Happiness is NOT the goal!

Several years ago, I experienced a loss so painful that I never thought I would be happy again. I read every book and article about “how to be happy” with the hopes that the secret was out there, and I just needed to find it. Finding happiness became my goal.

I believe in fairytales. Yes, I admit that I still like watching Disney princess movies. I believe in happy endings and magical outcomes. I also wish we could all live in bubbles where everyone is kind and giving towards one another. But we all know that is not reality nor the world we live in.

Eventually, while on my quest for a perfect life, I learned a hard truth. Even when all the pieces fit together just so, happiness is only temporary. I didn’t want to accept this at first and it took me awhile to contemplate what this means.

Some parts of life are just not that great.

We have no control over so many aspects of life, like the loss of a job, a partner, or a friend. During this pandemic, many people experienced hardships that were unavoidable. Sometimes a person close to us makes a decision that affects us, and we have no say in the matter. A natural disaster could occur like an earthquake, tornado, or a flood. We have not control over any of these situations.

We have to experience the valleys in order to appreciate the hilltops.

Many years ago, a friend was showing me pictures of her and her mother baking cookies together. I was so jealous. I did not have that kind of relationship with my mother and I longed for that kind of experience. A few years later, this friend’s mother passed away. My friend grieved for so long. She had a very difficult time even going back to work. I could not relate to this or feel her pain. Of course, I empathized over the loss, but I could not understand this attachment to her mom because I never had that attachment with my mom.

In order to appreciate the hilltops, we must also experience the valleys. The higher the hilltops, the deeper the valleys. The difference between these two emotions, is proportionate to the depth of our experiences.

My friend’s pain was deep about the loss of her mother, but that is because her relationship to her was also deeply affectionate.

Our values direct the way we live.

Designing a beautiful life will be different for every person. What we value, we will spend our time doing. My family is my number one value, so I treasure every moment with my kids, and this gives my life meaning. I also value health so I spend time in the gym and eating well. My values direct how I choose to live.

If happiness were my goal, I probably would eat more sweets and only go to the gym occasionally. Sometimes it is hard to say no to chocolate or put on my workout clothes when it is cold and rainy, but I do it because it is important to me. In the long run, this does make me happier.

My new goal is to practice acceptance and appreciation.

Happiness is no longer my goal. Instead, I am working on acceptance. We don’t have to like everything that happens in our life, but we can decide how we will respond.  Acknowledge that “it” (whatever that may be) is happening. If we cannot control it, we can control what we do next. We can choose how we want to be.

Appreciation follows acceptance. In every situation, there is always something that we can be thankful. Being grateful helps us to see the positive and look for the good in the worst places. We change our thinking from seeing the cup as half empty into seeing the cup as half full.

Happiness is only a feeling and feelings change.

Happiness is an emotion. Our emotions are not stable nor reliable. If we continue to search for happiness, we will be disappointed because no emotional state is permanent.

Instead, build your life on your values. Practice acceptance and appreciation. You will experience more moments of feeling happy when happiness is NOT your goal!