In pursuit of real happiness
A successful career, beautiful girlfriend, travelling across the world for a job, meeting people and generally having fun – who would have thought...
A successful career, beautiful girlfriend, travelling across the world for a job, meeting people and generally having fun – who would have thought that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain who had everything that one would think is needed for a happy life would have ended his life the way he had! A week earlier it was the popular fashion designer Kate Spade, who gave up her life.
What made them give up? Why on earth were they unhappy? Is a merry-filled life and an ever-smiling face just a misleading exterior? All these questions lead us to one pertinent question. What makes you really happy?
Ironically in his much-watched travel show, Anthony would ask many people – What makes you happy? A simple question that’s not so easy to answer.
Dalai Lama writes about his book, ‘The Art of Happiness’ and says, “If you want others to be happy practice compassion; if you want yourself to be happy practice compassion. He further goes on to write on the phenomenon called ‘Happiness Revolution’ which he says dispels the earlier notion of happiness as something elusive, mysterious and based on external circumstances to it being something that can be cultivated from within. In 1998, a new brand of psychology was born that was termed by the noted psychiatrist Dr Martin Seligman as ‘Positive Psychology’.
To be happy one need to stop worrying, cultivate a sound mind, be kind to others, love yourself, laugh more, learn from setbacks and above all become responsible for your own happiness. But this doesn’t come easy. It has to be practiced. And one needs to start disassociating external factors to happiness.
The key is to know happiness has got more to do with the state of mind, and temporary gains and loss will only make you joyful or unhappy for a short while before your inherent capacity to stay happy takes over.
To understand what leads to happiness Dalai Lama explains, “If you harbour hatred, ill feelings towards someone, once you yourself are filled with negative emotions, then other people appear to you as hostile. So, there is more fear, greater inhibition, and hesitation and a sense of insecurity. He says this will lead to loneliness.
But what do most people do? We associate happiness with material things and aspects that give us temporary joy.
Prashant Jain, entrepreneur and author of ‘Vitamin G’ states “A lifelong question was is happiness in pleasure, things that I like and material possessions. Happiness to me at various stages has been a different thing to me. As a child, it was a red car toy that I wanted and desired, in my teenage it was a bike and as I grew older, it was finding it through my relationships and my career, and it was through achieving financial goals.
In today's consumeristic world where even getting a certain brand phone is promised to give you happiness. As most married men will tell you the definition of happiness changes with time. In a material consumeristic world, it's easy to confuse the idea of happiness with possessions and accumulations.”
Can we find happiness in material possessions or is it like the guru's promise in a spiritual life of minimalism and curbing desire? “From the place of need and desire, both the rich and poor can be unhappy looking for more. When we focus on the lack of something, we turn unhappy because we see it as missing in our life.
Be it a soulmate, lot of friends, fame and recognition or money, when we look at something as not there in our life, we miss out on the abundance of that life offers. In an experience economy, where travel and freedom are equated with happiness and a world backpacker with a number of visas looked on with envy, we live a world of comparison where unhappiness is a click away on our friends Instagram travel picture.”
“As the suicides and depression of a lot of Indian and international celebrities make us realise that money and success are no guarantee of happiness. What we are having in one area cannot be compensated by the demons and challenges that our brain can conjure in different parts of our lives. Our life's major challenges in health, relationships, career, fun, personal and spiritual the idea of 'not being enough' can cause sorrow and disappointment.”
Is a well-balanced life, the only path to happiness? “Not really! The more we try to balance the more we are giving attention and awareness and enhancing the imbalance by focusing too much on it. As research has proved even after the winning of a lottery we can come back to our average level of happiness again within six months, life has given us the resilience to be able to face even the loss of a limb and learn to adapt and live with the same level of happiness eventually. As creatures of habit, we can take everything for granted and this, by itself can mean that the mundane and regular no longer have the power to give us happiness and we need a surprise and unexpected increase in what we are getting for us to get higher happiness.”
For some, the idea of the contribution of giving rather than receiving is happiness. “Being giving can sometimes give us egoistic happiness or can be based on a transactional belief of eventually getting back in a different time and space what we receive. This transactional belief can give rise to expectation, which might be met or not, eventually leading to more unhappiness.”
So, is happiness in just being content and not having any goals at all? “Without a sense of achievement and accomplishment, we would land in a place of stagnancy, laziness and unhappiness. In the ephemeral nature of fleeting happiness, the state of being Joyful without a reason or season has worked for me towards a more fulfilled and satisfactory life. The path to joy is through the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is the attitude, skill and quality of looking at the positives, contentment at what we have and focusing on the abundance in all areas of our life at this moment.
All experts, teachers and scientists agree that having more meaningful relationships, contributing, loving what we do, being forgiving and grateful, recognising the abundance in all aspects of our life can lead us to a magical ‘Life of joy’. This is a choice that we have to make and if happiness is a choice then why not find the bliss of making this choice in every moment.
Ravi V Melwani, author of 3 Peaks of Happiness published by Air Foundation shares -
What makes people happy? “Well, there are many things that make people happy. In fact, different things make different people happy. We all do different things, but whatever we do, the goal is one: We all want to be happy! To a businessman, a successful business brings happiness.
To artists, it may be a creative product born out of their imagination that brings happiness. A student may be happy when he excels in exams, just as a politician is overjoyed on winning an election. Food, shopping, home, gold, love, sex, jewelry, security, power, alcohol, dance, music, arts, sports, near and dear ones are common 'happiness triggers' that make people happy.
The list of what makes someone happy might be different from individual to individual. While the list of happiness triggers differs from person to person, most people feel that achievement can make them happy. Whenever a certain want, a need, a goal, or a dream is realised, we experience an emotion, a sense, and a feeling that is called achievement. This feeling of accomplishment is the “First Peak of Happiness – Achievement”.
If we look around, we will find that many people who seek happiness are trying to be happy through success, money and pleasures that come from the satisfaction of their desires and expectations. While there are people who enjoy happiness that comes from the pleasure that is born out of achievement, there are others whose happiness sprouts from contentment and fulfillment. People on this ‘Second Peak of Happiness – Fulfillment’, are supposed to be happier than the people on the first peak.
Fulfillment is a joy beyond the pleasure of achievement. Fulfilled people are content with success and wealth. It is a joy that gives a sense of peace along with pleasure. It is a state where there are fewer disappointments, and therefore, people are happier when in a state of ‘Fulfillment’.
Those who climb the peak of ‘Achievement’ continue to climb right till the end, but those who reach the peak of ‘Fulfillment’ arrive at a plateau of peace and joy. A few people, only a few lucky ones, find true and everlasting happiness on the ‘Third Peak of Happiness – Liberation’.
This is the peak where one understands the true meaning and purpose of life that frees one from all the misery and pain that exists on planet Earth. The people on this peak do not seek happiness. Instead, happiness seems to flow from their very existence. However, less than a fraction of a per cent of humanity achieve this. But the joy, bliss and peace that comes from this peak is eternal and everlasting.
The whole world is seeking happiness. What makes each individual happy decides the peak of happiness that they are on, whether it is Achievement, Fulfillment or Enlightenment!