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By Lilian Wamaitha
What comes to your mind when someone talks about happiness?
Your mind probably goes to staying happy all the time with zero negativity in your life.
And that my friend is where we all seem to fail when it comes to defining happiness for ourselves.
Because of this constant need to be happy all the time, we find ourselves trying to pursue happiness and it becomes one of our major goals in life and in the process avoid anything that may in any way take that happiness from us.
But what really does this kind of happiness do to you?
Think of your favorite dish. Eating a lot of it doesn’t always make it seem better. It is only when you can eat it sparingly that you get to enjoy every bite. So in reality it is not the food that makes you happy, rather, the value you get when you are eating it.
Happiness is like that. It is only by experiencing sadness that you really appreciate the little moments when you got to be happy.
1. The assumption that others are always happy is the biggest misconception of happiness
We all have our lives to live and majority of the time we spend it comparing ourselves to others.
For instance, I have a cousin who seems to have everything in life. They did engineering; graduated with a first class, got a job right away and to top all that got married and already has a kid while the rest of us are still figuring out what we want.
He is always the subject of discussion at family meetings because besides all that, he is already doing his post graduate right now yet we graduated at the same time. While this used to bother me, it no longer does since I realized that we all have our timelines.
And you might be in the same situation right now (it doesn’t have to be exactly like mine) seeing those who seem to have perfect lives and assume that they are happy.
Since we were young, we have been conditioned to chase the idea of “happily ever after” that we see in fairy tales.
And this gets worse with this age of social media where everybody tends to share just the best aspects of their lives and leave out the uglies. And instantly we assume that this other person is happy and we start chasing that happiness too.
I can’t tell you how many lives I have seen ruined by the illusion people create on social media. So as you can see, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of just what happiness is.
The best thing you can do is define happiness on your own terms.
2. Nobody is perfect, somehow there is always something lacking, something unpleasant
Have you read the story of the rich man who took his son on a trip to the countryside just to show him what it meant to be poor? After spending a few days there, they returned and the father asked him what he had learned.
“‘We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others,” was one of his responses.
“‘We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.’ The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, ‘It showed me just how poor we really are.’”
Let nobody ever make you think they have perfect lives. No one has. Even the most successful people have problems, including those celebrities the media wants you to think have everything anyone could ever wish for.
Every day, we all have to deal with countless number of problems whether major or minor. And you cannot tell me that each day you wake up, your life is just perfect.
Some problems may seem like the end of you, but somehow when you think about it, you’ve gotten through that.
Don’t have this illusion that you need to reach someone’s level to be happy. Truth is, if you were told to live the life of that person you think has everything, you wouldn’t last an hour and the same goes for them.
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3. Instead of trying to be happy, just be
There is nothing wrong with trying to be happy all the time. So what do you do? Throw away that belief you have that in order to have a perfect life you have to be happy.
If everything worked out perfectly all the time, chances are that you would be miserable. It is only when we experience pain in our own lives that we learn to care for others.
It is through the challenges and disappointments life brings that we learn how to be strong. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow at all.
To be happy, stop chasing permanent happiness. Accept that there will be ups and downs and gracefully understand that happiness will come from a fluctuation of both the positive and negative aspects of your life.
4. Happiness and sadness must co-exist for the greater good
When you think about life, what it all comes down to is; your life will be filled with happy and beautiful moments, tears of joy and funny experiences. But you will also have storms that seem to last forever when you are experiencing them.
But whether you are going through hell or having the best time of your life, know that it’s all part of life.
Treasure those happy moments and learn to stand your ground when you are not doing so okay.
It’s all up to you
Don’t try to avoid sadness and blindly chase happiness. In the end, it is how you deal with all these fluctuations that truly define happiness in your life. Being able to see the silver lining in every cloud, even when it seems like you are drowning in sorrow – is and will always be the true meaning of happiness.
Lilian is a Communication Officer at Career Point Kenya. Do you agree with this article? Leave a comment below.