Are you happier?
We get asked this a lot and my first reaction is, "YES!" but when I dig a little deeper I think there is more to it and saying I’m happier might do a disservice to everyone who is dreaming of making a big life change, one that they think will make them “more happy”. We as humans put goals in place that, in our minds, equal happiness. It turns out that quitting your job and traveling full time is one of those goals, but does following your dreams and taking a sharp left turn in life really equal happiness?
It’s easy in this day and age to fall prey to comparison, especially with social media, where everyone’s life is seemingly manicured for the outside eye. We start to think things like:
“They sure seem happy and carefree all the time.”
“If I had as much money as they do I could be that carefree and happy too.”
“It’s easy when you’re so good looking”
“Must be nice.”
Everyone seems happy online. In our culture happiness has become the end all be all. We are all just trying to be happy…Dammit!
Socrates wrote, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
That quote really rings true for me. Instead of thinking we will get to some goal and be happy. We should take another look at where we are and what we have and ask what is really the root of our discontentment? It turns out our brains are great at protecting us and misdirecting our thoughts to a problem that is outside ourselves (because that’s a lot easier to deal with).
So after taking the leap and doing the thing that my mind was telling me would make me happier…Am I happier?
Here is my more complicated answer…First, I think I would switch happiness to content and fulfilled. I don’t think happiness is really attainable in the long term sense. Happiness implies there is a finish line “when I get here I will be happy” but if you’re content you are good wherever you’re at. Don’t worry, you can still have goals and aspirations. Reaching those goals will be fulfilling (and you might even feel happy for a bit) but you know those goals don’t mean pure unadulterated happiness for the rest of your life.
So for me, making a huge life change, following dreams, and doing something that was just for me, was very fulfilling, but there were certainly times where I would say I was unhappy. This is where being fulfilled comes into play because I can be fulfilled and yet be unhappy…I couldn’t be happy and unhappy at the same time. Happiness is an emotion and it’s fleeting.
All of this came into much better perspective as we made a big change and were faced with the reality that our big change wasn’t the end all be all of happiness. Hitting the road did force us to deal with the issues internally that were preventing us from being content and fulfilled within our current situation and that has been the biggest change since hitting the road.
Another interesting thing that has happened since changing our life and is related to this subject is, relationships. Friendships in particular have gone from ones of convenience, the people you work with or live nearby, to friendships I truly cherish. Which is an odd thing because we are never in one spot, so those friends I really want to make an effort to keep in my life, I actually see much less than the friends I had when we were stationary. The most interesting thing to me has been that all the relationships I really value are those with people who are content and fulfilled in their own life. They may have a completely different life than we do, different things fulfill them, but because they are content with where they are at they can meet me where I am. That makes for something pretty special, and for me at least, that was rare in our normal life. So let me ask you, Are you content? Do you feel fulfilled? Wherever you’re at in life, don’t waste it waiting for happiness to arrive.