Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence.
Happiness is so elusive and momentary that it comes and goes through our lives like the wind. Here one moment, gone the other. How we define happiness is as different as we are. For some happiness is winning the lottery and never worrying about the need for money ever again and for others it’s the joy of watching a child step across the stage to get a college degree. However you define happiness we all know it’s never constant and varies in depth, duration and meaning; and who would want to be happy all the time? Seriously.
If we were happy all the time, it would take away a lot of the reasons for getting up in the morning. If you knew there were only happy moments all day long, it wouldn’t really matter what you did, you would be in that happy space so that nothing could disturb or challenge you. And if you were in that perpetual state, how would anything be special or meaningful? So let’s consider what happiness is versus contentment because that’s where a meaningful life really resides.
Happiness is essentially an end result of some action we’ve taken. For example, by working hard and saving for the down payment on your first home brings a ton of happiness when you close the deal and have the keys in your hands. Or you get that promotion you’ve earned by going the extra mile when your boss needed you and completed a course in your off time to better prepare yourself for future opportunities. Those milestones will fade as you find you have to replace the hot water heater in your first home as well as other responsibilities of home ownership, and that promotion brought its own set of headaches and challenges. But you should feel content that you have a home and a job that you worked hard for, so wouldn’t you rather be content instead?
While happiness is a temporary state of euphoria over some good fortune or outcome in our lives, contentment brings with it far more long lasting peace and well-being. When you think about it, happiness is a thin cloth while contentment is a warm blanket that wraps around you and let’s you feel secure about who you are, what you do and what you value. Being content about your lot in life doesn’t necessarily depend on the ups and down of those endorphin injecting happy moments, although they do happen to us all and certainly are enjoyable and exciting when they occur. Contentment is not about getting more of what you think or been sold that you want, it’s realizing and appreciating what you already have, such as good health, a comfortable place to live, children doing well in school and in life, etc. Remember, it’s not how rich you are; it’s how rich you live.
What happens too often in our lives is that we are so busy seeking the happiness hit we forget how lucky we are to be where we are and have what we have. And it’s true that we often don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. The happiest people are not necessarily those that have everything we associate with being “successful”, it’s the people who make the most of what’s already in their lives and comes their way.What are you content about? Are you stopping to smell the flowers?
(Image from becomingminimalist.com)