Screw Being Happy, Be This Instead
Are you one of the 99.9% of people who, when asked “What do you want most out of life?” reply with “to be happy… really really really happy”? If so… boy oh boy, are you in the right place and boy oh boy, are you here at the right time.
Because in the next two – five minutes (depending on how slowly or quickly you like to read), I’ll share with you the insights that have given me a deep appreciation and love for happiness as a personal pursuit and that have also simultaneously led me to say “Screw being happy. Be this instead.”
Who knows, by the end, you might find yourself loudly professing “Screw being happy!” Or, maybe not. Maybe you’ll discover a different truth that feels good for you and your life right now. As with anything I write or say, I ask that you not simply accept my words as truth, but that you try them on and see how they fit (or don’t fit) your system of values and personal map of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.
Whatever you are experiencing at this moment is just a chapter, not your whole story.
There is one thing that, if understood deeply, will make your life so much simpler, so much easier, and so much more joyful. It is this:
Life is never the same. It is an ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-evolving series of experiences. What that means is that the experience you are currently in will not last forever. In fact, it will not last nearly as long as you think. Whether you’re flying high (having just received a job promotion, having just gone on the best first date of your life, having just received the most feel-good compliment from the most important person in your life), or riding low (having just received news of the death of a loved one, having just been told by the person you’ve developed real feelings for that they are not interested, or having been informed that the job you’ve been looking forward to doing so much will be going to someone else), these moments won’t last forever.
There are moments when life is incredibly easy to love. There are moments when life is quite hard to love. Even so, look around at the changing nature of everything around you. Look up at the stars and know that they will soon be replaced by sunshine and blue skies. You can be sad about the fact that everything changes, or you can be excited about it and choose to milk each experience for its richness, fullness, and depth as you live it.
Should you choose to milk each experience for what it is, the way you do it is by:
Falling so deeply in love with this moment that you forget there was or will ever be another one.
On one end of the happiness spectrum is “trying to be happy” and on the other is “letting yourself be happy”. I’m sorry to say, but they are on opposite sides of the spectrum for a good reason. They cannot and will not coexist. For as long as you are trying to be happy, you are not letting yourself be genuinely happy.
When I say “screw being happy” (like in the title of this article), what I really mean is “screw being anything but genuinely happy”. Being genuinely happy, contrary to popular belief, does not come from getting everything you want in life. The perfect partner, job, salary, home, figure and friends, nor does it come from hanging out with perfect human beings who treat you perfectly in every moment of the day. Genuine happiness, research suggests, comes from noticing and embracing a wide array of emotions – both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. It comes from understanding that this moment, no matter what it contains, is perfect. You see, it’s not the sad, mad, or scared feelings themselves that get us stuck in a rut, pouting for minutes on end. It’s the belief that feeling this way is bad or not okay to the point where we get stuck in a rut and host an internal pity party for yourself. Now I know that was a bit of a metacognitive mind f*ck, and if you find yourself saying ‘Huh? ‘I don’t get it’, don’t worry. The take-away is that there is never anything wrong with what you are experiencing. Let me say that again…
There is never anything wrong with what you are experiencing.
The fact that you are feeling happy when you are, sure, is good. Yet the fact that you aren’t feeling happy when you aren’t isn’t bad. It isn’t bad to feel bad. You aren’t doing life ‘wrong’ when you’re feeling bad (sad, angry, frustrated, worried, disappointed, nervous, and so on). I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t do life wrong. Because everything that’s happening is right. Even if it doesn’t feel good.
So why not adopt “It isn’t bad to feel bad” as your mantra for a while… or perhaps my favorite mantra: “I don’t need anything to be different right now.”
Every time I say “I don’t need anything to be different right now” to myself when I’m feeling anything but great, my face lights up and I feel a deep sense of calm and reassuring joy. Because heck, nothing needs to be different right now! What a relief. When I’m feeling joy, the joy that I’m feeling is great. And when I’m not feeling joy but feeling sadness or frustration instead, that’s cool too. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong and that I “suck at life”. Phew!
All that’s to say that if you run into me on the random weekday evening or weekend afternoon, it’s very likely that you’ll find me smiling and enjoying the joys of life. But if you happen to run into me during a series of moments or days when life’s experiences call for crying, scowling, and/or swearing, you will find me doing just that, while being a-okay and not judging myself for it.
Happiness comes. It goes. It comes again, and then it goes again. It is the natural cycle of life to exhibit peaks and valleys, yet the search for happiness is often built on an illusory expectation of lifelong, continual, never-ending bliss. Which is precisely why the pursuit of happiness often leaves us hungry and thirsty for the very thing we sought out to capture – ultimate joy.
If trying to be happy doesn’t work, then what does? Iif being happy isn’t all it’s cut out to be, then what is?
The antidote to the insatiable search for happiness we so often find ourselves in, it turns out, is to:
Be open to all of life, as it is, in this very moment. Be open to the difficult moments. Be open to the beautiful ones. Be open to the possibility of experiencing a sudden whirl of sadness, an unexpected bout of frustration, or unpredictable and unmanageable sense of fear. Be open to the possibility of experiencing the greatest joy you’ve ever felt, a kind of joy that makes you say “I didn’t know life could feel this good!” Be open to the likely sorrow that follows ultimate bliss and to the inevitable joy that follows despair. Be open to the expected making way for the unexpected, and the uncertain forming into something certain. Whatever you do, if you want to be genuinely happy, be open – to both the joy and the pain, and everything in between.
My wish for you then, is not that you be happy. My wish for you is that you enjoy a lifetime of people, experiences, and revelations that help you get to a place where when someone asks, “Are you happy?” your answer is:
“In all honesty? No. But I am curious– I am curious in my sadness, and I am curious in my joy. I am ever-seeking, ever-feeling, I am in awe of the beautiful moments life gives us, and I am in awe of the difficult ones. I am transfixed by grief, by growth. It is all so stunning, so rich, and I will never convince myself that I cannot be somber, cannot be hurt, cannot be overjoyed. I want to feel it all– I don’t want to cover it up or numb it. So no, I am not happy. I am open, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (Bianca Sparacino, Seeds Planted in Concrete)