Why do you do what you do? What motivates you to be successful, have relationships, go to work, to take up hobbies, spend time with friends or go on holiday? What is it that you are really looking for? The answer given by at least 90 per cent of the people I ask is happiness. As William James, the father of modern day psychology said, ‘how to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do’. Happiness turns out to be, along with love, peace and wholeness our deepest longing.
Quite simply happiness not only feels good, but it’s good for your health, your relationships, your work and our society. Happy people have more fulfilling lives, experience a deeper sense of connection to others and to nature and they consistently perform at higher levels than those who aren’t happy. Happiness provides us with the fuel to thrive and flourish as human beings. Society, business, families and our planet need happy people.
But what exactly do we mean by happiness?
Generally, when someone says they are happy they mean they are satisfied with their life and that they are experiencing a preponderance of ‘pleasant’ emotions, such as contentment, pleasure, joy, enthusiasm and delight (and relatively few ‘unpleasant’ emotions). I call this type of happiness ‘normal’ happiness.
Normal happiness is very much connected to what is going on in your life. If your relationships are going well, you have money in the bank, your health is good and you are successful at what you do, the chances are you will experience normal happiness. The clue that it’s normal happiness is that it is conditional upon certain things being the way you want them to be. If you are made redundant unexpectedly or your partner is upset with you and your sense of happiness and well-being disappears, you know that the happiness you were experiencing was normal. The other hallmark of this type of ‘normal’ happiness is that when we pursue it we often focus on short-term gains at the long-term expense of our health, relationships and personal growth; for example, working round the clock in pursuit of success and money, but neglecting out health and intimate relationships. The pursuit of normal happiness is grounded in the belief that happiness exists outside of us.
True Happiness is worlds apart from ‘normal’ happiness. True happiness describes a deep sense of inner well-being, peace and vitality that is with you most of the time in most circumstances. People, who experience true happiness, feel a deep sense of gratitude for simply being alive. Unlike normal happiness which comes and goes and is dependent on certain things happening, true happiness is independent of our life situation. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel anger, or sadness or fear, in fact the opposite is often the case. Truly happy people have the ability to feel those emotions deeply and fully, but they don’t lose sight of themselves as they do, they remain aware and present to their thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.
But is experiencing true happiness simply a case of changing our thoughts, practising gratitude, being kind and living mindfully as some experts suggest? My experience is this – they are all important and all have a part to play, but alone they simply aren’t enough to experience True Happiness. For True Happiness we need to fundamentally change our way of being in the world and change the way we live our life. It’s about shifting from
believing and being identified with the stories our head tells us to
resting as the awareness of those stories
fighting reality to living in alignment with reality
being limited by our beliefs to being empowered by our beliefs to living beyond beliefs
avoiding, sedating and resisting our emotions to welcoming our emotions
holding onto the past to letting go of the past
living a unfulfilling life to living a meaningful and fulfilling life
neglecting our health and needs to taking care of our health and needs
improving ourselves to accepting ourselves
identification with the ego-self to living as the true Self
tolerating toxic relationships to creating healthy conscious relationships
looking for love to giving love
getting for me to giving for the greater good
overcomplicating our life to simplifying our life
Put another way – it’s about growing up and waking up.
Growing up is about realising your potential and becoming an emotionally mature adult (most adults at an emotional level feel and act as adolescents or young children).
Waking up is about living with greater present moment awareness and acceptance and discovering and embodying the true Self (our true nature) and bringing forth its gifts, talents and potentials into the world in a way that enriches and enhances the world. Being in alignment with the true Self enables us to access our deepest creativity, experience a deep sense of inner well-being, peace and vitality and to actualise our personal and professional potential. This is the master key to True Happiness