Writing a book is not an easy task. It isn’t, especially when we endeavor to write a book proposing to explore such a complex and elusive theme as happiness – a subject that evokes countless presuppositions and can branch out almost infinitely.
As they look at the title and proposal of this work, the first questions that may come up in the readers’ minds, understandably, are probably:
Who are you to write a book about happiness?
What do you know about happiness?
Are you happy?
And the first challenge we may face, both that of the author and the readers, is that although these questions are very good and reasonable, they can be answered with other questions, such as:
What is the reader’s definition of happiness?
What does “being happy” mean to the reader?
Definitions and beliefs about terms such as “God”, “love” and “happiness” can be as varied and individual as the different flavors of ice cream you can manage to find around the world, or even more. Therefore, I will not dwell on a single definition because it can be elusive and non-inclusive, but rather on a formula. Hopefully, a universal formula that brings together the essential elements that will help us experience a certain state of being.
By applying this same formula and the processes taught in this book, most of my private coaching clients have been able to experience a state that they have defined as happiness. A state they pursued for a long time and that always seemed intangible, until they realized the secret was not in searching for it, but rather in tuning into and cultivating it.
And why are we in such an incessant, sometimes obsessive, search for this elusive blue bird called happiness? Are we chasing after an illusion that has never existed? Are we trying to deny the inevitable hardships of life and escape into a utopic world which is real only in a dreamer’s fairy tale? Are we fooling ourselves by assuming that there’s more than this mechanical and accidental reality in which we have no choices or free-will?
Honestly, I don’t know the motive for why each individual is searching for the so-called happiness. It may be a combination of the reasons cited above for some people; but in my own opinion, the motives for the search may go beyond what we can conceive. Maybe there’s a part of us that intuitively knows that it is possible to reach such a state; maybe we miss the moments when we have experienced it during childhood; maybe it’s because it is the secret to a life of balance and self-realization.
Whatever the motive may be, the fact remains that we are all looking to experience happiness in one way or another. All our dreams, aspirations, goals, schemes and actions are geared towards achieving this special state.
Nobody, in his right mind, would consciously and deliberately do something in order to feel bad. Rather, we are always trying to find ways to feel better. The sick person wants to heal, the lonely individual wishes to find companion, and the poor man wants to increase his income.
We can surely engage in self-sabotage to remain sick, lonely or poor, but that is usually an unconscious process that involves a secondary gain. The secondary gain, in this case, is distortedly perceived as making us feel better than we would feel under different circumstances. Therefore, someone may unconsciously wish to remain sick because of the attention dedicated to her, or to remain lonely because then she won’t have to compromise, or poor because, in that state, she will not have many obligations.
In the examples above, the so-called negative states are (unconsciously) perceived as being “good” or, at least, better than other alternatives considered threatening, and therefore make the individual feel happier.
Even a drug addict or a thief, for that matter, is in search of a way to feel a little better or “happier” through his actions; the drug addict by altering his state of mind and briefly escaping his perceived reality, and the thief by temporarily having some money to spend on whatever he fancies. The bottom line is that they are both trying to feel somehow better, no matter how reproachable their actions may be. The search for this specific state can drive some of us to disregard moral standards, values, and even personal safety.
Therefore, at the core, we may all be after the very same goal. Be it the Buddhist monk, the college graduate, the business woman, the self-sabotaging sick individual, the drug addict or the thief ,the goal is just to be happy, regardless of the ways in which we move towards this goal or what we think will help us accomplish such a state. For some, it may be renouncing everything and moving up to a mountain to spend the rest of their lives in meditation; for others, it may be becoming multi-millionaires or world famous celebrities.
My suggested hypothesis then is that happiness is the ultimate goal and the backbone of any type of self-realization and success whatsoever, pretty much as carbon is the backbone of all organic life. Without happiness, nothing else seems to bind together very well or permanently; something always seems to be missing in the chemistry of life. This hypothesis may be verified if we just observe our own and other people’s lives.
Health, wealth, professional realization or fame may seem to be important and the primary goals for many people. And they definitely are, but without the bonding element of happiness, these things do not necessarily represent long-term satisfaction. Proof of this is the people who enjoy some, if not all, of the above but still feel empty and discontented to a point of ending their own lives in one way or another. We often see this happening with famous celebrities and wonder why it happened to them.
So, what should we aim for in life? Along our life journeys, most of us seem to be trapped in the egg and chicken dilemma of what comes first? Happiness or success? Happiness or health? Happiness or self-realization? Are we happier when we enjoy any of these states, or when we reach our goals? Surely, but what if one of these is missing in our lives? Are we then doomed to be unhappy until we accomplish them?
I have seen hordes of individuals affirming that they would be very happy when they finally reached their major dreams, be it buying a house, finding a twin soul, getting the expected promotion or winning the lottery jackpot. I also have seen many of them actually reaching their so anticipated goals or dreams, and still sensing as if something was missing in their lives, and the resulting feeling was disappointment. They have certainly confused a state of temporary contentment for long-lasting happiness.
So, what really comes first? This question may continue to elude our logic, however, sometimes facts speak louder than logic or presuppositions. And a fact, that I have witnessed and I am sure that many of my readers have as well, is that switching to a state of happiness is the secret that many people have used to attract more friends, improve their health, advance in their careers and even acquire great fortunes.
Therefore, we can be sure of one thing; happiness can come first. We do not have to wait until we have everything that we supposedly want to be happy. Actually, if we wish to smoothly navigate towards our goals and enjoy every single step of the process, happiness must be part of the formula and our constant companion throughout our journey.
On the other hand, collecting toys and accomplishments, in the hope that they will make us happy somehow, sometime in the future, does not seem to be a surefire strategy. The opposite effect may happen; we can get even more frustrated after realizing that the new status did not change our inner states as much as we expected.
Excerpted from "Raiders of the Lost Happiness" by R.J. Wellington. Copyright © 0 by R.J. Wellington. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.