This isn’t the first time I’ve written about happiness as an inside jobs. And with a few years hindsight the idea continues to resonate with me. Having searched for happiness for years, by seeking validation, from products I purchased or pleasing those around me. It took a long time to realise that happiness truly came from the inside. Whilst, yes outside factors can make me happy. If I’m not in the right headspace, it makes it harder to access those feelings of happiness. Or even to accept them as true and authentic. Rather than questioning them. So, once we accept that happiness is an inside job, then what?
For Why Happiness is an Inside Job read here.
Finding the Happiness
At first, it may be hard to pinpoint where our happiness resides. What are the parts or people in our lives where we find that happiness? Sometimes, as it was for me, this may be a process of elimination. I had to live through the people pleasing stage. Spending years trying to be someone I wasn’t. Thinking that the acceptance I’d find therein would make me happy. Then I sought it by accumulation. Believing that investing my money in items that I wanted would set me on the right path. And whilst, the acquisition of something I wanted brought joy, this was often fleeting and shallow. Easy come, easy go. Lastly, I turned to seeking validation from wider society. Attempting to fit myself into various stereotypes. None of which came easily or lasted.
In the end, I found happiness when I began to let go of the expectations I had carried for too long. Outsourcing my happiness was a thankless and fruitless task. Instead I learnt to invest in it by increasing the moments and opportunities which brought me joy. This may seem like common sense. It probably is. But it’s also a lesson we seem to have forgotten. We live in a society where so many of us are in the pursuit of happiness without even knowing what that looks like for us. And instead we allow it to be dictated to us.
My Version of Happy
Perhaps when I mentioned increasing the moments in your life that brought you joy something popped into your head. A memory or idea that gave you that warm glow or feeling of contentment. If so, there’s your clue. Follow the trail. What was it about that experience that made it special? Was it the people you were with? The place you were? How you felt in that moment? Perhaps a sense of achievement, nostalgia or pride? If you’re unsure, ask yourself some questions. Be curious about this moment in time which you associate with happy. And try and narrow down some specifics. It may not be just one thing you’re looking for but the combination of events that led to that moment of happiness.
You may wish to search your memory for moments of happiness if nothing springs to mind. It’s easy to ask ourselves what makes us happy. But it’s not an easy question to answer. Instead, try asking yourself when was I last happy? That might be that much easier. Does anything come to mind? A hint of something? Or perhaps a prompt such as a message saved on your phone, a video or photo? Once you have a memory, narrow down the reason you associate it with happy as suggested above. You can also search out further moments of happiness and try and discern a pattern.
For How to Find Joy Especially When You’re Struggling read here.
Your Happiness Journey
Whatever or wherever you may discover that seed of happiness. Nurture it and let it grow. Ask yourself how you can find more of it. And consider what you may need to let go of in the process. For me, I discovered happiness in the people I never had to second guess. In the joy of travelling and discovering new places. And the simple pleasures that writing affords me and the discovery of a really good book.
Nowadays, whilst perhaps outsourcing it slightly, I find it in the unsuppressed joy my daughter expresses and the delight she takes in the simplest things. She inspires me to try and find some of that for myself. Some of our happiness may reside in big life events. Moments of profound feeling and huge achievements. But don’t forget to find the happiness in the smaller moments too. They’re sometimes more easy to build into your life.
Alongside trying to add those opportunities for happiness into my narrative, there were also expectations and pressures I had to leave behind. Societal expectations which had dictated my idea of happiness weren’t easy to shake. And they can still cause me to question my version of happiness. Or encourage me to pursue something which doesn’t feel authentic or helpful to me.
But I also had to free myself of my people pleasing behaviours too. It’s easy to buy in to the myth of the mutual adoration society. If we love or help someone enough; surely they will reciprocate. Alas, this is not always true. Although I hope we all find someone one or if we’re lucky a few people where we do find this commitment. So, yes. I had to stop trying to be liked. Hoping to find my own value, and therefore happiness, in their estimation of me. And whilst this has been hard and at times gruelling. It has also been incredibly freeing and in that freedom and authenticity I have found happiness.
Do you think happiness is an inside job? Or is it possible to find it in other places? What are your moments when you find happy? As usual, let me know below.