Tuesday, January 10, 2012

6 Myths About Happiness

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." -Albert Camus

     'Happiness' is probably the most buzzed buzzword in the history of mankind.  Consultants charge people hundreds of dollars an hour for 'happiness counseling'.  Books with titles like, "The Secret,"and, "The Law of Attraction," tell us happiness lies in materialistic goals, 'laws of nature', and dualistic thinking.  In reality, happiness is a state of mind rather than a destination.  Here are some classic myths about happiness, and how to get over them so you can better embrace the present.

It's all about goal-setting.
    Remember the old proverb, "The journey is the destination."  Happiness means experiencing life in the present, not dwelling in past mistakes or future aspirations.  The question you should ask yourself, if you think achieving goals will lead to prolonged happiness is, "What next?"  What if, in a week, you achieved your ultimate goal.  What then?  You'd be pretty bored.  The fun is in participating in the here and now; if you do that, you'll go places you never expected and achieve things you never thought possible.

Spelling Manor, Holmby Hills
It can be purchased.
    Many people think they'd be in complete bliss if they were famous or had a billion dollars.  A recent study shows that 'happiness' plateaus at an annual income of approximately  $75,000.  Since we experience happiness as a mental construct, we can assume it comes from within.  Trying to put some sort of external value on the feeling of joy is just silly.  I've met many miserable millionaires.  I've also met happily enlightened homeless musicians on the streets of Manhattan.  It's all about perspective.

It's unintelligent.
    The phrase 'ignorance is bliss' is just a clever way of saying, "Happiness is for stupid people."  I think it's naive to think this is the case.  Ernest Hemingway said, "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."  If you read anything about Hemingway, you'll find he really said that because he was both miserable and thought he was incredibly intelligent.
    The people who make generalizations about happy people being unintelligent are typically just unhappy intellectuals who want to justify their inability to find joy.  Sure, there's plenty of bad in the world, but adding to it makes no improvement.  Finding and spreading happiness in a world filled with negativity is a powerful and valuable thing.  Try that instead of resorting to cynicism or dwelling on negativities.  
Starburst and Beach Grass On Turquoise

It relies on external variables.
     If you can create happiness from within, you won't need to rely so heavily on people, places and things to provide it for you.  While you should surround yourself with people you love and involve yourself in activities that are meaningful to you, the happiness that results is ultimately happiness you create.  The extent to which you enjoy your life is up to you.  That's both an intimidating and empowering prospect; try to take advantage of it.  

The negative outweighs the positive.
    Often, the occasional big negative things that happen in the world (economic crises, terrorism, natural disasters) overwhelm us to the point where we think the little moment of happiness and beauty we experience every day are meaningless.  We're taught by sensational news stories and media to shelter ourselves and be afraid of one another.  But, to be honest, the small things are extremely important, because over time they add up to be the big things.  If more people could live in the present and appreciate their surroundings, while also helping those who aren't able to appreciate their surroundings, the world would be a happier place.  It can only be improved one person at a time; the best place to start is with yourself and those around you.
Riding the Perfect Wave

It's determined by traditional definitions of
 'success' and 'failure'.
     Television and films tell us that 'success' means a big house, a large bank account, perfect teeth and some Botox here and there.  Simple living is perceived as failure.  It's really just the opposite; the people who seek refuge in materialism and social status are trying to fill a dark gap in themselves.  Happiness lies in living with what you need, doing what you enjoy, and surrounding yourself with people with whom you share mutual love and appreciation.