Most people tend to equate happiness with fun, good living, plenty of money, etc. If happiness were synonymous with this, the rich and influential people with all their luxuries and countless parties would be perpetually happy. However, in actual fact, they are frequently acutely unhappy despite their riches and ability to indulge in fun activities at will.
Happiness remains the goal of every individual whether he or she is the president of the country or a matinee idol or a faceless commuter. Every one of us wants to be happy. But happiness is not a fruit waiting to be plucked off a tree, nor is it sealed and wrapped, complete with an expiry date, available for a price on the nearest supermarket shelf. One can achieve happiness only by working for it, Happiness is perhaps a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but to reach it we must find the way and build a road leading to it, notwithstanding the fact that, at every moment, the horizon appears just that little bit farther away.
The way to happiness is not a smooth, broad highway along which we can cruise at a comfortable speed. It is a path through rocky and rugged terrain and the going can become very tough at times. At these times we have to roll up our sleeves and with pitchfork and shovels make our way towards it. This pursuit of happiness lasts a lifetime and we must be prepared to consistently build on without ever saying “thus far and no farther”.
Great happiness is earned only by great effort, and effort not in spurts but diligent, constant effort. In this connection, we are confronted with another fallacy that fun and pleasure mean happiness and thus pain, its corollary, must be synonymous with unhappiness. It is because of this misconception that people avoid the very endeavour that is the source of true happiness. Things that bring us happiness, more often than not, involve some amount of pain. Difficult endeavours such as the raising of children, establishing deeper relationships with loved ones, trying to do something worthwhile in life hold the promise of a world of happiness but none of them comes without some pain.
Another prevalent belief is that if one were rich enough not to have to work one would be blissfully happy. However, a job is more than just a paycheque. Work holds the key to happiness; doing something which increases confidence and self-worth. It brings on a feeling of satisfaction, of contributing something of value. Job satisfaction comes less from how much one earns than from the challenge of the job. Of course, the pay-cheques matter.
Worrying about the next meal would naturally mean forcing happiness to take a back seat. And if we accept that the satisfaction of our basic needs, as well as the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile, is necessary for happiness, we must also accept the need for consistent effort to achieve this.
A man is not an island entire of itself, he cannot be happy in isolation. Humans live out their lives in the company of their family, friends, colleagues, superiors and even total strangers in buses and lifts. And brick by brick, they must build up their relationship with each one, to lay a secure foundation for their road to happiness. One has to work hard to establish, develop and maintain a deep and lasting bond with those who matter in one’s life. The same thing may be observed in the family as a unit. Happy families value pleasures that involve personal effort. When one builds a house and makes a home, it isn’t the actual construction of the building that makes it so special. Happiness is not in things; it is in us. Happiness becomes the work and love one puts into any achievement as a family.
We often carry a picture of a model family in our heads, but family life does not always match our expectations. Strong families know they cannot anticipate all the twists and turns on the road. Their secret ingredient for happiness includes flexibility rooted in love, understanding and a real desire to overcome the odds. Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them. The potholes must be filled in, the bumps levelled as one trudges on. It is important to accept that one is not, and cannot be, happy all the time. Tragedy strikes in the form of sickness and death. So one must work to overcome the grief and try hard to reconcile them to the sorrow.
True happiness may come from things as simple as hanging out with friends or reading a good book. As Joseph Addison once said, “True happiness arises from the enjoyment of oneself and the friendship and fellowship of companions and kin.”
So be happy and enjoy life. That’s all I want to tell you.