What makes some people happy and others not? It is the great conundrum. We are all faced with it every day. Should I do this or do that? What is going to bring me the greatest happiness and satisfaction? Is there a gap between what I ought to do because it is the right thing to do, and what I want to do – for me?
If we must grapple with definitions, what we are talking about here is contentment. That great peace that enables us to rest in what we are doing.
We struggle to see the wood for the trees. “I know I should go and visit my aged aunt, but I would prefer to stay at home and dig the garden.” “I know I should go and exercise, but can’t I just potter around the house?”
Our level of contentment is definitely down to the choices we make. The effects of those choices visit us in the future as the feelings we have about the circumstances we end up in.
“I have decided that the love of money is the root of all evil, therefore I am going to live an ecologically balanced lifestyle” often leads us into struggling on benefits, fighting for the next pound and being miserable because “life is all about the money I haven’t got”.
Similarly “ I am going to make sure the my family never wants for anything” can lead to a lifetime of commuting where one never sees one’s family.
We have to somehow make wise choices that leave us in a state of peace about where we are and what we have got.
The great cliché about this is “It is not about getting what you want, but wanting what you get”. And like all clichés it has a lot of truth in it, if you can deal with the triteness.
If we objectify our happiness – make it about some object or other - then we are distancing ourselves from our contentment and saying “ I am nearly happy now, because I know that when I get the thing I want, then I will be really happy”.
The trouble is that often, when we get what we think we want, we realise that we are still not happy. “I am chairman of the Board, my lifetime ambition, and I am miserable. My husband has left me, I am surrounded by sycophants – what has my life been about?”
The key is that we have to make peace with where we are now. To know that we are in the right place now, and that we have everything we could possibly need to make us happy, now and in the future. And if that means we are hungry for something, we have to be at peace with that hunger, not try to get rid of it.
This is not some passive surrender to all that life throws at us, it is an active acceptance that where we are is the perfect place to lead us to where we need to be next.
Albert Einstein was once asked what he thought was the most important question in life. His reply: “Is the universe a friendly place or not?”.
Your answer to that question will affect your whole attitude to life.
Can you be happy where you are right now, and with what you have right now?
Only you can say.