3 Steps to Happiness – My New Year’s Wish

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One can find a plethora of quotes on the subject of happiness, from philosophers and writers to superstars or saints. Happiness seems the most universally sought commodity worldwide. Perhaps my interest in this topic of late is a result of the holidays, or perhaps it stems from spending too much time marketing my novels recently and not enough writing the next one, but I find my philosophical side coming to the forefront as I look toward the new year.

Because my greatest wish for all is to find that elusive pot of gold called happiness, here are some ideas on the subject that they might serve as an inspirational golden goose to fill your personal cache.

“There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.” ~ Denis Diderot

What is happiness? Most definitions merely describe a state of being without offering any advice on how to achieve said state. Philosophers tell us that happiness lies in admiring without wanting, or in restricting one’s own desires—in loving what you already have. There is some truth in this concept. But is happiness really gained by limiting our dreams? By minimizing our goals or deciding our hopes are unattainable?    

We usually know happiness when we experience it, or when we think we see it displayed through the windows of our neighbors’ lives. Certainly a startling number of people covet the perceived happiness of others. Yet if happiness is to be gained, the path lies not before the brunette with the rich husband but before our own two feet. The road to happiness doesn’t require a pair of Louboutin heels to forge the way. This path can be walked by even the most well-worn soles.

To find that path, here are three rules to live by:

1. Do what you love.

If you’re not doing what you love and loving what you’re doing, ask yourself, “Why?” Who is stopping you from your dream of writing, from making that trip to places exotic and wonderful, from having a family or jumping into a new career?

And after you’ve made a list of all the whos and the myriad reasons why you couldn’t possibly… ask yourself now who is really stopping you? 90% of the time, the only truly honest answer is: you.

We limit ourselves with our viewpoints of what we can and cannot achieve, of the perceived barriers of everyday living that yoke us to 9 to 5 boredoms or routines far from the ones we crave. But are those viewpoints fact? Are they even rational? Do they come from a place of truth? Or are they derived out of fear or confusion, out of past failures and mistakes, or from the labels and criticisms of others?

If you want to find happiness in 2013 and beyond, take Thoreau’s advice: dare to live the dream you have imagined.

2. Happiness lies within.

What does this mean? It means it begins with our deciding to see the glass half-full. All the happiness we ever find lies within ourselves, within our choices and our truths; in living life to the fullest extent; in appreciating what we are given and giving generously in return. 

Happiness lies in how we live our lives, not in how others live theirs, and it’s found through applying those golden rules not because our priests and rabbis and gurus tell us to but because we honestly desire to achieve our own standard of noble living.  

The happiness in virtue is gained not in the enforced or desultory exercise of duty but out of a self-determined desire to bring about or contribute to higher states of survival for ourselves and others.

3. Don’t seek happiness. Seek the mountain. Happiness will join you along the way.

One of the best definitions of happiness I’ve found describes happiness as”the overcoming of not unknowable obstacles toward a known goal.” Reading that carefully, we find that happiness isn’t necessarily gained in the goal itself, but rather in striving toward the goal—in the playing of the game. As soon as the game is won, well, it’s necessary to find a new game or face a quick degradation into withering stagnation and boredom.

Ask yourself what games you’re playing in life. What goals have you set? What mountains lie upon your horizon for the claiming? And when you have this list, take an honest look at how excitedly you’re pursuing the items on it.

Happiness depends on our ability to generate interest in living our lives. How happy we can be depends greatly on how interested we are in the “games” we’re playing and the goals we’re striving toward. Those who are truly happiest are the ones who exert great passion into their lifetime pursuits. They are generating their own interest in life by finding something to be interested in.

Life is our greatest adventure. Play it with gusto.

As the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa wrote so succinctly many eons ago:

Look to this day!

For it is life, the very life of life.

In its brief course

Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth

The glory of action

The splendor of beauty.

For yesterday is but a dream

And tomorrow is only a vision,

But today well lived

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day!

Such as the salutation to the dawn.

Wishing you the greatest happiness in the new year and beyond.

What’s your concept of happiness? How and where have you found it in your life? I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

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4 Responses to “3 Steps to Happiness – My New Year’s Wish”

  1. Barbara Colaianni says:

    I read with interest your evocative reminder of where to find the happiness in life and did the mental checklist. Thank you for taking the time to organize my thoughts!

  2. Love this post. Perfect for the new year. I read recently that people over 65 are happier than younger people. I think that’s because as we age we see what a wonderful gift it is simply to live. It’s all good. (And when we’re over 65, we can’t walk in those damned Louboutin heels anyway :-) )

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      You’re so right, Anne. The lengthening years certainly bring new perspective on all that has come as well as what is yet to be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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