There is a misconception that runs rampant, particularly among the under-50 set, that happiness is something to be gained. Gotten. Achieved. Won. That happiness is a goal to go after, and that one’s happiness can be sourced from another person, or a possession, or an “if only I had __________, I would be happy” type of thing.
Which is rather like chasing one’s tail:
There was an old wise cat and a small kitten in an alleyway. The old cat saw the kitten chasing its tail and asked, “Why are you chasing your tail?”
To it the kitten replied, “I’ve been attending cat philosophy school and I have learned that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and that happiness is located in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness forever.”
Laughing, the wise old cat replied, “My son, I wasn’t lucky enough to go to cat philosophy school, but as I’ve gone through life, I too have realized that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and indeed that it is located in my tail. The difference I’ve found though is that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business and live my life, it just seems to follow after me wherever I go.”
I may not have a tail, but this tale hits home for me.
I believe happiness is an ember that glows inside every person, and everyone’s radiance is unique. Surrounding yourself with people who fan that ember into flame can make the glow more powerful, yes.
Participating in activities that rejuvenate your inner spark can make your happiness shine. True.
But the light and the heat that shines and warms is internal.
Alternately, if fire is not your thing, think of happiness like a wave. Not the kind that breaks at the beach. Those waves are ultimately the result of water being blown about by the wind. Rather, happiness is like an internal ocean wave. The ones that are deep in the water. The ones that move and swell and recede *internally* and are so huge they can be seen from outer space. Happiness is like that. It comes from within, it is powerful, and it is not subject to the whims of the blowing wind.
Basically, whether yours is born of fire or water, happiness is an element of every life. And it comes from within.
Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.
~ Henry van Dyke
I have a child-size edition of the 1914 book Just Being Happy, that is filled with pieces of wisdom such as the above. Thoughts and quotes, short and sweet, that were originally compiled for an edition intended for young people. I fear that if such a book were created today it would read something along the lines of, “My iPad makes me happy” -OR- “Getting __________ is what happiness is all about.”
The great lesson to be learned is that happiness is within us. No passing amusement, no companionship, no material possession can permanently satisfy. We must depend upon our own resources for amusement and pleasure. We must make or mar our own tranquility. To teach them this is the preparation for life which we can give our children.
Happiness does not come from things.It does not come from possessions.
It cannot be bought, sold, or bartered.
Happiness cannot be outsourced. It is not something that can be ‘fixed’ by the tech guys in New Delhi (2 years of happiness guaranteed, yours today for only $329.99!) any more than it can be ordered from de Boer.
Happiness does not come from another person. You can share your happiness with someone else, and your individual fires can breathe one another in until the flames are all-consuming. In those moments it can seem like something outside of yourself is the source of your happiness. Especially at the beginning of a relationship. (NRE, anyone?) It’s an understandable mistake, but it’s one that all too often has negative consequences. Because you cannot look to another person to “make” you happy. Believing that someone else is responsible for ensuring your own happiness – or worse, believing that one person and only one person (a person other than yourself) is the one and only source of your happiness – will keep you in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction. Because that belief falsely puts the responsibility for your own happiness on somebody else’s shoulders. When in actuality, you are responsible for your own happiness.
If you are happy, it is largely to your own credit. If you are miserable, it is chiefly your own fault.
~ William Dewitt Hyde
You have to find your happiness inside yourself. It’s there. It’s always there. Sometimes we misplace it, or we forget where it originates from, but it’s there.
Happiness is rarely absent. It is we that know not its presence.
~ Maurice Maeterlinck
When you find your happy, no matter how tiny the ember, do everything in your power to fan it into a flame.
It’s the only way to glow.