What is Happiness?

If I asked for a definition of unhappiness, most people could craft a dissertation on the many and varying facets of unhappiness – but turn it around to ask for definitions of happiness and the challenge is much larger. Many of us spend our lives searching for the ambiguous solution to our life’s problems, placing our faith in some outside force or person to magically make us happy. Can we truly be happy without working toward understanding ourselves? Who is to blame for our unhappiness if not ourselves?

Lincoln memorial at night.

CC Image courtesy of rjv541 on Flickr

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
– Abraham Lincoln

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a perfectionist. I set incredibly high standards for myself and am disappointed if I don’t achieve what I set out to. This, oddly, is combined with my tendency toward laziness and a general inability to finish projects that I start. Throughout my life, I have found this to be an imbalance that affected both my ability to achieve what I hoped to achieve and my overall sense of self-satisfaction. To actually move toward happiness, I have worked toward a balance – I try to hold myself to less exorbitant standards of performance, and I work to complete more projects I begin. This is enabling me to find more of a happy medium (if you’ll pardon the pun) within myself, making it easier to feel satisfied and, in fact, happy.

The Dalai Lama

CC Image courtesy of Ted Lipien on Flickr

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
– Dalai Lama XIV

I’m a firm believer in making my own destiny. For example, at a time in my life where I found myself working at a dead-end job, rather than lament my situation I went out and found another job. I had to work hard to find something I thought would be a better fit, but I told myself I could do it and I didn’t stop until I made it happen. As easy as it can be to blame the world and outside forces beyond my control, I know that I’m the only one in control of my destiny. My happiness is in my own hands and if there is something about my life or relationships that is contributing to my unhappiness, the only way to improve things is to change them myself.

Chuck Palahniuk

CC Image courtesy of raulretana on Flickr


“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”
– Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

To find happiness, we must find out who we really are – what we desire, what we can’t live without, where we want to take our lives. This prospect of true introspection is so daunting for many of us, we prefer to live in a safe(r) world where we blame outside forces for what is missing from our lives and don’t seize the opportunity to dig in and see what’s hiding in our hearts.

Who do you want to be? What do you want to do with your life?

More importantly, what’s stopping you?

(the answer, in case you’re not sure, is always that the only thing stopping you is YOU)


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