What is your deepest desire, the one you experience in the most secret recess of your soul? What is the purpose of the choices you make every day? What is the basic motivation of all your actions? HAPPINESS! It is the ultimate goal and the deepest longing of a human heart. Everyone wants to be happy, even the person who is about to take his or her life. All want to be happy: The man who gets married and the one who refuses to do so; the woman who wants to give birth to children and the one who does not want any; the young man who works hard and the one who is lazy; the girl who loves and the one who hates; the generous child and the greedy one; the rich and the poor. From one end of the world to the other all are trying to find the treasure of happiness.
In this frantic search, people often mistake pleasure for happiness. Have you heard this strange story: “I’m fed up with this river,” a little fish complained to a bigger one. “Life here is so dull, the same water, the same old companions, the same kind of food day after day… I think the other river must be exciting!” “I’m not quite sure,” responded the older fish thoughtfully. “Here we have plenty of friends, no shortage of food, neither any lack of water.” Without heeding the words of the big fish, she hopped right up the bank and was thrilled to see nearby a large pond. “Ah!” This was what I had been looking for all my life!” So saying she leaped and landed in the open mouth of a huge fish.
Many of you are also familiar with the story of a king who was told by a sage that to find happiness, he has to wear the shirt of a happy man. The king sent out messengers in search of a happy man. After many days of search, one of them was directed to a farmer who people said lived an extremely happy life. Upon contacting him, the messenger realised that the happy man had no shirt. Strange! Isn’t it?
Happiness is not in anything, in any place or in any person out there. Happiness comes from within. People who are happy choose to be happy. It is the result of how we choose to let ourselves feel, instead of how we let the world and other people make us feel. When we are happy and when we smile, we attract people. It is in your correct attitude. The happiness we seek is very much inside us, in our minds, in our thinking. It is not in the external things or experiences, but the enjoyment of our thoughts and feelings.
A traveller asked a shepherd, “What kind of weather are we going to have today?” The shepherd replied, “The kind of weather I like.” The traveller retorted, “How do you know it will be the kind of weather you like?” The shepherd calmly answered, “Having found out, sir, I cannot always get what I like, I have learned always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.” So, in other words, happiness doesn’t depend on what you have, but it does depend on how you feel toward what you have. You can be happy with little and miserable with much. I remember the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne who said, “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
Here are some prescriptions for happiness:
- Decide to be Happy. Make up your mind to be happy. I am going to be happy today, at this moment. According to John Powell, ‘happiness is an inside job’. Only I can make myself happy or unhappy.
- Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Be honest with yourself. Become aware of what you really are, not what you ought to be. Your real self is the stuff out of which you have to fashion your happiness. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
- Be a goal-oriented person. People often tend to drift aimlessly in life. If you throw a dry stick into a pond, it will float. Now if a wind comes from the north it will move to the south. And if a wind blows from the west, the stick will move to the east. Some people are like this dry stick, drifting aimlessly in life. Answer this question honestly: What do you really want from your life? One way to become a goal-oriented person is to discover the deepest longing of your heart, and make the fulfilment of this longing the goal of your life. Then direct all your energies to the realization of this goal.
- Learn to manage your feelings. Feelings are an important part of your life. It is your feelings that make you rich and colourful Who likes a dry intellectual who has no feelings? But feelings can be dangerous. They can cloud your perception. It has been said that if you don’t like a teacher you will not learn anything from her even if she were the best teacher in the world. But if you like a teacher you will learn a lot from her even if she were a very poor teacher. How are we to manage our feelings? First of all, become aware of your feelings. Then be comfortable with them. Since feelings are morally neither good nor bad, that is, they are neither virtues nor vices, one can be comfortable with all feelings. Finally, express them appropriately and constructively, that is, in a way which is appropriate to the persons involved and the situation, and which will not do harm to anybody.
- Be your own best friend. One needs to accept oneself, appreciate oneself and have a positive regard for oneself. It is important to realize that love of self is very different from selfishness. Actually a selfish person does not love himself/herself. That is why a selfish person often behaves in a way that makes him/her unhappy. Now if a person loves himself/herself he/she will not do things that will make him/her unhappy … To love oneself is a good thing ‘and can lead to happiness.
- Cultivate some good friendships. Friendship is one of the greatest blessings in a person’s life. The experience of deep love in friendship will enable one to accept oneself, to discover oneself and develop oneself. It will make one more loving towards others. It will make one’s faith in God’s love more real. It takes a lot of time and effort to establish and sustain good friendships.
- Be a lover of people. In order to succeed in life, you really need to love people. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish enmities and grudges. And if you have genuine love for people, you will learn their language and study their culture and become familiar with their customs and tradition. This will make you feel at home with people. And that will be a source of happiness.
- Develop a saving sense of humour. You need to cultivate the habit of looking at the lighter, brighter side of things and events. There is a Chinese saying: “If you do not have a smile, don’t open a shop. You will not sell anything. “
Since you have only one life to live, live it happily. Don’t let your neighbor set your standards. Learn to be happy with what you have and don’t hold post-mortems, i.e., spending your life brooding over sorrows and mistakes. Remember, you can’t please everybody, but you can always do something for those less fortunate than yourself which is the best prescription for happiness.