Lately, I’ve been noticing a sense of hopelessness, and depression a lot of places online, and even in discussions offline. And why is this? Why do we feel like we’re in such hard times? With so much leisure and modern conveniences, why are we so unhappy?
Ironically, I think it’s because we focus too much on trying to be happy. But that’s the thing—we’re not guaranteed happiness, we’re only given the opportunity to pursue happiness. But why does pursuing happiness not bring happiness? I think happiness is a byproduct of doing useful and good things in our lives. When we try to make ourselves happy, we can’t. Like trying pet a cat, the more you chase after it, the more it runs from you. When you stop chasing it and ignore it, it suddenly shows up to snuggle into your face. When we focus on trying to live a good life, happiness finds us. Happiness happens when we make other plans.
“If what you have seems insufficient to you, then though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable.”
If I were to ask you to make a list of what you want in your life, what would be on that list? Would you list the things that you already have? If we’re always chasing some shiny object to fill that hole inside of us, we’ll always feel empty. Appreciating what we have – a place to live, family and friends, food, even the most basics of things, can immediately improve our level of happiness.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Life is not about being happy, it’s about being useful. The times in my life when I feel the best are when I’m taking on a challenge, or helping others through their challenges. When creating something I feel like there’s a purpose to my efforts. When I’m doing something that adds value to the world, I feel like I’m helping move the world forward.
“One cannot pursue one’s own highest good without at the same time necessarily promoting the good of others. A life based on narrow self-interest cannot be esteemed by any honorable measurement.”
I think the most important part of allowing happiness to find you, is serving others. Remember, happiness is a byproduct of action, so the more we give to the world, the more chances happiness will have to show up in our lives. What can you do to make it better? We all have some unique talent that the world needs. Even if it’s just showing up and supporting a good cause. Every good movement needs people that are willing to show up.
I think every age has had its struggles with problems that seem insurmountable and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But remember, you can only do what you can do, and that will be enough. Don’t get discouraged because you can’t save the world in a day. But add something good, be on the positive side of the equation, and know that you’re being part of the solution.