Saturday, July 6, 2019

Reflections as I turn A Year Older


In today's Weekend Walkabout, we take a closer look at Happiness.
I am turning a year older and it won't be long before I say goodbye to the 30s. It makes sense to look both within and without at the things that either occasion or obstruct happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment in our lives.

That said, let's get right into it.

* * *

Does happiness really come from within or without?

There is a very interesting quote by Hellen Keller that I often come across:

Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.

The appeal of saying happiness comes from within is overwhelming since it is a statement of personal responsibility and empowerment. This means that should you not feel happy,, you are in a position to do something about it. And by extension, you cannot go around blaming others for your lack of happiness.

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt dedicates Chapter 5 (The Pursuit of Happiness) to this particular question.
The long-held notion that we cannot seek happiness in external things, or that external conditions don't affect our levels of happiness has since been challenged.

According to Haidt, happiness comes from between.
It is not something you can find, acquire or achieve directly. For happiness to happen, you just have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of these conditions are within you. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you. 

Haidt's explanation revolves around purpose and the meaning of life, which emerge once a person gets these conditions right.

* * *

And speaking of levels of happiness, is there a limit to how much one can be happy in this life?
It is funny that despite various attempts at chasing happiness, a majority are likely to spend an entire lifetime oscillating around a seemingly pre-set level of happiness.

By extension, personal income levels have little impact on an average person's happiness. And of course, money will not buy a person happiness.
What this boils down to is that once your basic needs are satisfied, chasing more money, fame, power, sex or beauty will not lead to a happier life.

* * * 

It is true life isn't a simple matter of proclaiming "I won't worry, I'll be happy." But we can at least agree that happiness becomes very elusive when we spend so much time and energy chasing it. It however, follows us when we focus on doing the things that matter and add value in life.
Doing such things makes us happy.


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