You would probably be happy to find a four-leaf clover, see the coronavirus disappear, sports and cultural events to resume, and Spike Lee to put out a new film. But can external things like these or others, “make’ you happy? Or is happiness a choice?
I believe outside factors can bring us temporary joy, which we perceive a happiness. But to live a life of happiness – a happy life – requires both a choice and a deliberate mindset. And in most cases, the choice you’re required to make is one of discipline over gratification. Eschewing from things that may bring you superficial or transient happiness, holding out for those which provide you sustained, profound contentment.
We spend so much wasted energy chasing happiness when it is right within our grasp. (Or at least I did.) We chase titles, status, money, gratification, even people – believing that when we catch them, they will bring us happiness. But real happiness can only be attained by the mastery of self.
You might do the gym workout hoping to get the washboard abs, bulging biceps, or buns of steel. Seeing a nice physique staring you back in the mirror can provide some transient pleasure. But the real reward of the workout is the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you experience by jogging even when it’s cold and rainy outside, pushing through to that last rep, or willing your mind to triumph over your body. Knowing you made yourself healthier through your grit, determination, and tenacity. That’s happiness.
When you savor a sweet, juicy tomato in your salad, it probably makes you happy. But isn’t that joy significantly magnified if you planted and nourished that tomato in your backyard garden? The effort you put into the process increases the joy of the end.
The workout you do when you’re not feeling it, the self-introspection that causes you to change, and the seed offering you send forth anonymously, these are the things which make someone truly happy. The recognition, titles, and accolades are but a meager counterfeit for the real work of happiness – the mastery of self.