What would you say if I told you happiness is a myth? What if I said you were running after thin air? You’d probably shoot me a scornful look and dismiss me as an inherent pessimist who can’t seem to see the silver lining in any cloud. You wouldn’t be completely wrong. It’s called disillusionment.
Our quest for “happiness” is flawed. We’re running after the next new phone, the next love interest, the next promotion, the next fat paycheck, the next best trip… you see, it’s always the next. We’re not in the moment at all. We’ve come to believe that happiness is a train and we’re always waiting for the station that comes next.
“I can’t wait till I get the new iPhone X!”
“Happiness is finally receiving that new Apple Mac whatever.”
“I’m going to be so happy once I’ve visited this new resort in this exotic destination.”
Sounds familiar? Like the statements you may (definitely) have made in the recent past? You’re not alone. There are 7 billion people in this world and they’re all running after the same thing - happiness. Unfortunately, we fail to comprehend that happiness, contrary to widely popular belief, doesn’t come in a box, in a currency, a designation, or a plane ticket.
Somehow, though, we’ve let the capitalists trick us into believing in a trillion-dollar industry that manufactures happiness. All aboard the Happiness Factory!
Smiles are now a result of a new online purchase, social media engagement and virtual validation. Happiness is bankable. It’s tangible. It’s something you can hold in your hand. It’s comprehensive. Happiness is a business.
Except, that it’s not.
Look around you; there are so many people. Look at their faces. What is it that you see? How many of them are smiling? How many of them look like they’re thankful for the life they’re living? If you were to go up to them and ask them “Are you okay?” how many of them, do you think, would respond with a ‘Yes’ and genuinely mean it, versus those who would begin with a long list of complaints with their lives and the way things are?
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What is the whole deal with this happiness manifesto that has more to do with money and egos than it does with inner peace, mindfulness and presence?
The deal is that we’ve lost the plot. That is the truth about happiness in the modern society; that it's a lie we're selling.
Happiness, my friend, has nothing to do with any of the things you’re running after. It never did. Not when it was about buying your kid the best toys in the land, or about having the largest social media following, the fattest salary, or the biggest promotion. Why? Because all of these things are momentary. Your child will grow out of the toys that you will eventually give away. Your followers will be your biggest illusion of what people think of you (hint: it’s none of your business). Your salary package will never equal the amount of contentment you wish you had in your life for having slogged too hard for the money and what was it all worth, anyway. And that promotion you’ve just landed, will be passed on to someone newer and brighter the very minute you fail to deliver and it’s not even your fault. It’s just the way of the world and everything in it.
We tell ourselves we’re happy. In fact, we judge others, too, by their level of happiness. “Oh, she’s got a well-paying job, a great career, her own flat, and a boyfriend who adores her. What more could she possibly need?” Or, “Her husband owns the company. Her in-laws don’t want her to work. They have a bungalow all to themselves and their first child is already on the way. Of course, she’s happily married.”
We’ve never been more wrong and off the charts about our estimations of some sort of a “happiness metric” because it has more to do with what we perceive on the outside, than it does with what really is on the inside. And we assume we’re right. We have a messed up sense of what happiness is and we’re constantly seeking it out in objects and in others. What does this tell us about our own sense of self? That there is none.
Therefore, our definition of happiness is based on the perception that reality is directly proportional to our assumptions. So, God help us when the bubble bursts and we fall flat on our not-so-happy faces.
If you’re wondering why more and more people around you are unhappy - now that the realisation is finally kicking in - it’s because of the very assumption that lands us in a soup of our own making.
So, how do you rediscover happiness?
Simple, you look within. Happiness is about being present in a moment; about being aware of your blessings and counting them. It’s about being grateful for what you have instead of chasing what you don’t. It’s about realising that, all said and done, you do have it a lot better; easier, even, than so many others. Seems like too far-fetched an idea? Maybe it isn’t. Maybe we’ve just led ourselves to believe that life has to be complicated and happiness isn’t as easy as a moment that stems from within.
We’ve let the complexities of life dictate the terms and conditions of our happiness. And it always comes at a cost - monetary or otherwise.
There used to be a time when happiness was simple. It was as simple as saying what you were feeling; or making the most of the little that you had and deriving meaning from the smiles that came from bonding together without an agenda.
We didn’t expect more than we gave and we didn’t have ulterior motives. It was a simpler time and a simpler world. Darwin’s theory of survival definitely affected the way we emote. We may have become wiser, richer and fitter. But, we’re less happy today than we were, even a day ago.
Can we reclaim our true happiness and the means to it? Or are we forever going to pay a price that we, ourselves have put on our own smiles?