Most of us have heard people talking about what would make them happy. Or heard the saying “The pursuit of happiness”. We spend much of our time focusing on and chasing something that seems to elude most of us, and we look upon the lives of others who seem to attain happiness, at least on an outward look at their lives, with envy. “Must be nice to …” has left most of our lips more than once. And yet if we were to ask most people happiness really seems to elude them, regardless of how their lives appear.
So why do we pursue so hard something that continues to elude most of us? And how do we know when we can be happy? I’ll be happy when I get that new job.” or “I’ll be happy when I get that raise.” or that new car, or new house, or I get married.” We seem to chase after something that we can’t ever seem to catch. We continue to go after the proverbial carrot, and never get to take a bite. We get that job, or house or get married, or that raise and it yet it never seems to make us happy. We buy that new car, and for a short time we may be happy, but then the next new model comes out or something happens, the car breaks down, and we again look for the next thing that will make us happy. Many couples even look to their mate to make them happy. And get very dissatisfied when it doesn’t happen. Our lives are spent and in the end our happiness level never seems to have been attained or filled.
Unfortunately this is because the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of an illusion. We continue to focus on something outside ourselves to make us happy and never become happy. Amy Lowell says
“Happiness: We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good.”
Many of us would say the same thing. We beg, buy, borrow and steal all trying to achieve something we can never have. And everything we see around us is geared to promote this pursuit. It is what drives our economy. If we weren’t unhappy we wouldn’t spend money on half of the things we spend money on. “Keeping up with the Jones’ ” is all a pursuit of happiness, hoping to achieve the same level of happiness as we see in someone else. And yet the very happiness we see in others is often the same illusion we are pursuing. Life and advertising and relationships keep taunting us with the carrot of happiness. New housing developments being built will tell you that your life will be better, you will be happier, your wife will be wifier if your buy one of their houses. All to keep us dissatisfied.
At times we see people with absolutely nothing, and yet they are extremely happy. And in the same regard some people with everything are happy. There seems to be no correlation between what we have and our level of happiness. What is the real question is your level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Aristotle said “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient”. Brother David Steindl-Rast states very eloquently when he said “Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.” The question of happiness is not in our possessions or anything external it is within ourselves. John Maxwell’s wife said it best when she was asked if John made her happy. “I used to spend my time thinking I would be happy when John came home, only to be disappointed when this didn’t happen. It was only when I realized that John could only add to my happiness that I truly became happy.”
So the question to you is are you happy? Most of us would say no. The better question is are you content? For only when we are content with what we have and who we are will we ever be “happy”. Only then can we quit chasing the carrot being held out in front of us, and only then can the pursuit stop. For many of us this means we can finally stop being tired out. We can stop running after something we can never catch. It is up to each of us on a personal level. For only we can determine to be satisfied. No one can do it for us, and no amount of things can make us satisfied. Only we can determine our level of satisfaction, and only then can we be happy. It is exactly how a friend of mine states, “Content or Discontent. Which tent do you live in.” It truly is your decision.