“Happiness often sneaks through your door when you leave it open.” – African Proverb
Our yearning for happiness surpasses any other quest in this life. It is the drive behind all we do: from work to recreation, from religion to politics, and from our interactions to our solitudes. The real objective of anything we do is to be happy. I may be an idealist, but I have not yet come across any individual who undertakes an activity so that he or she can become angry or sad. Even sadists do all that they do simply to be happy. It is this understanding that inspired Anne Gilchrist, the English writer, to pen “I used to think it was great to disregard happiness, to press on to a high goal, careless, disdainful of it. But now I see that there is nothing so great as to be capable of happiness; to pluck it out of ‘each moment and whatever happens”.
Happiness is a natural phenomenon of life, yet it eludes so many of us. The reason is simpler than many would imagine. Quite a great number of us assume happiness is a separate activity from what we do daily. We imagine it as an aspiration that entails a set of circumstances rather than an attitudinal posture. It is not strange that our unhappiness is more a misunderstanding of being happy entails working on ensuring the activities you engage yourself in actually makes you happy.
Thus, if you do not delight in the work you do or your relationship, it means you spend a greater part of your day and your week – and ultimately your life – being miserable. And knowing that ‘practice makes perfect’, you can probably understand the progressive diminishment of happiness inside you. It is like imprisoning yourself and blaming it on the system. No one can make you happy or unhappy, and likewise no system. Your happiness or the absence of it depends on your attitude.
Too often, too many of us get distracted by the cares of the world and allow the burdens of living to steal our happiness. Think of the number of times you have missed out on being happy simply because you focused too much on the manner in which another person was behaving. It probably took a while to shake-off the annoyance, which meant you missed out on a period of wonderfulness and ultimately your happiness.
We need to appreciate that ‘life happens’. It does not unfold according to what we think it should be. That is why adaptation is our greatest attribute. We are blessed with the ability to assimilate new information into an existing scheme we have, or modify our mental representation to fit the new information. This ability plays a big role in enabling us to be happy.
Our ability to adapt is so important, philosophers generally agree that it is the key to unlocking our happiness. This is because, for the most part, adapting involves making a change in one’s self in order to cope more effectively with the environment, or changing one’s environment in order to allow one continue to be him or herself. The question that arises is, how do we adapt? Psychologists agree that our effort to adapt draws upon a number of cognitive processes such as perception, learning, memory, reasoning and problem-solving.
Depending on the individual, we need a selective combination of these processes to make our adaptation purposeful. Thus, the individual who wants to be happy must appreciate and memorise that which lightens his or her soul, and learn about environments that are crucial for uplifting his or her heart, and then utilise reason to resolve challenges that come their way by applying available information to his or her needs.
We want to be happy, yet not many of us take time to understand what it takes to be happy. We just assume that when we attain our dreams, happiness will automatically follow. Well, this route has been tried and tested and tried again – and it has not yielded the desired outcome. It is time to make changes to this falsity. Happiness is less about emotion and more an attitude, because it comes from an inner ability that we control and is supported by both fortitude and patience.
We have what it takes to be happy, so let us hold our heads high and modify our attitudes to attain happiness. As Charlie Chaplain said in ‘The Dictator’: “You, the people, have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure”. Let us learn to lighten our moods and dare to be happy because it is our right. Let us appreciate the fact that life is big enough for all our uniqueness and differences, and big enough for all our happiness.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]