People will hurt you. They will bring you down.
Even if you care for them, they will not care back. Even if you love and admire them, they will not love or admire you back.
And what makes it even worse is that nobody will truly know about what you feel.
You family, your coworkers, your friends, your spouse… they will never know.
This is not being negative. This is reality. People, seriously, don’t give a shit.
But the good news is that there’s hope:
Because there’s one person who can understand what’s going inside you — and that is You.
Sure, some individuals have become exceptional at understanding people’s behaviors — I’m talking about the bestselling author Robert Greene. But even them, they’ll never fully understand what others are experiencing emotionally and mentally — in real time. They can only examine through behavior patterns.
I used to think that if I can share my dreams to others, tell them what I really want in life and what makes me happy, they will finally understand my authentic self. And they will do things that make me happy (hopefully).
Turned out I was wrong. Because the only person who has a direct contact to what I’m feeling and thinking is me. This means that I am the only one who knows what I feel and think. I’m the only one who knows what can make me happy.
The 2 Methods to Attain Happiness
Often we think about happiness as something we can get from external factors — people or things. But that’s just one way to live a miserable life.
You may have heard that before. A boring cliché. But it’s worth mentioning that this mentality is often destructive.
For example: We’re not happy because of our challenging job. We resent our boss for giving us stressful work. We disgust our workmates for being so stupid and selfish.
And then we think that the only way to achieve happiness is the opposite of everything we’re experiencing. In this case, quit our job or maybe fly to a foreign country and live a new life.
That’s the problem. If we believe that we can never be happy because of others’ behaviors or because we don’t have a new shiny thing, then we’ll never be truly happy at all.
I find Mark Manson’s insight on happiness thought-provoking. He believes that:
1. Happiness is solving a problem.
Here’s an excerpt from his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” [emphasis mine]:
“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover in a top-ten article on the Huffington Post or from any specific guru or teacher. It doesn’t magically appear when you finally make enough money to add on that extra room to the house. You don’t find it waiting for you in a place, an idea, a job—or even a book, for that matter.
Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress—the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”
You can try Mark Manson’s method — to be happy we need something to solve. Practical, realistic, and no bullshit… I must say.
But does it mean we can only attain true happiness by doing something, which in this case solving problems? What if there are no problems to solve?
Wait. Is that even possible? I doubt. But let’s pretend it is. Now, what should we do?
Let’s look at another method. This one leans toward Zen Philosophy. And you’ve probably heard it hundreds of times.
2. Happiness is being content.
Writer Zat Rana put it well:
“Happiness isn’t about a state of constant elation. It’s about being content.”
I once wrote that happiness isn’t always about feeling good. It’s about accepting what you have, where you are, and what the world did to you. Similar to Zat Rana’s perspective, it boils down to one thought: If you want to be happy, be content.
And to be content, it means to accept what we have and where we are, be grateful of the present, see the bright side of any situation — or otherwise, learn from the negative.
If we think happiness in this way, happiness then becomes ubiquitous — something we can attain anytime or anywhere, and not a byproduct of getting rich or any sort of accomplishment.
The only problem with this is that I find it hard to practice in real life, unlike Mark Manson’s happiness-is-solving-a-problem. But I don’t dismiss it though, as I can still see some truth in it. Nothing’s wrong with “happiness is being content.” In fact, it could be the one that might work for you.
My (Crude) Method to Attain Happiness
I’ve been trying to fuse the two methods, and now, here’s the result:
Happiness can be derived from doing the things that matter to you. If solving your problems, or your family’s problems, or maybe the world’s massive problems matters to you, then you might feel happy doing that. On the other hand, if there’s nothing you can do to solve whatever you’re trying to solve, just be grateful for the experience and lessons you learned. Accept where you are. Be content. Life goes on.
Just like everyone else, I’m not great at this. I failed a lot of times. Sometimes I dream of living in a different country so I can be happy. Sometimes I pretend everything’s fine even though deep inside I’m rotting.
But I suppose that this method is far more rewarding than relying happiness on material possessions or people’s approval — which I can confidently say a formula of a miserable life.
Real life isn’t a fairytale. There’s no such thing as, “If I could get that, I’ll be happy,” or “If could have him/her as my partner, I’ll be happy.” Maybe it may give us a high, but that’s just temporary. We all know that. Because after the elation wears off, we’re back to feeling unhappy again.
So the next time you feel down, I suggest try solving a problem, or maybe just be content (be grateful). Or maybe figure out your own method. Or maybe, just let it be. Experience unhappiness as it is.
Experiencing the negative side makes us appreciate the positive.
Mahatma Gandhi insight on happiness is also worth pondering:
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
I may be skeptic to believe Gandhi, but I can’t deny that there’s a lot of truth in that too.
Then again, there’s no guarantee as everyone perceives happiness differently. Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all fix. That’s why self-awareness is very important. I can’t stress it enough.
The point is: It’s not other people’s job to make you happy. You’re the only one who can.
PS: I wonder why we chase happiness.
Is the purpose of life to be happy?