John Lennon could never be accused of holding similar politics to me, but he said one thing that stuck with me, and I’ll remember it always:
“When I was young, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them that they didn’t understand life.”
The key to happiness, I think, is to understand yourself. Only you can bring you happiness. Any number of things outside of your control can ruin it, but only you can bring it back. The biggest tripping point that I see is people expecting other people, or things and possessions, to bring them happiness. Generally, that method of seeking happiness brings only disappointment, to both you , and to the person on whom you were depending on for your happiness. It results in divorces and broken families, because a person depending on another for their happiness will see that person’s every fault, every mistake, and every foible as personal assault on their own mental well-being.
That isn’t fair to either of you.
I’ve seen more marriages dissolve because one partner decides that they aren’t happy, and then decides that it is the other partner’s fault that they aren’t happy, and this is a symptom of that disease. Those people usually run into the arms of another soon after, expecting that person to bring them the happiness and bliss that they were missing before, but they are almost always similarly disappointed, and one can generally bet on the new beau just being the next in a series of disappointments for the happiness seeker, because they’re doing it wrong, and don’t even know better.
I’ve known people who seek happiness through a career or a job, and they are usually miserable people, both to themselves and to the people around them. All that matters is that next score, that next promotion, that next raise, because they think that THAT will be it; that THAT promotion, score, or raise will be the tripping point and after that, they’ll be truly happy.
But it never happens.
It never happens because happiness cannot be sought external to the self. You have to seek it within you. You have to search for contentment and satisfaction without things and people and careers tainting the mix.
A career, a loved one, or a nice possession can bring you ADDITIONAL happiness, but they can’t make you happy if you aren’t already there, yourself.
My advice? Take it easy on yourself. Life is far from perfect. You are far from perfect. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll do stupid stuff and cost yourself money or standing. It will be inevitable. The search for the storybook perfect life is one of futility. No one has ever had it. Seeking it is folly. Do your best, and take pride in the fact that you are doing your best, and be content with that. Work to make yourself better. Always have a project going with a certain start, a defined ending, and a tangible result and benefit. The satisfaction of running a sprinkler system in your yard, or building a shed, or rebuilding an engine is immeasurable, not for the value of those things, but for the value of the ACCOMPLISHEMENT. Learn and do. It’s what we’re here on this planet to do. Learn all you can about everything you can, and do as much as you can to make the world a better place, if only just for yourself.
It is my firm belief that the onset of depression and unhappiness in western society came about in full force right around the time that the majority of our time was spent accomplishing little, and rather was spent just being entertained. Instead of building a tree fort or a bow and arrow with your pals from the neighborhood, you played a video game or watched TV. You built nothing. Learned nothing. Accomplished nothing. And so you feel like nothing.
Go. Do. Prosper. Be happy, my friend.