“Happy” is an emotion. I think most of us understand this, but do we really understand what this means? It is actually kind of an obscure concept when you think about it. Happiness may mean I have a career that I am passionate about, or that I am spending my life with a great partner. Maybe it has to do with my choice to have (or not have) children, or that I have travelled the world and seen many amazing things. Or, maybe it is simply, that I have a boat, or live in my dream home. Defining happiness is not a simple process, and communicating that happiness, particularly to yourself, can be just as complex.
Many people use it as a goal: “My goal in life is to be happy.” But what does that mean, really? I think that, for the most part, many of us have happiness as a goal, but it is a very individual process. What constitutes happiness for me may not be the same recipe for happiness as another person. As I like to challenge my clients, awareness is key. How can we aspire to do or be something that we are not actually aware of? I think that when we use happiness as a goal, this needs to be very clearly defined as to what we are actually working towards.
For myself, there were a lot of times I struggled with being happy. I was the black sheep of the family. I felt I wasn’t like the rest of my family – it was like that game on Sesame Street, ‘One of These Things is Not Like the Others’ – and I had always thought this was a bad thing, that I didn’t belong. What I have learned is that it really isn’t, and just because I am different doesn’t mean I don’t belong. I am my own person, and I had to learn how to be okay with that. I floundered a lot. I looked around for the perfect career, the perfect school, the perfect friends, the perfect partner, and essentially, the perfect life. But this is unrealistic, because none of those things really exist. It is perspective. I had to learn to add on the phrase “for me”. I couldn’t find the perfect career, but I could find the perfect career “for me”. There may be no perfect place to learn, but there is a great school out there “for me”. I really had to learn how to individualize everything, because until I did this, I would continue to drown in a sea of unhappiness due to lack of focus.
I think there is a societal expectation that everyone learns at the same pace, does the same things, and figures out what they want out of life at the same time as everyone else, but this is also not realistic. Being placed in these boxes are actually what limits our potential – to figure out what we truly want, and ultimately, to achieve happiness in whatever that means for each of us. And, we have time; this process really cannot be rushed, or we may end up with a false sense of happiness. I think it is so important to really look inside and feel what is there – and not be so concerned that your ingredients for happiness do not align with the recipe you are using. There are many recipes out there – find a different one. Or better yet, create a recipe from scratch that fits in well with the ingredients you possess.
It is a great feeling to be happy, and it is great to incorporate happiness in with your goals in life; but, make sure you have a good understanding of what this means for you. And be secure in the notion that your recipe for happiness is not wrong. It is absolutely appropriate, because it is made with your own uniqueness.