What is happiness?
Is happiness the joy that the weekend is near or the prospect of dining out? Or is it the purchase of a new laptop or a great new car? They certainly can make us feel good, but sadly, that feeling may last only a few hours or a few days and then it will fade away.
What then is enduring happiness?
Long-lasting happiness is a feeling of contentment that is not dependent on external events, but something that springs from within us. It’s caused by our attitude, that is by the way we view the world. Is our glass half empty, or is it half full?
Long-lasting happiness is within reach for all of us. The primary step is to accept life and whatever it may bring. This includes life’s many hardships.
Once we whole-heartedly embrace life in all its diversity, our negative emotions, such as hate, anger, jealousy, desire, and thirst for revenge, will diminish — a good thing since they are the cause of much agony and pain. In effect, we are much better off when we focus on counting our blessings.
In addition to accepting life’s complexity of events, it is important to find meaning that reaches beyond the satisfaction of our personal desires. The discovery of a purpose in life is often the cause of deep happiness.
Albert Schweitzer, the great physician, philosopher, musician and medical missionary in Africa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his book, “Reverence for Life,” put it this way: “Those among you, who have sought and found how to serve others, will truly be happy.”
Around two thousand years ago, a Greek slave called Epictetus heard two adults discuss philosophy. He was still a child, severely crippled, but the topic so enthralled him that he asked his master’s permission to study it.
The young slave learned eagerly, and gained wisdom and respect. He was eventually freed from his bonds and spent the rest of his life sharing the wisdom of his beloved philosophy with humanity.
One of Epictetus’ maxims for achieving happiness advocates accepting events that we cannot change:
Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever thy decree has fixed my lot.
I follow willingly; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched would I follow still.
Not many mortals will reach a perfect state of inner contentment, such as the Dalai Lama or Epictetus found. But we can get better at warding off unwarranted discontent, and get closer to finding happiness.
Until next time,