Are you still searching for happiness? Really?

In the news this week, in the papers, on social media, there’s plenty to read about happiness: how money doesn’t buy it, how holidays aren’t the answer, how sad it is when happy times end.

Here’s a question: why (and I use the word advisedly) are people searching for it?

If you’re looking for something, it suggests you’ve lost or misplaced it.  Or perhaps you want to learn what it is, in order to understand and experience it.   Here’s the thing: happiness doesn’t work like that.

The book, the Secrets of Being Happy, cites 4 conditions of being happy:

  1.  Accountability – you are responsible for the results you get.  This is not to say that your problems are all your fault, and of course, you may need help along the way, but you need to stop “expecting to be the passive recipient of change.”
  2. Proactivity – decide what you want and go for it.
  3. Sensory Acuity – pay attention without judgement, for example, to your own behaviour; see how you react to what happens around you.  Develop your ability to respond.
  4. Adaptability – change your behaviour and responses so that you don’t become a victim of chance and circumstance.  *

If you’re constantly setting yourself the “when I’ve done/got/experienced/achieved this, I’ll be happy” target, you’re kidding yourself and you’re also missing the point.  Here’s where you need to become accountable.

Happiness can be a feeling of euphoria, of course, when something amazing happens: you pass an exam, you buy your dream car/house/shoes, you become a parent.  Of course, major life events bring great happiness, and there’s nothing wrong with having expectations, hopes, goals to bring you happiness.  Here’s your proactivity.

But please, don’t look for it, because it’s right there in front of you, within you and those around you.  It’s there every day.  Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it’s hiding, sometimes it’s very subtle.  It’s in nature, it’s in giving, it’s in a smile, a kindness, a scent, a taste, a sight, a feeling.  You simply need to tune in to it, now, in the moment. Here’s your sensory acuity and adaptability.   It needn’t be difficult; we’re just not always quite aware enough to appreciate it when it appears.  Self-awareness is key.  Feel the feelings.

While you’re searching for it,  you’re missing it, just as surely as if you were glued to your ever-shouting phone/tablet/PC.  Look out for it, yes.  But don’t waste your time hunting for it.


*Bandler, R and Thomson, G (2001). The Secrets of Being Happy. Marston Gate: I M Press Inc. 41-43.




About Marianna Beckwith