“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”
– C. P. Snow (1905 – 1980)
I’m fascinated by the idea of happiness. I have been since I read that the south Pacific island of Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet and the UK is ranked 108th by the Happy Planet Index. The UK Government is now even trying to get us happier!
My question is: what is happiness and how do you make it..? There are many recommended books out there on analysing and finding happiness, including:
- The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by 14th Dalai Lama
- The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
- And Stumbling on Happiness
However, I’ve not read any of them because I don’t think the answer is in a book. It is in us and our relationships..
Of course pondering on happiness is nothing new. Philosophers have been thinking about it for centuries! Aristotle, 384 BC – 322 BC, said “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and Thucydides, 471 BC – 400 BC, “The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage”.
It seems more and more money does not make you happy. I remember my mother wisely saying “Money does not make you happy, but it does help”. And I think she was right to an extent. A survey of 1,000 Americans found that “happiness rose in line with salary, but only until people earned $75,000 a year, the equivalent of around £50,000”.
So perhaps Benjamin Franklin is correct, when he said in the 17th century, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way…”
As a company founder I love to think this as the answer: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), which comes from the courage and freedom to make your own company. However I think and feel it’s a little more than that. Afterall, Franklin’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt did say, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
I believe Aristotle when he said almost two and a half thousand years ago, “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and Bronnie Ware quotes today in her wonderful REGRETS OF THE DYING post, “I think I wish that I had let myself be happier:
5. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness”.
I think the answer to being happy lies in Bronnie’s first four points:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. – Fulfill your dreams while you can!
- I wish I didn’t work so hard. – Simplifying your lifestyle and work to spend time with children and partner.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. – Become who you are truly capable of.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. – Give time to and enjoy your golden friendships.
- I think I wish that I had let myself be happier. – You can, so start now!
“It all comes down to love and relationships in the end”. – Bronnie Ware