The Pursuit Of Happiness
A lot of essays have already been written about happiness. There’s even a scientific journal called “Journal of Happiness Studies.” I think I don’t need to explain what kind of studies are published in the said journal.
I also have several essays about this topic. One of them is entitled “Defining Happiness” which if you wish to read later then you may click on this link.
So, what else should I be discussing here about happiness when it is possible that I may have already articulated everything I wish to say about it in my past essays. I decided to revisit this topic because I just want to share one very significant insight I heard when I listened to one of Dr. John C. Maxwell’s audiobooks. Dr. Maxwell is an American author, speaker, and pastor. He has written many books and I have actually purchased two of those – “How Successful People Think” and “Jumpstart Your Thinking.” I sometimes watch his videos on YouTube and that’s how I came across that audio book.
In that said audio book Dr. Maxwell shared an experience when he and his wife (Margaret) were invited as co-speakers in a seminar about happiness. According to him, when it was Mrs. Maxwell’s turn to speak, one of the participants asked, “Does your husband make you happy?”
Dr. Maxwell said that he was surprised with the question, but even more so with the answer given by his wife – “No!” He added that upon hearing that, people started to look at him. And as if the negative response was not enough to indict him (if it were true), somebody from the audience asked “Why?”
Then his wife explained.
“No! John Maxwell cannot make me happy. John Maxwell is a very good husband. He is never drunk. He never cheats on me. He always tries to fulfill my needs, physically and spiritually. But still, he cannot make me happy. Why? Because no one in this world is responsible for my happiness than me.”
The message is simple – we are responsible for our own happiness. It’s nobody else’s job to make us happy. Mrs. Maxwell is telling us that whether we become happy or not is up to us. It is a decision we make and not based on what others do or don’t do. As you probably have read (or heard) many times – “Happiness is an inside job.” You should have control over it. You shouldn’t allow your JOYstick to be handled by anyone.
Each of us is responsible for setting the parameters of our own happiness and we should be careful when we do so. We should set our own answers to the question “What would make me happy?” The question that should follow is – Which level (or levels) in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should be met for you to be happy – the basic, the psychological, or the self-actualization needs?
Those who consider money as their source of happiness have their physiological and safety needs as underlying reasons for doing so. Their need for food, clothes, and shelter are foremost among their concerns. There’s nothing wrong with that – for as long as they acknowledge that living a happy life requires more than eating, wearing clothes, and living under a roof.
We all have a dream house and car. We all want to eat the best foods. We all want something more – jewelry, bag, and what have you. We all want to have a vacation in the places listed in our bucket lists. For all those, we need money.
Money is not bad, it’s a blessing. The more of it we have, the better. Whoever says “I don’t need it” is a hypocrite. Whoever says also that “money is the root of all evils” is mistaken. Very likely that those people who have this kind of mindset about money don’t have it. What makes money bad is the way we want it, how we acquire it, how we spend it, and what we sacrifice to have it. What makes it bad is the answer to the question – “Are you the master of money… or its slave?” And what are you sacrificing in your quest for fortune? Is it your health… relationships… or your dignity as a human being? Is it worth it?
If you tie up your happiness with your need for love and belongingness, that’s when other people – your family and loved ones, friends, and to some extent, co-workers – get involved. From “What makes you happy?” it now becomes a matter of “Who makes you happy?” This is when we should be reminded of Mrs. Maxwell’s words – “No one is responsible for my happiness than me.”
It’s difficult but we should not allow other people to dictate our happiness. No matter how close they may be to us. We should manage our relationships in such a way that it would not destroy the tranquility of our lives and distract us from our personal pursuits and endeavors.
How to do it?
We become unhappy in our relationships when we get disappointed by something that a loved one, a friend, or a co-worker did or had failed to do. That is because we have set expectations and standards that they must measure up to. When they don’t, we become disappointed leading us to feel unhappy.
What should you do then? Consider dumping your expectations and standards.
Our happiness should not be contingent upon the way we expect other people to think, speak, and act. Do not set standards that whether your relatives, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, children, parents, friends, co-workers, boss, leaders, neighbor or a stranger, like it or not, should comply with. You will be gravely disappointed if you expect other people to behave and think exactly the way you want.
You have no control of the way your fellowmen would conduct themselves as persons and as professionals. You just need to embrace them for the way that they are. Just like you and me, they are not perfect. If your relationship is at a level that they could accept rebuke and advice then try. But how sure are you that with whatever issues or disagreements that you have with whoever, you are right and they are wrong – that the mistake is theirs, not yours. Should they not accept your rebuke or advice, in the event that you are certain that you stand on the side of truth and reason, then let them be and you do what is best for you. Move on. Let whoever erred suffer the consequences… and pray that it’s not you.
Happiness, being an inside job that it is, should not be hinged upon any external factors that we don’t have direct control of. We should, therefore, in our pursuit of happiness, focus internally. Our happiness is our own business. We should strive higher than satisfying our basic needs and our need for love and belongingness. We should set higher ideals for ourselves.
Nestled on top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are self-esteem and self-actualization. Include them in the list of your answers to the question “What would make me happy?”. It will be in your best interest should you place them on top of your list as well.
Happy you will certainly become if you acquire the knowledge and skills that would enable you to achieve success in your chosen field of endeavor. Through it, you will earn the recognition and respect of your fellowmen bringing you an immeasurable amount of self-esteem.
If you attain self-actualization, it means that you succeeded in unleashing your full potential as a person and you will be surprised how money, love and admiration, and respect of other people will come knocking at your door even if you don’t seek them.
True happiness comes from within thus there are people asserting that it (happiness) is actually a decision we make and not a goal that we try to achieve. But if we consider it as an “end,” the “means” of getting it should not be anybody or anything but what we become as a person.
Happiness is our reward when we succeed in our efforts to become, not perfect for perfection can never be achieved, but the best version of ourselves. When we become the best of what we could be, we can live our lives to the fullest and become productive members of both our family and society.