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“But the truth is that the longer I have lived, and the shorter my future, the less pursuing [of happiness] I have done. The point is, in my case, happiness seemed a thing that could not be pursued, only realized and chosen.” —Niall Williams, from her article “Is Anyone Happy Anymore?“, December 21, 2019
To incessantly be in pursuit, by definition, is to be striving for something beyond the present moment, something that has not been attained yet. The mind creates tracks or ruts that it begins to become accustomed to when it comes to how to think as a way to restore energy and focus and enable the ability to have enough energy for new and unexpected events in our daily lives, so we may not realize that we have programmed our mind to constantly be in pursuit, but if you are exhausted, if you wish to catch your breath, if you wish to be happy now (or as we will call it here on TSLL – content), stop pursuing and start choosing to be happy in the moment that you find yourself presently.
Admittedly, making such a shift within our minds will not be initially easy. And, I will admit again that it is easier when there is a solid and comfortable foundation upon which you feel situated in your life, but it is not a requirement.
What is required is for each of us to look around in our lives at this very moment and realize how well all is actually humming along. No, you may not have the relationships you want, but you have the ability to communicate the same language as those you love or wish to love and you have the capacity to learn new and better skills for strengthening or seeking out the relationships that will bolster the quality of your life. No, you may not have the dream job you are aspiring to attain, but you have a job that pays the bills, perhaps not as much as you would like, but it is a step, not a permanent placement, and you can achieve what you are working toward, of that I have no doubt. No, you may not have yet traveled to a dreamed destination or traveled much at all, but you live in a community, a country, in which you do not have to run or find refuge due to the worn-torn situation your culture finds itself. No, you may not feel or be as healthy as you wish to be, but barring any life threatening diagnosis, you have the capacity, the tools at your disposal, to change your daily habits and elevate your health habits.
I share these examples to refute general arguments that are often made as the response to the question “Are you happy?” can sometimes be met with, “If only I had [insert the change you desire here], I would be happy”. There are often, and as we are human, there no doubt will be times, when you utter this phrase either out loud or to yourself, but here’s the trick: focus on what you can control, focus on your mindset, your automatic and unconscious biases and forget about what is outside of you – other people, world events you do not have direct control over, the world economy, etc.. So often, the reason we perceive ourselves to be not happy yet, is because we are focusing on circumstances beyond ourselves – aka happiness – and not focusing on our behaviors, our thought patterns, etc. – aka as the path to contentment.
The culture in the print and social media has chosen as a unit to substitute the term happiness as a synonym for contentment, but they are different (as we have talked about here on the blog before). Contentment is within our control, and so long as we focus on how to cultivate what we have the power to change – our skills, our actions, our words, and most powerfully, our thoughts – contentment will be ours to savor each day. Happiness may arrive in flits and bursts, a little or a lot at a time, but as is shared in the quote below, happiness (for our purposes in today’s post, they are referencing contentment) is not dependent upon anybody else.
“I realized that my journey to happiness wasn’t about anybody else. There was no man that was going to walk into my life and make me happy. I had to be happy. It wasn’t somebody else’s job to love me. I had to love me . . . Doesn’t matter what anybody says, I know who I am and that’s who I have to be and work on being the best person I can be every day.” —Jennifer Lopez, CBS Sunday Morning interview, December 22, 2019
So what will your resolutions be? Okay, maybe you are not creating resolutions, after all you say, isn’t that to pursue something? You have a point, but only to a point. Let’s pursue the knowledge and skills that will enable us to live contentedly. Upon making this shift, we will realize contentment each day, and no longer have to be in pursuit of happiness.
What will my resolutions be? Let me share a few to give you an example of what I mean by focusing on what is in my control:
- Address the Negativity Bias that may be unconscious during hiccups in everyday life in order to elevate what I observe and therefore how I experience the everyday. Read more about a recent discovery by researcher and psychologists on this topic.
- Become knowledgeable and put into practice savvy decor skills to bring to fruition a sanctuary that extends a warm and cozy welcome each and every day.
- Learn, understand and then address unconscious behaviors and bonding patterns learned indirectly regarding healthy or unhealthy relationships of all types (family, friends, romantic, collegial, etc.)
Each one of the above resolutions requires only one person to take action – the person making the resolutions. When we make changes, when we shift how we engage with the world, and therefore who we engage with, our world changes, and we have the opportunity to see the life we had only before seen in our mind’s eye and hoped for longingly. Such changes take time, and often the shift is so subtle that by the time the actual change we desire has taken place, it feels as though it always was that way until we pause and reflect.
However many resolutions you wish to make is up to you, but give yourself a tremendous helping hand, and make sure each of them is within your control wholly. When you do this, the quality of your life will elevate, and no matter how others respond to you, you will be able to sit well, and find peace in your life’s journey.
Here’s to a promising new year, new decade, a new and better way of living each day. The year that is 2020, nice to meet you. Happy to see your arrival and the opportunities you have brought with you.