It’s tempting to think that way isn’t it? To think of happiness as this state of living that you can one day achieve?
You can actually close your eyes and picture yourself, happy, with all of these things around you. Money, babies, a company, adventure, friends… once I accomplish these things I will be happy.
Bad news. It’s just not going to happen.
You can’t plan to be happy. Happiness is in the present moment. It’s an emotion, one of many that we have. Sadness is also in the present moment, and it’s pretty hard to avoid sometimes.
There may be times when you’re happy more frequently or sad more frequently. But I assure you, you’re never going to always be any one emotion. Emotions are fleeting and ever changing.
Meaning on the other hand… meaning is in the past and the future. Meaning can be absolute.
Because happiness and meaning are unique. Sometimes they cause each other, but sometimes they come at the cost of the other.
For example you might be happy when you go out drinking with your friends, but that experience isn’t very meaningful. And you might volunteer at a hospital and see horrible things happen to people every day which make you upset, but what you’re doing gives your life a great deal of meaning.
Living a life of meaning is more of a status that you CAN strive for. But it doesn’t have to be a “one day” thing. Meaning comes from the little things. You can start living that life right now. You don’t have to start a company, sell it, travel the world, make babies and fix the planet before you can start living a life of meaning. Hold the door for someone. Do something unexpected to help someone. Perform acts of kindness without anyone else knowing that you did it.
And when you’re feeling unhappy, that’s okay. Recognize it and accept it. I’m upset. I’m stressed. I’m worried. Say it out loud. If you recognize it and call it out, then you can accept it and move through it. It’s just an emotion. We get a lot of them. They come and go.
Stop pursuing happiness. Be happy now. Or don’t, either way.
Focus on meaning. I think striving for meaning is your best bet at increasing your frequency of happiness.