by Anne Day
Happiness. Much is written about finding happiness, there is even The Happiness Project, but I wonder if this constantly striving for happiness means that we have unrealistic expectations about how our lives will be, or not.
Are we putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to fit the bill, and when we don’t, does this leave us feeling not good enough?
Growing up in the UK, I may have the “stiff upper lip” in my DNA, because I find that when life throws you a curveball, as it inevitably does, you are sad or upset but then you just have to get on with it. No pity party. No wallowing in what has happened. Move on.
And it’s not that I haven’t had my share of challenges – I have – having had breast cancer twice and all that such a diagnosis entails – and while that has granted shaped my life, I have not let it become my life, nor become my claim to fame.
Yet time and time again, I see people who have let their situations become all encompassing and all consuming. Basically they are stuck and become so self absorbed, that they cannot see what is good in their lives, they cannot see beyond themselves. They become victims to whatever has happened to them.
I started to think about this after an interview with a successful woman entrepreneur, who has had her fair share of detours and setbacks. As she said “not every day is going to be great, and we shouldn’t expect it.” Yet, she never doubted that she would be successful. Failure just wasn’t an option.
When we expect to be happy all the time, we are just setting ourselves up to fail; to feel lacking. And we’re not. Taking the good with the bad makes sense. Giving back is also a way to broaden your perspective. As a fellow Brit said, “growing up my mother would say that there’s always someone worse off than you.”
She was right. Volunteering, being generous with your time and resources, helps restore the balance in your life. My father would frequently talk about having a sense of balance, and no, he was not ahead of his time looking at work-life balance, he was referring more to the fact that if you have more, you need to help someone who has less, and even up the opportunities in life.
In looking beyond your own situation, and helping someone worse off than you, it helps take your mind off your own problems, adds perspective and gives you a warm feeling inside that maybe you’ve made a difference.
I have to admit that I don’t spend a lot of time examining my life to determine if I am happy or not. I am too busy living it. I am not unhappy, that I know for sure, as I live a very full and varied life, but I don’t analyze everything.
I find when you overthink things you put a halt on being creative, on taking risks because you can always come up with numerous reasons why not to do something. Sometimes, you just need to go for it. Think positive. Think of the sense of accomplishment, when you succeed.
Perhaps this urgent quest for happiness, is just a distraction, an excuse to feel down, that life has passed you by.
At the end of the day, your life is what you make of it and having the courage to move through, makes you a stronger person.