Pursuing happiness isn’t easy. If you’re going to maximise the chances of grabbing hold of it, you’re going to need to consider what it is that happiness actually is.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few weeks in the run-up to Jacqueline Wilson’s keynote at the Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival.
What does happiness mean to me? Should I be thinking about my own happiness before that of people around me? Is the happiness derived from making others happy of greater value that gratifying my own appetite for it? How blurred (and where is) the line drawn in our moral conscience which divides our own sense of self and the wider community?
And … Does anyone really care? Should I care? Is thinking about this – and the writing about it – just another example in self-indulgence, or worse self-aggrandisement?
I’m still no nearer to arriving at an answer for many of these – especially the latter ones – but I am increasingly certain that there is a starting point. Theres a journey we could follow. And along that journey we might possibly get a few answers to a few questions.
Lets start with ourselves. Start small. Think bigger later. Start with our own state of happiness. Think of everyone else around us later. One will naturally lead on to the other.
Really. It will. Its like project management. Just like project management.
We might as well start with our own happiness If we are to stand a chance of making those around us happy. Think of it as our networked responsibility. If the core is good, the goodness will bleed out to the edges. There’s little point in maintaining a superficial layer of happiness. It won’t be authentic. It won’t be sincere. Sincerity and authenticity is everything. We all have to think about ‘the core’.
But how do go about pursuing that good ‘core’? I don’t have the answer to that particular question…yet. I’m working on it. I’m always working on it. In fact, I’ve been working on it for so long it’s beginning to feel like a scratchy old 78. And, what’s more – and considerably reassuring to me at least – is that we’re all working on it every day of lives as we battle to offset negative or faulty thinking with positive corrected thinking.
Think of the times when you’ve described your day ‘just one of those days’, or when you dismiss a colleague’s snarky comments as him or her ‘just having an off-day’.
Those ‘off-days’ aren’t just some random act of fate. There’s usually an event or two which kick things off. We react to those events. Some of us – perhaps all of us – react to those events in ways driven by faulty or corrected thinking. I know this, because I do. All the time. And it really gets on my chimes and those nearest and dearest to me too.
If we’re going to correct faulty thinking, we need to identify the negative stuff. In other words, we have to identify what makes us unhappy before we can be happy. Don’t we?
And it’s that take on things – largely derived from the life experience I’ve had doing battle with all sorts of bizarre thought processes – which underlines the contradiction inherent in the ‘pursuit’ of happiness.
Our day to day thought processes and the reactions we have to them are rooted in the experiences we had as children. As adults we react to things as a result of behaviours we’ve learnt as children. It’s often that which explains the negative thinking we experience in adult life. The inner child reacts to adult stuff and colours our view accordingly.
Consequently, it’s my view that pursuing happiness necessarily demands a vast amount of our time spent looking back on the past trying to determine the root cause of the way we react to things in the present.
That’s what I find every so slightly bizarre about our own path to happiness. Implicit in ‘pursuing’ things is the idea that we’re moving forward. And yet adapting our ‘core’ demands embarking on a journey into our past. We’re not so much pursuing happiness as resolving problems created in the past. What a pain in the backside that particular thought is.
Are you ready to confront what makes you unhappy? Or would you prefer to just paper of the cracks with superficiality instead? I know I’m after something sincerre and authentic. Anything less than that isn’t worth the effort.