Sunday, July 10, 2011
Trying to Explain Happy...
A little background first. I have been asked to write a chapter for a book on my move to the United States and how it has affected life. It is supposed to be autobiographical in form and I have been struggling with it mightily. I know what I want to write about and even have a title for the chapter, The Geography of Happiness: A Journey to a Good Life. I am just having trouble wording exactly what makes my life so happy. I thought I would try some ideas out in blog form first.
I am generally a happy guy. My life is good and I know it. The question is how do you explain it to others? What are the ingredients that make one’s life happy? Like baking a cake, how does one ensure that the right mix of those ingredients (especially since there doesn’t seem to be a recipe card available)? Are the keys to happiness really individual or are there common links across societies?
I believe that the key of happiness is in the management of relationships; the most important being with oneself. I often battle with trying to figure out who I am, what roles I play and how to manage those roles in a manner that I am comfortable looking in the mirror. Perhaps the best illustration of this philosophical approach is expressed in the poem entitled, ‘The Guy in the Glass’ by Dale Wimbrow.
If one becomes comfortable with their own being, it allows the individual the ability to have honest and healthy relationships with others. I believe I am happy because this knowledge allows me to understand both my strengths and foibles and work to accentuate my positives and mitigate and improve upon my weaknesses. I believe self-actualization allows me to become more emphatic with others and accept them for who and what they are. This ability leads to truthful relationships which in turn reduced stress and overall improved happiness. This philosophical foundation allows me to be honest in my feelings and deal with issues in a manner that is productive and positive. I believe that the ability to engage in self-actualization creates an environment where an individual will most likely have loving, caring and supportive people around oneself leading to happiness.
Further to understanding oneself, the second key to happiness in my mind is to understand ones place in the world. Time and place matter. We have limited time on this planet and perhaps the goal should be to be as good as an ancestor as we can possibly be. I believe one of my keys to happiness is trying to focus upon enhancing the world for those around me. By putting oneself in a position to attempt to help others achieve their goals and dreams, an atmosphere is created in which the world becomes positive around the individual. As one is willing to help others, other will become increasingly willing to help you. Yes, there will be those who take and not give back but those percentages seem to dwarf those that do. Loved ones do not write upon on a headstone upon death ones income but rather that the person was a loving parent, a good friend and contributor to the community. While not normally considered a happy thought, I keep in mind what those around me are likely to write on my headstone when I leave this Earth. Am I going to be the ancestor that has affected many lives for the positive or am I going to be the person who this existence left with barely a tear shed by anyone? Perhaps Dickens demonstrated a visionary understanding of happiness in A Christmas Carol when Scrooge learnt the lesson that happiness comes when one means a great deal to others.
Finally, I believe happiness comes from failures. It is through failures that learning and growth occur. I often think of the children’s television show The Magic School Bus. The teacher on the show always tells the students to, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” I have always found that those areas in which I have to struggle most to succeed in, are those that I appreciate in the end. I have learned more about myself in my errors than in my successes. I am not saying to make catastrophic errors in judgment but rather to take calculated risks that require you to go beyond your comfort zone in order to make a bigger contribution to your growth as an individual as well as the world around you. It is in challenging yourself that you foster a greater understanding. If one does not take any risks, one cannot grow. This leads to stagnation and unhappiness. Yes, by challenging oneself occasional failure will occur but it is in that lack of success, that understanding will grow. It is then with that growth that success will be bred and opportunities for greater achievement will come.
Happiness is being willing to demonstrate a desire and a willingness to act to create a better world for all those around you as a result. Happiness is being able to grow, develop and flourish as a human being so that you will be remembered as a good ancestor. Happiness is giving oneself so that one can be open for others to give to them. The bottom line is that happiness is to love and be loved in return.