When we talk about happiness, we think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. We try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as our goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from us.
But what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”? It’s like your favorite food. The more you have of it doesn’t always mean the better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite of it. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?
We should always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.
Assuming others are always happy is the biggest misunderstanding of happiness.
Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairy-tales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives (including ourselves). So it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.
In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.
No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires, everyone has their own set of challenges and problems.
When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my dream and my life goals. But I got through them, and weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.
You need to keep your sights on the extended curve. Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!
Stop trying to be happy. Just be.
It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible. So what can we do? First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s from experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing the same trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.
To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness. It sounds like a paradox. What I mean is, accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.
Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment right now, flash back your memory to when you had or didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But when I found my purpose and started my NGO, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when there are tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.
Happiness and sadness exist together
What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments. Happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But your life will also be filled with rain and storms that don’t ever seem to pass when you’re going through them.
But whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life. Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.