Happiness isn’t what you think.
“Happiness is a direction,
not a place.”
— Sydney J. Harris
On a bright and early morning in TA 2941, a young hobbit began an adventure. Bilbo Baggins, a Baggins of Bag End, was not a spontaneous sort of fellow. He enjoyed his life, his routine, and his comforts.
“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”
— Bilbo Baggins
But one day, that all changed.
He began an adventure, a life-changing trip that challenged him to his core, that taught him lessons and helped him grow.
Now was Bilbo happy beforehand? He was certainly comfortable. He had simple joys (which can’t be overstated), but lacked great aspects of happiness.
Looking for happiness can be a journey fraught with pain. Often the pursuit of something can lead to more anxiety and suffering than was previously expected.
In the realm of positive psychology, seeking happiness is a paradox that increases cognitive dissonance as we strive to be something that we are not.
Happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
— Victor Frankl
So how do we find happiness?
Let me repeat the first sentence of that quote.
Happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Searching outside of yourself, helping those around you, connecting with people, those are the aspects that help us increase satisfaction and joy.
Numerous studies link loneliness to depression and vice versa, selflessness to happiness. It is no mystery that service is fulfilling. In fact, it can be one of the greatest activities to increase joy and life satisfaction.
We must point ourselves in the right direction to find these connections.
“Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
— Victor Frankl
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