Strive to be happy | Sunday Observer

Strive to be happy

22 May, 2022
A moment of happiness
A moment of happiness

After you have sought over the wide world, you learn that happiness is to be found only in your own home. - Voltaire

Who are the happiest people living on earth? Are they politicians, doctors, engineers, actors, or scientists? All of them may be happy to a certain extent. Let us turn to Jim Sollisch to know what he says about really happy people.

He says, “Most of the really happy people I know get their hands dirty all the time. They do gardening, cook or produce furniture. They touch basic materials that are closer to life than objects prefabbed, preprogrammed, preprocessed and predisposed to minimize tactile stimulation.”

Jim’s father, a marketing consultant, was never happier than when he was in his woodshop building the redwood strip canoe. People always asked if they could buy it when he takes it out on the lake. It took him three years to build the canoe with hand-caned seats and mahogany rails. It would have taken him three minutes to plunk down $600 for an aluminium canoe that would never need to be recanted or refinished – but that would never be rejoiced over, either.

People often ask whether there is a secret for true happiness.

They also want to know why some people are happy while others are not so happy. That means people have some mistaken ideas about the nature of happiness. Many young people equate happiness with fun.

The truth is that fun and happiness have nothing in common. You get fun during an act such as playing football or gossiping. The fun evaporates immediately after the activity. However, happiness is what we experience after an activity. It is a deeper, more abiding emotion.

Fun activities

The world is full of fun seekers and fun activities. Children go to an amusement park and adults make a beeline to a nightclub to have fun. An ordinary man might chew betel or smoke a cigarette to get that elusive fun. During such activities what happens is that you temporarily forget your problems and worries. You may have seen those consuming liquor laugh and talk a lot as if they are on cloud nine. Unfortunately, they do not derive any happiness because their positive effects end when the fun is over.

Sometimes we consider Hollywood and Bollywood actors as our role models of happiness. The good-looking actors dress well all the time. They have access to glamorous parties and they arrive in flashy cars. However, behind the veneer of happiness, most of them are burdened with unhappiness. News reports and memoirs reveal their depressions, alcoholism, drug addiction and sense of emptiness.

Although they lead fun-filled lives, they have not been able to enjoy true happiness. A promising Bollywood actor committed suicide recently.

If they are happy-go-lucky people, there is no necessity for them to commit suicide. If you cling to the belief that a fun-filled and pain-free life would lead to happiness, you are sadly mistaken. This is because most fun activities lead to various physical and mental diseases.

Some people avoid certain activities which are supposed to be sources of true happiness.

They are scared of getting married and raising children. A bachelor might find dating to be more enjoyable than getting married.

Marriage is a commitment and most commitments are painful. Although a bachelor’s life is filled with fun, adventure and excitement, he cannot expect them freely in a marriage.

Similarly, some young couples choose not to have children so that they could enjoy painless fun, rather than painful happiness. When you have children you cannot enjoy certain activities freely. Raising children and educating them are also painful activities.

Lasting happiness

Without producing children you can enjoy life for some time. However, when you become mature adults you will not be able to enjoy the pleasure of hugging a child and going to bed. Only those who have children know the joy of watching a child grow up or play with other children. Although you may have to curtail your fun activities, raising children and grandchildren will produce lasting happiness.

I was not a particularly happy child. Living with my mother and father working elsewhere made my life miserable. In a way I revelled in my angst. One day, however, it occurred to me that I was taking the wrong route. Having read a few books on psychology I realized that anyone could be unhappy as it needed no courage or effort. True achievement lay in stiving to be happy.

We have to work at happiness without assuming that it will happen to us as a bonanza. In other words, we have no control over happiness. However, this idea has been proved to be erroneous because happiness is largely under our control. It is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited.

Stumbling blocks

Psychologists have identified three stumbling blocks for achieving happiness. The first stumbling block is our tendency to compare ourselves with others. I once met an up-and-coming executive who was the very picture of happiness. He had a lucrative job, beautiful wife and two children. Then he confided in me that his wife had a mental disease. What you see from outside may be an illusion.

Most of us have images of perfection. We want to be perfect sportsmen, teachers, doctors and engineers. As humans we cannot expect perfection even from others. Sometimes it is dangerous to try to be a perfectionist because nobody is perfect.

The third stumbling block is the ‘missing tile syndrome.’ Suppose you look at a tiled floor and concentrate on the space where one tile is missing.

When once you identify the missing tile in your life, explore whether acquiring it will really make you happy. You have three options: You can get, replace it with a different tile or completely forget about it,and focus on the tiles in your life that are not missing.

Be passionate

I once met a recently retired government employee. He looked sad and said, “I couldn’t become a lawyer although I tried hard. My life is incomplete without becoming an Attorney-at-Law. He had forgotten the simple fact that we cannot achieve everything we aspire to. We succeed in some of our endeavours, but we fail miserably in others.

There is no use crying over spilt milk. We have to remember that happy people never complain. On the other hand, happiness is a byproduct of something else. If you wish to achieve success in any field of activity, you have to be passionate about it. If you have no passion for music, never attend music classes. If you have no passion for teaching, never become a teacher. The trouble is that we do not follow our passions and we allow others to guide our destinies.

In order to be happy, we need to have a spiritual or religious faith or a philosophy of life. If you have a philosophy of life you will find the positive in every situation. If you choose the negative, you will never find happiness in life. Each individual has to decide whether they should remain happy or unhappy in life. As many of you wish to remain happy, strive for it. [email protected]