Ask those around you what their ultimate goal or ambition is and most will inevitably give the same answer: to be happy.
It’s something that everyone seems to aim for, and yet, nobody can give a specific definition as to what happiness actually is, predominantly because it means something different to each individual. It can’t be measured or compared. I see endless amounts of blog posts about it on a daily basis – where to look for it, how to find it, lists of advice and projects to achieve it. Indeed, I’ve done a number of these sorts of posts myself. I also have no doubt that I could visit my local bookstore or go online and find thousands of books on the same thing. So many of us, myself included, are constantly reflecting on our existence and making a conscious effort to examine the levels of happiness we feel in a specific moment or a period of time in our lives.
Last night I watched Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring Simon Pegg. Admittedly, I had expectations before I even pressed the play button – based on the synopsis of the film I assumed it was about a middle-aged, middle-class bloke who has a mid-life crisis and goes off to find himself.
I suppose, taking the film at face value, it was exactly that – Hector is a successful psychiatrist, but has become increasingly tired of his seemingly perfect life, and decides to travel around the world to research happiness. As he travels, he keeps notes of the thoughts and observations on happiness that he gains from his experiences and the lives of the people he meets along the way.
It’s a story that has been told hundreds of times, in hundreds of ways, but it was the first time in a while that I had watched a film that had left me with a… feeling. It’s difficult to describe what that exact feeling was – euphoria would be the closest thing I could compare it to I suppose – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Why? It all came down to just one sentence, spoken by Christopher Plummer:
We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.
It hit me like a bolt of lightning. After suffering from varying degrees of depression for what seems like forever, a large portion of my time over recent years has involved heavily scrutinising every aspect of my life, and I have made drastic changes in the pursuit of what I believe happiness to be.
And yet, at no point in my analysis did it occur to me to figure out how I feel when I am actually happy.
I started thinking about all of the wonderful things that I have been lucky to experience in life, and while they were all very different, it occurred to me that each had a single commonality: I was happy during each one. I didn’t stop in the middle of any of them to reflect on my level of happiness, or contemplate ideas to make them even better – I lived each moment as it happened and only afterwards realised just how much I had enjoyed it.
Hector made me realise that it’s not about the journey we take to try and find happiness, it’s the happiness that is found in the journey itself. It’s a state of mind that happens during experience. Happiness is not something that can be ‘obtained,’ it just is.
So, I am going to stop consciously examining my levels of happiness, start living a little more instead by doing the things that I enjoy – spending time with people that I care about, developing the blog, running, trying new things, making a difference – and spend less time worrying about things that don’t matter.
What about you? What are your views on happiness?
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Image 1 Credit: Deb Fletcher