Finding Authentic Happiness

 

“The flowers of Happiness grow at our feet, and cannot be picked from the gardens of others”. Lee Tiller

Happiness… what is it and where can I find it?

Firstly realise that happiness can be different for everybody alive and as such cannot be encapsulated into a single descriptive idea. However there are some foundation stones or ‘universal truths’ that have been identified as necessary for a life of authentic happiness.

Ultimately of course, happiness is subjective, but I’ll stick my neck out and state that real and enduring happiness can only be found within us, and not in external materialism or things. Certainly material wealth can bring short term evanescent bursts of happiness, rather like the epigrammatic excitement of ripping apart a gift wrapped present on Christmas morning. It is fleeting and uplifting yet within a few days or weeks, is barely memorable and often forgotten altogether. Just look at the demeanour and bored expression of a child the day after Boxing Day!

“The simple truth is that memories stay and things don’t, so always choose to buy experiences rather than things!”

But what is needed for real and enduring ‘authentic happiness’?

To make it easier to understand, let’s use a simple metaphor to explain: Imagine a tripod where each of the three legs represents one piece of a support structure that holds a platform called ‘authentic happiness’.

  • Supporting leg 1 is defined as: The pursuit of Meaning
  • Supporting leg 2 is defined as: The pursuit of Engagement
  • Supporting leg 3 is defined as: The pursuit of Pleasure

authentic happiness tripod image

The first supporting leg is ‘Meaning’

This involves using our signature strengths for the pursuit of, and benefit to a cause greater than ‘self’. Using our signature strengths create the most enduring, natural and meaningful routes to personal gratification and happiness.

We all need genuine meaning in life, for without it we run the risk of excess introspection which in turn creates dissatisfaction (often through material comparison), a lack of direction and motivation and ultimately feelings of ennui.

Not sure where you can find meaning? How about volunteering your services within the community or joining the Samaritans or helping clean up your neighbourhood or local environs? Perhaps retrain as a nurse, teacher or therapist so that your chosen vocation creates genuine meaning. How about working with a charity or donating some of your time? The benefits of reciprocal altruism are wonderful!

I am not suggesting you become a saint, but you can find meaning in life, just look for it.

The second supporting leg is ‘Engagement’

Examples of engagement might be social interaction or participating in group situations. Simple experiential activities like singing in a choir, hiking and walking with others, or participating in a team event can all be immensely fulfilling.

Engagement with self is also important such as immersing yourself in a good book or even writing a book, or playing a musical instrument, painting, dancing or any number of creative pursuits.

During engagement activities, time becomes distorted and our awareness of time becomes so detached that it almost appears to stop. The term ‘lost track of time’ is a good indicator that you were in engagement. The effects of engagement activities last much longer than the more simple pleasurable ones found in the third supporting leg. In terms of positive psychology engagement is known as being in ‘flow’ a condition where you become lost in a state of the reverie.

The third supporting leg is ‘Pleasure’

Interestingly and perhaps most surprisingly ‘pleasure’ is recognised as the least important of the three.

Pleasure can be easily described with words such as elation, thrill, orgasmic, excitement, delight, exuberance and joy etc.

Pleasurable experiences might include simple enjoyments such as taking a cool bath on a hot summer’s day, or a warm bath on a cold winter’s day, or perhaps climbing into bed between fresh clean linen sheets after a long hard day, or the meaningful hug of a loved one. Of course good sex is right up there on the list too.

Professor Martin Seligman defines them as “evanescent (fleeting), and that they involve little, if any thinking”. Pleasures are delights that have clear sensory and strong emotional components only.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with enjoying chocolate, having a glass of wine, masturbating, having sex with another or watching a movie but once they are over, the pleasurable feelings quickly diminish.

Indeed the supporting leg of pleasure is actually the least important when creating a life of ‘happiness’. Whilst obviously multifaceted and important to our overall sense of happiness, it only provides a series of short term stimuli.

Your personal path of growth and development

Make a commitment and take positive strides to achieving personal growth and development. It’s a life long process because we never stop learning, so become all that you can be and trust your inner compass as to where you want to be. Every journey starts with a single step, but without a compass how will you know if you are travelling in the right direction?

Today, there is an abundance of personal development models that can help you discover your true potential and create a life of authentic happiness. These range from NLP (which is itself an amalgamation and construct of several therapies including Hypnotherapy) to the Anthony Robbins style of living a dynamic life. All are as valid as each other and I urge you to explore them for your own journey of personal growth.

I have authored my own series of life skills and personal development classes called ‘Happiness Mapping’, Emotional Wellbeing’ and ‘Living a Brilliant Life’, details of which you can found elsewhere on this website.

For your enjoyment and inspiration, I have included a selection of anecdotes and pearls of wisdom by some of the world’s greatest and most enlightened thinkers.

 

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness. Bertrand Russell.
Always be a little kinder than necessary. JM Barrie.
The man that bangs his head against a wall may well learn a thing or two from the reed that bends in the wind. Ove Arup.
The more arguments you win, the fewer friends you will have. Native American Proverb.
Today with the rising of the sun, I expect my life to light up brilliantly; tomorrow I will create more radiance still… LM Tiller

 

And finally a lesson for you to take wherever you go. Perhaps you might even like to write it down or memorise it and pass it on to a friend…it’s a real gift.

It’s simple to remember but difficult to master. Try it and your life (and the lives of others) will be better for it.

The Three Gates

The Sufis advise us to speak only after our words have passed through three gates.  

  1. At the first gate we ask ourselves “are these words true?” If so we let them pass on; if not, back they go.  
  2. At the second gate we ask “Are they necessary?” If so we let them pass on; if not, back they go. 
  3. At the third and final gate we ask, “Are they kind?”