Why? It’s really not a matter of not trying. Most of us work very hard at being happy. Failed hope after failed hope seems gradually to lead many down the road of quiet desperation with a quiet acceptance that maybe this is just the reality of life. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be happy.
Feeling miserable certainly does appear to be the norm. Nevertheless, we do try. Some sit in church, week after week, and listen to “good news” and wonder why if it’s such good news, we aren’t happier. Some hang out at bars wondering why there are so many unhappy people if this is supposed to be “happy hour.” Some read self-help books and lie awake at night wondering why they can’t apply the simple principles for living a blissfully happy life. Some, even knowing better, buy a particular car or a larger home thinking that such a purchase will make them happier only to end up a little unhappier after the new wears off.
Our attempts to avoid misery appear to be only limited by the limits of the human imagination. Marriage, divorce, remarriage, drugs, sex, work, affairs, vacations often are vain attempts to find happiness without success, only to find instead, a quiet desperation resurfacing and misery returning. Still hope remains and other attempts to be happy are pursued. Far too many live their lives this way until they eventually die. Sad.
I believe we ought to give a lot more attention to studying and understanding people who are truly happy, not people who write about happiness or pretend that happiness can be found in a marriage, a bottle, a purchase or a book. The pursuit of happiness is perhaps the single greatest contributor to the abundance of misery that we find in our world. We can no more pursue happiness than we can herd a flock of geese. Such attempts only end in frustration as happiness flies away, escaping our grasp.
Happiness, like misery, is a byproduct of how we choose to live our lives. Because no one formula works for everyone, happiness comes to each of us differently. Understanding this, a few guidelines may still be helpful.
1. Get to know yourself. This takes time. Turn off the television (or better yet kill it all together) and spend some time with yourself. Figure out who you are, apart from the expectations of others. Happy people know themselves.
2. Find balance. Doing too much of the same thing often leads to misery. Happy people have a variety of things on their plate. All work and no play make Jack (or Jill) dull, if not miserable. My guess is that the very acts of cleaning house, mowing the yard, fixing dinner, repairing a faucet and so forth, along with talking with a child, playing a game and doing your job lead to a happier way of life.
3. Live with purpose. Find a way to make our world a little better place as a result of your presence. Happy people find a purpose and make a contribution.
3. Quit seeking the meaning of life. The meaning of life is not a deep secret privileged to only a few. The meaning of life is to live.