Stop chasing Happiness

Stop chasing happiness. When I say stop chasing happiness I don’t mean stop trying to find it in your life, I mean stop thinking that happiness is one whole thing to be captured. Happiness is a compilation of things. Happiness comes from building up platforms in your life. It comes from living a meaningful life, when with purpose and love. I did was not happy. I, like many of you may or may not be, was unhappy and kept chasing it. In chasing happiness, I discovered it brought me even more unhappiness. I was anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, and it all seemed to be getting worse the more I sought to find the idea of happiness. Happiness is not an intangible concept. It is not like the wind. What I came to realizes was that happiness was created by every aspect of my life in which I was interacting with the world around me in one way or other, whether it be at work, in school, at home. Happiness sprung from the moments in which I felt filled.

Emily Smith discussed this idea of living a life of meaning verses a life of chasing happiness in her Tedtalk, “There is more to life than being Happy”. After watching this Tedtalk I was able to put a name to the things I had experienced in my own attempts to find happiness. Smith describes what she considers to be the four pillars of life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.

Number one, belonging. It is human nature to belong. It is a feeling that we have all at some point in our lives struggled with. We end up in groups in which we belong for the wrong reasons, surficial reasons like disliking the same person or being in the same class, instead of who we are. Who we surround ourselves has a huge impact on how we see ourselves, how we view life and the way that others view us. In order to start to create happiness for ourselves it is essential that we feel like we belong in whatever place we are, physical and spiritual. To be loved and to love needs to be a goal in our life. We need people because no one can do it alone. We need our brutally honest friend, our mom friend, our wine aunt friend, our wise friend, our can never be serious friend. We need our families, that is not always the one we are born into. We need our community. Feeling grounded to this Earth beyond the science of gravity is something that our human nature seeks. Belonging makes us feel connected give us something to hold on to and that is why it is a pillar of life. When you belong, you begin to feel safe and when you add in the other three pillars it can lead to a meaningful and happy life.

Number two, purpose.  I will repeat what Emily said, when it comes to purpose it does not refer to a job. Certainly, a job could be purposeful if we are there for the right reasons. Such as a doctor’s who genuinely wish to save lives verse a doctor who became one for the pay check.  When I refer to purpose I want us to think of something beyond ourselves. True purpose is when it reaches those around you. Like Emily’s father, his purpose was his children. Like Deanna Van Buren, who builds restorative justice centers. Her purpose is to better our broken justice system. Or like myself who has discovered that my purpose is to help the people I encounter in any way I can. When I say this, I am not just talking about my friends, I mean the roommate I do not like, I mean the guy I sat with for only a few weeks, the woman who makes my coffee in the mornings. My purpose is to listen to these people to hear their stories and then proceed to make something out of it. My purpose is to be a story teller of those stories, the individuals, because I believe those individuals can help us grasp larger issues, such as feminism, racism, politics in general. Emily said to use our strengths to serve others. I am a listener and a writer, and I use those to serve others. Once you find your strengths, which is a hardship on its own, use it to help others.  We can only be better by helping each other, and we need to be better as a whole.  Helping someone else will bring you a sense of accomplishment like nothing else, combine that with the feeling of security that comes with belonging and life already starts to get better.

Number three, transcendence. Smith says, transcendence is being lifted above daily life and losing all sense of self. As a writer it is often that I find myself wondering more deeply about things that many do, ranging from my friends smile to the idea of evil and good. My weekend called for me to have a transcendent moment. I sat in my shower and thought of everything from the family L.A. living in a tent because of the cost of living to my friend group’s drama. I thought of the way that world would spin, and the sun would rise no matter the way your day had gone. I thought of how the sun would burn the earth and how my friend’s curly blond hair was perfect for her personality. I often find myself having these transcendent moment around my friends, they are who have me wondering about the way the universe works. As pretentious as it sounds, I agree with Emily Smith. We all need to take a moment from our daily lives and look at the world around us for all that it is: big, vast, and complicated.

Number four, storytelling. I could be bias to this last pillar considering my profession, but I believe even without the love for words that I have, being able to weave your own narrative is important. What we say to ourselves impacts heavily. Being self-depreciating beyond the jokes is harmful to our spirit. As she says, we are “authors of our stories”. We deiced if we are villains or heroes. We deiced if this is where we end or where we get a sequel. My own personal example is this: my life was unfair and so I was angry at the world but then it became my life was hard but now I’ve learned to be compassionate and strong. Once I created a story in which I was not the mistakes I made nor those of my parents but instead I am my success and my trail and errors, not my mistakes. We all make mistakes, but they are merely experience we need to have to grow.

Life is more than just happiness. The very notion sounds insane. Was the whole point of life not to find happiness? I am not saying that is not, but we get wrapped up in this notion that happiness is this abstract idea that cannot be reached; or even worse that it is superficially tangible. Happiness is a process it is a thing that we build with steps, with pillars, whatever you wish to call them.