How Do You Define Your Happiness?

Written by on March 3, 2021 in Self-Awareness, Self-Determination

How Do You Define Your Happiness

The curious thing about happiness is that as central as the pursuit of it is to our lives, few of us ever take the time to define what it takes to achieve it, or what our lives will look and feel like once we do.

Just for fun, try searching online for images under the term “happiness” and you’ll find people cheerfully sharing a meal, laughing and having fun, jumping up in the air with their arms outstretched, or running through a field hauling a bunch of balloons behind them.

These images are intended to symbolize what happiness looks and feels like, but in reality, they represent something very different – short-term pleasure.

And here’s why this should matter to you.

Understanding that there is a BIG difference between pleasure and happiness is the secret to finally getting off the pursuit-of-happiness treadmill

Pleasure comes from something on the outside. Happiness comes from within. It’s a state you create by choice. It’s a decision. It is an act of will.

~Robin Sharma

How Pleasure Differs from Happiness

We experience feelings of happiness from pleasurable moments — a good meal with friends, a raise or achieving an important goal, taking a walk in nature, and so on, but as enjoyable as these experiences are, they are not lasting.

The basic difference is that pleasure is dependent on external circumstances, objects, and people, while happiness is independent of them.

For example, have you ever felt down in the dumps and to cheer yourself up ate a pint of ice cream or some other normally forbidden goodie?

You probably felt great while eating this yummy treat, but once the initial rush wore off you were still unhappy, on top of feeling guilty for having given into the indulgence.

How do you feel when you see someone who appears to have it all, happy marriage, a nice house, beautiful kids, and a fulfilling career?

For many, the reaction would be, “If I had all of those things, I’d be happy too!”

This is how you end up always thinking that you need to have certain things, people, or circumstances in your life to experience genuine happiness.

What Does True Happiness Look Like?

What makes for true happiness is highly subjective and as varied as fingerprints, but there are a few fundamental basics that defy our personalities, individual and cultural differences.

Ultimately, it comes down to the way you choose to live.

Having clearly defined values and priorities, and believing in your ability to make choices that have a positive effect on the quality and course of your life.

It’s not about how many people you surround yourself with, it’s about you.

Just ask any Introvert!

No, we’re not shy. Yes, we like people we just prefer being around them in small doses. We are every bit as happy as Extroverts we just show it differently.

Surrounding yourself with people who love and accept you for who you are can enrich your life and add to your sense of joy and fulfillment, but nothing and no one will make you feel truly happy – in good times and bad – but you.

It also has a lot to do with the way you respond to life’s challenges.

The confidence and inner strength you develop by facing your problems head-on rather than settling for quick fixes, accepting that life is neither fair nor unfair, any more than change and adversity are neither good nor bad.

It’s simply life, and what matters is how you choose to dance with it.

Maybe most important of all, true happiness is finding inner peace by accepting yourself, wholly and unconditionally, imperfectly perfect, quirky bits and all.

Give Yourself Permission

“I wish I’d let myself be happier.” Is one of the most common end-of-life regrets according to Bronnie Ware’s bestselling book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have a pretty good idea about what makes us happy, the real problem is we don’t permit ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy our lives.

There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t allow ourselves to feel happy but here are three of the most common.

We Fear Disappointment

Some of us just aren’t comfortable feeling good. We’re afraid to feel happy because instead of enjoying the experience we’re stuck waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We sabotage good feelings as well as good things that are happening to us because it’s easier to deal with the comfort of chronic discontent than to risk reaching for something better and end up being disappointed.

We’re Stuck Waiting

We spend way too much time waiting to live. We tell ourselves when we have a better job, more money, finally find that one special person, then we will be happy.

Things will never be perfect because there will always be something else that needs to fall into place, just one more piece of the puzzle.

Maybe the perfect job didn’t turn out to be so perfect after all, or you add one more “must-have” to the list, so you wait and wait, and wait.

Far too many people have wasted their lives waiting, only to reach the end  proclaiming, “Is this all there is?!”

We Feel Guilty

You are only responsible for your own happiness.

I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve received from people who feel guilty because they can’t make their (spouse, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, parents) happy.

When people put this responsibility on their shoulders, they are doomed to failure and inevitable unearned guilt. All you can do is to provide support and encouragement for the people you care about, and then let them be responsible for achieving their own happiness.

The Takeaway

Sometimes we define our happiness by comparing ourselves to others or wait on external circumstances to be all in place so we can finally be happy and complete, and sometimes we are carrying a burden that is not even ours to carry.

You can choose differently today; you can choose to be happy.

Not because someone made you happy, but because it is a gift you are choosing to give to yourself.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach, and founder of Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies, and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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