I guess if you asked people what they wanted out of life, apart from a long list of ‘stuff’, many of us would ultimately say ‘I just want to be happy!’
However, I'm also guessing that for many people, happiness might feel just out of reach.
'If only I could .. get married, have a family, win the lottery, have the ideal job, pass my exams, live in a bigger and better house, have huge success and recognition, surround myself with beautiful things, enjoy dream holidays etc etc etc … THEN ... then I’ll be happy!’
Big ambitions sometimes come with unrealistic expectations and the reality might be that being ‘happy’ is often elusive, because once we have attained one goal, we realise that it’s not made us whole, or completely happy, so we look forward to the next thing, or person, or situation which will ensure our ultimate happiness.
Now I'm not saying having dreams and ambitions is unimportant. I actually believe the opposite, I think having dreams and striving for them is vital. Well it is for me anyway. Some of the big dreamers in history have been those who have changed the world. Invented, created and made life better for their communities and the world! If I had not had some big dreams and pushed myself towards them even despite my own insecurities, I would not have done half the things I've managed to do.
But what I'm asking myself today is ... if our dreams and ambitions are just about US and the things we own or have, is that a recipe for happiness? Or might it be more about what we can do for others as well?
This whole idea of Happiness is something that has been occupying my mind recently. What REALLY makes me happy?
I am a ‘glass half full’ person I think – not a ‘glass half empty’ person - more positive then negative. But sometimes I have wondered ... Am I really happy? And, to be more specific, am I JOYFUL?
And is there a difference?
I’ve read lots of really confusing things about the difference between Happiness and Joy.
Some say that 'Happiness' is more about what we do to make ourselves feel more contented and that can be short lived, whereas 'Joy' is deeper than that. It's connected more to your inner self, perhaps even to God, if you're that way inclined. It’s longer lasting, it survives even though the world around you might be falling apart.
As a child I remember being happy, and even joyful. Often.
I remember laughing a lot. Of course, I also remember being sad and insecure, but I remember getting pleasure out of really simple things – like running around on a beach, swimming, playing with my brothers, sitting on a fence looking at pigs, watching the cows coming in for milking. Yes I grew up on a farm!
I suppose at the time I didn’t realise how happy I was. Having ‘fun’ and being happy just seemed natural. I was fortunate to have a great childhood and I don't take it for granted and know I was and am very blessed.
Later, going to university, travelling the world, starting out in my chosen career in journalism and broadcasting, meeting new friends ... although it did bring some challenges and it meant conquering my fears, having new experiences, however scary, it was all exciting and that in itself made me happy.
Things are different these days and as I grow older, I ask myself - am I less 'happy' now? Or is it just different?
And the question I ask myself today is - are the things I do to make myself Happy also giving me Joy?
Well, my idea of fun and happiness has altered. Now a night in front of the TV is fun, or at least relaxing at the end of a long day. And a swim in the ocean and a walk on the beach are simple things, but enough to make me joyful. Yes, really 'joyful', feeling connected to the universe and yes, to God! Because these simple things are not just about having more things materialistically, but just breathing through life, appreciating what I have and the world I inhabit, recognising that there are things I can still do to help improve the world around me and the lives of others.
I honestly find I don't need the rush of 'excitement' as much as I did in the past. Work, ongoing family responsibilities and not forgetting the stress of living through a global pandemic, can make life feel a bit monotonous, and it would be easy just to let these situations overwhelm me. So finding 'joy' in the little things of life is important. Spending time with family members, having a coffee with a friend, feeling the wind in my hair, and that sea swimming I mentioned, which you'll hear more about at another time - it's all 'small stuff' but there's nothing wrong with that.
It doesn't mean I won't stop dreaming, but maybe it'll put my ambitions into some sort of perspective.
Onwards and Upwards in Joy!