I was visiting with a friend the other day who was expressing some concern about her not very motivated kid. She said, “I can’t tell if he’s happy or not.” It got me to thinking about what it means to be happy and whether we have the courage to examine our own happiness. I know, I know. Happiness is fleeting and all that jazz… But, come on, you’re either happy or you’re not.
I remember growing up in a very conservative church world, the message was pretty clear that happiness was not important. Nobody promised us happy lives. We were to take up our crosses and be miserable, suffering for our faith. Joy, the more “spiritually correct” feeling, was appropriate and sought, but not so much happiness which was thought to be tied mostly to materialism.
Well, I take issue with this. I think happiness is important too. Sure, I acknowledge that we can’t be happy all the time. Sometimes life stinks and happiness seems like a foreign concept. But, I think our happiness is an important measure of how aligned our lives are with our values. I think our happiness (or, perhaps more often lack of happiness) can serve as an important indicator for the need for change.
Now, before anyone gets all upset with me, let me acknowledge that I do believe we can experience joy without being happy. Our joy is tied to our gratitude, and we always have something for which to be grateful – even in the worst circumstances. I believe a daily practice of gratitude is vital and is the birthplace of joy.
But, what I’m talking about here is giving attention to our general state of being. For example, on paper, my life might look to some like a bit of a mess. It isn’t all neat and wrapped up in a pretty package like one might expect of a highly educated almost 41 year old. However, in my heart, I can tell you that even on my worst days, I’m really happy. I’m really happy with my life right now. A few years ago, I was very not happy. In fact, I was pretty miserable, and I needed to make some changes. So, I did. Not all at once. And, not always in the most successful ways. I made some mistakes. I chose poorly on occasion. But, I began to work towards a happier life. And, in many ways, it’s the most important work I’ve ever done.
When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself, Am I happy? Am I really happy? And, if you’re not – why? Why aren’t you happy? Perhaps a shift in perspective is all you really need, but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Maybe it’s time to explore other opportunities or to step out and be brave. What are the values you hold most important? How does where you spend your time and precious resources reflect those values? What small, or maybe big, changes could you make to align your life with your values? What would a happy life look like for you?
See where I’m going here? I believe we’re meant to be happy. I believe we’re called beyond mediocrity and mere existence to full, wholehearted, happy lives. And, I know that perpetual unhappiness has something to tell us.
So, let me ask you a question, Are you happy?