I came across a fable recently that seemed to resonate. It goes like this; According…
Happiness – What a loaded word, is it not? We all want it, we all strive for it, even the Dalai Lama said “The very purpose of life is to seek happiness”. So what is this thing called Happiness that we go to such lengths to obtain?
Happiness can’t just be about ‘feeling good’ otherwise all the drug abusers, alcoholics, workaholics, food addicts, coffee drinkers in the world would be the happiest people on the planet.
It can’t be about opportunity because In the Western world we now have a higher standard of living than any people before us. We have better medical treatment, more food, improved housing conditions, more travel, greater access to job opportunities than ever before. And yet, human’s today don’t seem very happy. In-fact statistically we have more depression, addiction, and debilitating disease than ever before in the history of Mankind!
I think, the word ‘Happiness’ is used to describe a sense of pleasure, of enjoyment or gratification, what do you think?
If that’s the case then there’s no surprise that we want to chase it, why we strive to have it and perhaps, there also lies the problem.
How can it be reasonable to expect these feelings of pleasure and joy to last all day every day? At what point did we decide that we could have all of the good stuff, 24/7 and none of the other emotions that make up life? The reality is, life involves pain and it is meant to be that way. There’s no getting away from it, sooner or later we will become sick, lose valued relationships, endure moments of crisis, feel disappointment…fail.
If we are truly living then, of course, we will experience the full spectrum of emotions. I believe the struggle comes when we believe that it shouldn’t be that way. When we desire only happiness and joy and pleasure, and by default all of the other range of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness become ‘bad’ and something to be avoided.
How would it be if our definition of Happiness was to lead a deeply satisfying life; A rich and meaningful life. (that’s my definition of Happiness).
What if we acknowledged that ‘feeling good’ was nice but also fleeting – but that the emotions of struggle and stress and disappointment were also normal and passing through?
Isn’t that interesting in itself – that the feeling of ‘happiness’ is fleeting while the less desired emotions tend to stick around longer? Could it be that we try to hold on to happiness so tightly that when we feel the other emotions like hurt, pain, discomfort we become unknowingly focus (or attached) on those emotions by default (i.e. I’m not feeling happy, something is terribly wrong). Helen Keller states “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us”.
Rather than trying to hold on to happiness what if we could learn not to avoid emotions such as pain, fear or discomfort? What if we could Acknowledge these emotions as completely normal and learn how to handle them better – even develop some tools. We could make room for them and in doing so, reduce their impact. Could acknowledging and accepting what ‘IS’ help us create a life worth living? A life that entails the full range of emotions in it.
So how do we do that I hear you cry….
I’m going to be doing a bit of work in this area over the coming months, I like to call it “Values guided Action” By clarifying what we stand for in life and acting accordingly, our lives become rich and full and meaningful and we experience a powerful sense of vitality. When we take action on the things that truly matter to us we move in a direction that we consider valuable and worthy. This is not a fleeting feeling – it is a profound sense of a life well lived. Values guided Action is all about becoming acutely aware of what you value on a day to day basis and using that knowledge when making ‘in the moment’ decisions. Holding onto that information when life is giving you those less pleasant feelings, when it’s tough and challenging, when it’s painful and hard.
I have no doubt that life will give us uncomfortable moments, times of sadness and fear and anger for this is to be expected, if we live a full life, then we will feel the full range of human emotions, but isn’t that more ‘real’ than becoming rigid in fear, fixed in our thoughts and actions, all in an attempt to resist what will come your way?
Surely value lies in being ready for those moments and being able to take action based upon what is important to you as a person – to have your personal values guide your actions in times when you are experiencing the less pleasant feelings that make up life – ultimately providing you with the resilience to navigate through.
Over the coming weeks, I will be diving deeper into Values guided Action so I hope you find time to join me. Alternatively, feel free to visit my website www.ginamunro.co.nz where you can find tools, tips and downloadable pdf’s to help you further define your own personal values and ultimately help you to live a rich and meaningful life through Values guided Action.