are affected in a detrimental way. Therefore, chasing success in order to boost our ego will not lead to real happiness.
- Trying to get the approval of others. From the time we are born, we are constantly seeking the approval of others. Kids are driven to succeed so that they can get their parent’s accolades and approval. While that behaviour may have served us when we were young, it doesn’t serve us in our adult life because if we don’t get the approval of others when we expect it, it can affect our confidence and motivation levels.
- Living through the experiences of others. It is a very strange thing but we tend to be fascinated by the lives of others. As a sports fan, I like to watch the teams or people I support, win. When they do, I feel some joy but it is very short lived. The reality is they won, I did not! My life did not change, whereas their life may have changed because they either won or lost.
The same is true with reality TV — viewers are more interested in watching someone else pursue a goal rather than take the risk and do something themselves. It’s time to stop living through the lives of others.
- Believing that someone else will “make” you happy. Happiness is something we generate. No one can make us happy or sad unless we allow them to by giving our power to them. The belief that other people can make us happy or sad is a contributing factor to relationships ending. Our objective should always be to enhance relationships without expecting another person to do something that will make us feel happy.
- Trying to please or impress others. This is very similar to getting the approval of others and is often ego-driven. Believing that by doing something to please others so that we can experience happiness, is a recipe for disappointment.
Have you ever noticed with people who try to be funny — others around them will smile or laugh just to be polite not because they were funny? If we are our true, authentic selves, that should be enough to impress others.
- Continually chasing the next success. When is enough, enough? It has been said that we should stop and smell the roses rather than be on the success merry-go-round. If we don’t feel happy with what we already have, then we will be on a never-ending cycle of pursuing the next thing.
A key distinction here is, it is okay to continually challenge ourselves to grow and evolve, and that comes by being willing to take risks. However, we should not chase success without having a clear purpose behind it.
- Expecting guarantees in life. Ever heard the saying, “There are no guarantees in life except change, taxes and death?” Then why do we live our lives in such a way that we only do things if we have some sort of a guarantee of success? Happiness comes from a having a sense of progress and direction. When we are willing to take risks without any guarantees, that’s when we are more likely to experience a new kind of happiness.
- Believing that you need money to be happy. Let’s face it — not having money severely limits what we can or cannot do. However, money is not always required to experience joy.
For example, if someone enjoys going for a walk in nature or along the beach, that does not cost money. Often, the little things in life bring us more joy than the major accomplishments. Having a “Joy List” is a wonderful way to identify the things that make us feel happy.
- The belief that you can be happy all the time. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who is happy all the time. There may be people out there but I have not met them yet. While pursuing happiness should still remain a driver for us, there also has to be a recognition that there will be times when things won’t go as well as we’d like. And we just have to embrace those situations then make appropriate choices to turn them around by taking new actions.
Experiencing joy and happiness consistently is a choice, and the wonderful thing is we all have the power to choose. If we can start letting go of the things that are not essential to be happy now, we will experience a lot more happiness. If we don’t do anything different, then chances are we will continue creating the same types of experiences we have right now.
Question: What is something else that is not essential to be happy now?
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