Since, thus far, this week has been all about me, I thought I’d talk about a commonly asked philosophical-type question, and then offer my own answer. I hope that my regular lurker/commenter crowd will jump in and comment with their own points of view.
With all the despair, disgust, hatred, murder, suicide, war, hunger, jealousy, etc., etc., in the world, it’s easy to become enamored with the idea that true happiness just does not exist.
We tend to live our lives ever striving and seeking and reaching for the carrots, only to find that the carrot is far out of our reach. Or, if we do get the carrot, we look out onto the horizon and see a juicy, perfectly cooked steak; suddenly that carrot is not quite as appealing as the steak, so we toss it aside and are off and running again.
When we realize how hard it is to get to the steak, we’re back to wishing for the carrot again.
It seems as if we live our lives always searching for greener pastures.
Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of the chase and triumph of success are incredibly motivating. They can drive people to do amazing things.
But they are often not completely fulfilling. It seems that something is missing.
What do you do, when you have a great job making great money…but you know, deep down, that it just isn’t who you really are?
This brings me to my question: What, really, is the “Key to happiness?”
Well, heck. I don’t know. Maybe. Crap…why am I even here? Well, that’s clearly another Twisty Thursday question for another time.
You see, I’m 31 years old. Amazingly, at any age we find ourselves, we tend to think we understand so much more about the world, life, and its great mysteries than we really do. I’d like to think that I’m so very wise, but really my world-view is only as large as my experiences and ability to process what I’ve seen and done.
So, in answering this question, I can only tell you what wise-ish Dr. Pretzel knows right now. However, in 10 or 20 years, my answer will likely have changed. I might read this post then and laugh at just how foolish I was.
So, I’ll try to answer it anyhow, based solely on what I know and who I am right this moment. But the answer I give to you today is only my answer for today. Ask me again next year and we’ll see if the answer has changed.
We are ever-evolving and changing in our quest to find true peace in our hearts. But peace cannot be found in running towards or away. It can only be found in knowing that, even while chasing after a dream or idea, you are right where you ought to be in this very moment.
Today my answer is thus: The key to happiness is living authentically, shamelessly, and as a person of worth RIGHT NOW.
Well, that sounds pretty enough, but what the heck does it mean?
- Living authentically simply means that you don’t censor who you really are and what you really think for anyone. Your actions are truly you, driven by your heart-mind-understanding (shu, for you Confucius fans). This does not mean that you must be hurtful to others, but that you recognize that constant capitulation to the needs and wants of others, even when you’re just trying to make them happy, is hurtful to you.
A side note to living authentically is the understanding that you cannot make others happy if they are not willing to live authentically themselves. In attempting to guide them, you will end up stuck in their orbit of drama and low self worth. Take care with these people.
- Living shamelessly is sort of an off-shoot of living authentically. It means that you make your choices based upon what is authentically and truly you, regardless of the expectations or judgments of others. Wisely, but without fear of vulnerability. Who cares if someone says “no,” or another shuts a door in your face? It means not being afraid of failure, but meeting it head-on, with fervor. It means finding happiness not in what others think you should be, but who you think you ought to be. Shameless people tend to step right on outside the box and find their way, off the beaten path, with a machete.
Think of someone you really admire. It’s likely that the reason you find that person admirable is because they are doing what most people are afraid to do: Living authentically shameless lives. They have accepted who they are and are making their way on their own terms.
- Living as a person of worth is like a beautiful bow on this package, because it’s really not possible to live authentically or shamelessly if you do not consider yourself to be worthy of the actions you are taking. You cannot be “real” and authentic if you are ashamed of who you are, nor can you find worth in yourself if you are inauthentic. They are a triad, each in need of the other to stand with strength. Truly, worthiness is the most important of these three: Making the statement “I am worthy of happiness” and meaning it is the cornerstone of authenticity and shamelessness.
Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries (actually a bowl of cherries for me pretty much sucks, because I’m allergic to the delicious little buggers). We often find ourselves lost down a path that we didn’t even know we chose. We wonder how to escape it, how to go back, how to make it better.
Sometimes we have to accept that we can’t go back. We cannot live in the past and dwell on regrets. We can only get out that machete and, starting now, hack our own paths.
For me, true happiness lies in getting off the beaten path, with my machete, and cutting my own. I know that it is hard work, that I will get bruised, sweaty, and likely end up with poison ivy, but I also know that the path will be mine.
Whatever path you take or make, I hope that you find within yourself the authenticity, shamelessness, and self-worth it will take to make that path your own.
I’d love to hear what you have to say. What is your Key to Happiness? Do you know what it is, or are you still searching? Share with me your own philosophies.