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The Subjectivity of Happiness

March 23, 2016

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. – Agnes Repplier

Whether you’re American, Chinese, White, Black, a cat or a dog, we are all in search of the same thing: happiness.

It’s really that simple if you think about it.

Of course we all have different definitions of what happiness is, and we all have different methods of looking for happiness, but the common theme is that we all want it.

So, why can’t we find it; or rather, why is happiness so difficult to have?

For me, happiness is always changing and evolving. My quality of happiness is in direct relation to the understanding of what is actually important to me; and I only find out what is important to me once I have achieved whatever I originally thought would give me true happiness.

I know… that sounded confusing…

It’s kind of the ‘grass is always greener’ idea, in that you think that if you somehow get to the next level, or you buy something, or you meet someone, that somehow you will magically gain all the things that you want in your life. All of a sudden, you will reach the pinnacle and be happy forever.

That’s a farce. And we all know that deep down inside.

But why? Why can’t we just somehow be able to be satisfied with what we have?

There’s two main reasons – at least that I have found.

The first is that happiness is not an achievement, but a process. There is not one ‘thing’ that equals happiness, but instead it’s a series of moments. Moments that create small instances of ecstasy, but are not easy to replicate. The only way to make more of those moments is to continually look for activities and ventures that create those special moments.

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The second, and more important, is that happiness is subjective. There is no way that anyone can copy another person’s achievements and feel the same level of satisfaction, and that’s because each individuals definition of happiness is completely unique to themselves.

This is a trap that I have fallen into many times, as I’m sure you have too. The idea that buying something or attending some event will lead to a great amount of joy. In reality, all that happens is that you end up with a big pile of disappointment; a big let-down.

Essentially, you end up replicating someone else’s idea of happiness, which results in that empty feeling, and then leads you to search for some other ‘thing’ that will make you happy.

A vicious circle that can only be corrected by one thing: courage.

I’m not talking about some kind of heroic courage, where you have to risk your life. Just courage to follow what you are actually interested in, what attracts you.

The crazy thing is that for most, including me, the courage to follow what actually interests you is much, much more scary than risking your life for some type of heroic action.

Most people would risk their lives to pull a baby out of a burning home, but they would be terrified of leaving their job that they might hate. Perhaps pulling the baby out of the burning home is instinctual and requires little thought because it’s such a spur-of-the-moment reaction. Leaving your job requires lots of deliberation and thinking, which inhibits your natural ability to make the right instinctual choice.

So maybe that is what we are missing – the courage to pursue what makes us happy.

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