Earlier today, I was asked by someone, “How are you so happy?” I thought about this for a minute, but something just didn’t feel right about the question. It’s like saying, “How are you full?” “Well, I ate.” So to answer the first question in a similar way, “How am I happy? Well, I had good things happen to me that made me happy. So really, I’m just reacting to those things that happened in a positive way.”
This leads me to the point I wanted to make today: The real path to a happy life is actually not through happiness, but through appreciation.
GRAPH: If we recognize that happiness is positive, and despair/ sadness are negative, then appreciation would be the zero line. Appreciation isn’t necessarily good nor bad- positive nor negative. It is simply a perspective on life that views everything that happens as a lesson or, even better, a gift. And as we all know, gifts are a sign of love.
What I try to do is: In everyday situations, no matter what emotion I feel, I try to find my way back to appreciation. For example, if I’m walking into the grocery store to get some eggs and at the door I see a sign that says, “Eggs SOLD OUT,” naturally I would be disappointed or angry. But if I can choose to see that this life event (eggs being sold out) is actually a small assignment given to me by Professor Life in which I have to convert my emotions back into appreciation, then in that way I can learn something from every assignment the Professor gives me. Maybe this assignment was meant to help me appreciate the time and effort someone put into making the sign and placing it at the front of the store so as to save people like me time; Their time in exchange for mine. And what if there were no sign? Well, then the absence of eggs in the back of this grocery store, on this particular day, was meant to help me learn that having expectations only sets one up for pain – disappointment when it doesn’t happen or decreased elation when it does. And in that way, I can appreciate it.
THE TAKEAWAY: More and more these days we hear about the pursuit of happiness and all its glories. And if we’re watching the news, we only hear about the extreme successes or the extreme failures. So we go on living life thinking that this pursuit is riddled with successes and failures – dragons and maidens. We live our lives as if they are filled with epic battles against Giants and yet, the only real battle going on is inside our “selves.” The way we define our “self” affects the way we define our life. And in order to define something, we must use judgmental labels – This day is good. That person was bad. So we keep track of our stories on Facebook and tell our friends. Yet, the plot of the story has already been laid out for us – all we ever need these life events for is to challenge us to learn how to get back to appreciation. Once we learn that, we no longer have to fight those daily battles – we need only enjoy the ride.
~Buckle up, my friends~