After thirty-plus years of personal and professional observation, I have concluded that every single person on earth is looking for happiness in life.
· Happiness in their marriage
· Happiness in their family
· Happiness in their career
· Happiness in their health
· Happiness in their finances
· Happiness in their soul…or whatever they call that place deep down inside of them where they long to be happy.
Who doesn’t want to be happy?
I can’t think of anybody, can you?
I believe all people, regardless of where they live on the globe, generally want to be happy. They may use different words to describe what they really want in life, but it all boils down to what we mean when we talk about “being happy.”
“I just want to be happy!” is the soulful longing of every human being.
I have done enough traveling throughout the world with a keen eye on human behavior to have a reasonably informed perspective on people in other cultures. While customs and experiences may vary from continent to continent, I have observed people all around the world longing for:
· personal fulfillment
· relational connection
· professional accomplishment
· financial stability, and
· physical vitality
While each of these is pursued in a myriad of ways around the globe, they are essentially the same the world over.
I have been stuck in early morning rush hour traffic in cities like Jerusalem (Israel), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Abuja (Nigeria), Munich (Germany), Salzburg (Austria), Interlaken (Switzerland), Toronto (Canada), Matamoras (Mexico), Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Manhattan. A number of years ago, my wife and I found ourselves going nowhere in the heart of the little country of Liechtenstein due to an unusual traffic jam created by a local farmer driving a herd of cattle right up the middle of the street. We sat there both bemused and amused at the same time in this rather unusual case of rush-hour traffic.
Although each of these places are located in very different parts of the globe, they all look eerily similar to each other when the sun comes up. I’ve watched laborers race off to cubicles and construction sites, offices and off-shore rigs in the same way I’ve observed them scurry off to fields and factories, fishing boats and pharmacies.
What’s everybody rushing off to when the sun comes up around the world? Simply put, the pursuit of happiness!
Whether in Europe or Asia, Africa or America, I have witnessed people participating in a wide variety of experiences in search of love, success, security, and fulfillment. Of all the places I’ve been, I’ve seen married couples and singles, school children and senior citizens, rich and poor, educated and uneducated involved in a variety of experiences ranging from working to worship, from learning to loving, from earning to spending. I’ve noted that people in Belfast seek out the club scene on Friday nights much like they do in Berlin. In every corner of the earth, men and women do that dance men and women do to attract one another in the hopes of romance and love. Whether it’s politics or music, triathlon or theater, landscaping or literature, people all over the world spend each day of their life pursuing every activity imaginable with the hopes of finding what it is they believe will bring them happiness.
How is it that I have seen so many seemingly identical experiences in so many divergent places in the world? Well, simply put, because all human beings are generally after the same thing in essentially the same way. They just want to be happy and pursue it much like the next guy.
Due to the nature of my profession, I have met thousands of people in the course of my lifetime and talked with many of them on a much deeper level than casual conversation. From what I have heard, we all crave happiness. While we may use different words, perhaps even different definitions - certainly different routes - all of us want the same thing: to be happy.
What Kind of Happiness Are You Looking For?
There is a healthy understanding of happiness, and an unhealthy one. Where you start determines if you spend your time and energy in a healthy pursuit of happiness or an unhealthy one.
Some people mistakenly believe happiness is found in outward possessions and experiences such as success, prosperity, comfort, convenience, pleasure, and thrill. They, in turn, go looking for happiness but rarely find what they are looking for. Because they start from the wrong place, they eventually end up disappointed, frustrated, bitter, angry, or disillusioned.
Other people see happiness from a healthier perspective; a more noble one. For them, happiness has more to do with contentment, joy, peace, purpose, passion, significance, and fulfillment. These experiences come more from within us rather than around us. Our search for this kind of happiness tends to be healthier than the other option.
I am not talking about a materialistic, narcissistic kind of happiness. I am talking about something more noble. I am thinking of happiness as an inner contentment and the joy it creates due to living your life with purpose, passion, and the fulfillment that comes with significance.
When it comes to happiness, selfishness is never as rewarding as selflessness.
The Happiness Equation
We all want to be happy. Although we might be tempted to think the quest for “happiness” is different for everybody, the truth is that it is not. The search for happiness is generally the same for everybody.
“Happiness” is ultimately an equation of two elements combined together. Our proximity to the sum total of the two elements often determines the amount of happiness we enjoy.
Met expectations + Fulfilled desires = Happiness.
In other words, the closer our life looks to our expectations and desires, the happier we are. In contrast, when we find our expectations unmet and our desires disappointed, we are generally unhappy people.
We see this in children all the time. Who hasn’t witnessed the whining, crying, screaming, or unbridled tantrum of the child who didn’t get what he wanted. Whether in the cereal aisle at the grocery store or the midway of the amusement park, it’s not a pretty sight when a child does not get what he wants!
The difficult truth to accept is that many of us never completely outgrow some of the patterns we develop as children. While we might become more sophisticated in our whining and temper tantrums, we still kick and scream in one way or another when we don’t get what we want as adults.
That’s not pretty either!
The happiest people you will ever meet live in a state of satisfaction in which their primary expectations and desires are fulfilled. And whatever expectations and desires remain lacking, they accept as both normal and reasonable. These people are comfortable with the fact that life will never be “perfect”; they will never have absolutely everything their little hearts desire. They’re good with that. They live with a tremendous amount of gratitude for all they do enjoy.
Happy people do not allow what they are lacking to rob them of their joy, peace, or contentment.
People who strive for the kind of life where everything is to their satisfaction experience enormous amounts of frustration and discontentment. They, in turn, are seldom happy for very long.
Happiness in 3-D
Whatever your ambitions, whatever your expectations, whatever your desires – if they are noble – they will require three things from you every time, all the time.
Happiness takes some effort on our part. There are a few things we have to practice in order to experience the happiness we long to enjoy in our life. They are:
Whatever expectations and desires you have, an enormous amount of discipline will be required of you if you hope to see them fulfilled.
I am using the word discipline for the skills and habits you must honor in order to achieve your ambitions. Everything we hope to achieve requires some combination of skills and behaviors (habits) to accomplish it. Name any category and there will be key things you must do in order to experience progress or achieve success in that arena.
· Relational connection requires certain skills and habits.
· Financial prosperity requires certain skills and habits.
· Athletic success requires certain skills and habits.
· Professional promotion requires certain skills and habits.
In the pursuit of happiness, each of your expectations and desires represents something you’re going to have to get really good at if you hope to see them fulfilled. Figure out what disciplines you must honor and you have taken the first step toward enjoying the happiness that comes with expectations met and desires fulfilled.
Diligence is the consistent application of discipline.
If you think for a moment that real and substantive happiness will come your way with a half-hearted, hit and miss, part-time effort, you will be greatly disappointed. Apathetic, sporadic, and erratic attempts at what makes you happy rarely yield the results you are looking for.
The best things in life take both persistence and time. Ask a farmer looking for healthy crops. Ask an athlete looking to be the best. Ask an entrepreneur looking to hit it big. The weekend warrior rarely enjoys the same level of success as the dedicated devotee.
To achieve the happiness you long for you have to practice the necessary disciplines in a consistent fashion, often for long periods of time.
We see this truth in an extremely vivid fashion when it comes to losing weight and getting into shape. Both require persistence to see results.
Diligence is consistently refusing foods you know to be unhealthy for you and destructive to your progress. When everything inside of you is screaming for you to eat that doughnut, consume that ice cream, or drink that soda, you consistently refuse to do so. In your effort to lose weight, you consistently choose those foods and beverages that are going to help you to shed fat. Honoring the habits of healthy eating again and again, day after day is about diligence.
The same is true with exercise. Erratic or “occasional” exercise rarely results in weight loss, muscle tone, or increased endurance. Exercise must be consistent in order for it to offer any noticeable dividends in progress. Diligence is what drives you to get out of bed to go running on those cold, wet mornings. Diligence is what pushes you into the gym for another tedious workout. Diligence is what convinces you to get back on the bike when you’d rather enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of your living room.
Diligent people seem to find happiness more frequently than the weekend warrior who dabbles in what it takes to be truly happy.
Whereas diligence is about persistence, determination is about perseverance.
Thinking your pursuit of happiness is going to be without obstacles along the way is precisely why it eludes you. You are going to encounter problems, disappointments, challenges, losses, injuries, illnesses, frustrations, criticism, opposition, and a thousand other varieties of detours on the road to happiness. If you abandon the pursuit of your ambitions every time you encounter a difficulty, you’ll never ever know the happiness you seek.
If you truly believe the thing you are after will be a source of happiness in your life, you must determine to pursue it even in the face of insurmountable obstacles and formidable challenges. Whatever life throws at you while traveling a road toward happiness, you must determine to keep going; to never quit. Resolute determination is paramount to continued progress when the going gets rough.
The road to happiness demands all three attributes from anybody who hopes to find what they are looking for. Ignoring one diminishes the likelihood of enjoying happiness.
· Don’t want to honor the disciplines it takes to achieve your happiness? Don’t be surprised your attempts end in frustration.
· Don’t have the patience to spend much time doing what you need to do to be happy? Don’t complain that it keeps eluding you.
· Don’t have the fortitude to endure whatever challenges you might face on the road to happiness? Don’t expect to get where you want to go.
The most important thing you must remember about happiness is pursuing it will never produce it. It is a by-product of your focus on that which you most enjoy. Happiness is not an object one can put their hands on; not an achievement one can orchestrate. It is the result of – the reward for – having pursued something more noble; something greater than your own comfort and convenience.
A Happier You
In your search for happiness, you will know greater success if you find those few things that bring you joy, peace, contentment, and a sense of making a contribution to your world and those around you. When you give them the priority they deserve, you will need to practice each of the 3 D’s: discipline, diligence, and determination.
Neglect any of them and you will ultimately find your expectations unmet and your desires unfulfilled. This will leave you feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, and disappointed; in other words, unhappy! This is not at all what you get out of bed for every day.
So what’s going to separate you from the billions of people around the globe who rush out the door in search of happiness when the sun comes up in the morning?
Well, that’s up to you.
If you get out of bed with a clear focus on a few priorities that really capture your heart and imagination, committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve them (discipline) each and every day (diligence) no matter what might get in your way (determination), you will see life take on a vivid intensity as if you were looking at it through stereoscopic glasses.
Life in 3-D! Does it get any better than that?