Happiness as a lasting and consistent part of your life can often seem a million miles away, and there’s generally a solid reason for that. You’re going about it all wrong. If your goals are wrong, then you’re never going to reach where you really want to be.

There’s lot of different ways to achieve true happiness in your life, but first of all, you’ve got to nail down what happiness really is to you.

The Current Definition

What’s the current definition of happiness? Well, that’s kind of impossible to say. There’s a whole lot of different ideas about what constitutes happiness, joy and contentment (not to mention a thousand different kinds of happiness). Then you’ve got the differences in the cultural descriptions of happiness, then the class differences. All in all, trying to define happiness is a loser’s game.

Having said that, for the sake of argument, I’d say the modern, capitalistic definition of happiness is a nice home, pleasant family, passionate relationship, respected job, luxury car, nice clothes, solid health, and a slim, muscular body. Tall order right? That’s what a lot of people think is necessary for true happiness, why else would they spend literal lifetimes striving after it all?

Within materialistic modern society, that is as close to a definition of happiness as a lot of people seem to get.

A list of things they’d like. I’m not even going to say need, because almost all of those things aren’t life-threateningly necessary, barring maybe health. None-the-less, supposedly, our happiness hinges on them.

What’s Wrong with That Definition?

Lots and lots of things! It’s materialistic, shallow, and worst of all, almost completely unachievable as a route to happiness. That’s because happiness isn’t a reaction to something, it’s not ‘oh, I’ve got this, now it’s time to be cheery’, happiness is a state of mind. That means one thing, if that’s your definition of happiness, it’s time to change.

When someone says they want to be happy, or that they want to achieve happiness in their life, what does that mean? That’s actually pretty obvious. That means that they’re not totally and completely happy right now. Even if they’re pretty content some of the time, in their eyes, they’re not entirely succeeding at the whole happiness thing.

Already, if you’re making statements like that, you’re automatically disqualifying yourself from happiness. By defining it as something you don’t yet possess. Don’t you see? The consumerist, materialistic definition of happiness is one that perpetually dances just beyond your fingertips, relying on the hedonistic treadmill to bring you back down to miserable baseline.

The hedonistic treadmill is a philosophical concept, centring on the idea that no matter what success you enjoy in life, no matter what positive thing happens to you, you’ll always return back to a simple baseline mood. That baseline becomes inescapable. What’s a person do to? Well, first off, change your definition of happiness to make it available to you, and then start working on raising that baseline to something you consider acceptably happy!

Happiness is not a Destination

It’s just not. You can’t treat happiness as something you sacrifice for and work towards, and are always putting off. Sure, you need to sacrifice your time and happiness sometimes, you know, for work and things, but don’t become that guy at the upper echelon of your company, who’s worked crazily for 25 years, and plans on retiring at fifty, aged far beyond his years, having missed the best years of his life for a wealthy old age. Don’t admire him, he’s doing it all wrong.

If you want to be a happy person, instead of thinking of happiness as being a point you’re steadily moving towards, make it where you are right now. Use every idea and concept at your disposal to realise the inherent joy already in your life, and truly start enjoying it.

Don’t Play a Game You Can’t Win

When you define anything important, like happiness, strength, power, kindness, intelligence, you need to make sure your definitions and ideas surrounding them are open to accepting you. I’m not saying be an insane egotist, who automatically counts themselves as every positive adjective under the sun, but make room for yourself within the bounds of positivity.

In other words, stop being so damn hard on yourself. You can be happy, smart, intelligent, if only you’d let yourself. Almost everyone has that strength and potential already in them, waiting to be dug out and polished.

Change the Rules

What it comes down to is stripping away all your previous ideas about what made for true happiness, and coming up with new things. In order to do that, not only do you need to completely re-assess some of the things you consider important, and mark them down a notch, but you need to start prioritising other things.

I’m talking self-care, self-awareness and gratitude, among other things. You need to learn to have a humble, balanced ego, to appreciate your life, and the people in it, and you have to stop hurting yourself, and simply let yourself be how you are. Once you’ve got those sorts of attitudes going on, you’ll be able to re-define what constitutes happiness to you, and really make your life work for you.

Gratitude is Really Pretty Important

When we’re young, we’re taught to say thank you. You receive a gift off a family member, you snatch it up and start messing with it, your mum chides you, commanding you to thank said family member. You throw the perfunctory ‘FANKS’ out, and then dash off with the toy.

Zoom on twenty or so years, and you’re buying coffee (or whatever), the cashier hands you your drink, and you turn to leave, and it makes another appearance; that fantastically perfunctory, meaningless ‘Thanks’.

Gratitude is about much, much more than that. Being grateful to people around you for doing nice things is definitely part of it, and you do need to learn to thank people properly, but it’s also a constant, self-perpetuating cycle of seeing how fortunate you are to have all the things you have, and be able to do all the things you do.

continue to part 2