From the moment we can speak, people are already telling us how to achieve happiness. We are told we have to get good grades, get into a good college and get a good job where we 'll spend 40 hours every week working our lives away for a fat paycheck. When did this specific path become the standard for attaining happiness? The minute we stopped taking charge of our own happiness and allowed society to take over.
There are a multitude of ads and commercials that portray pure bliss from simply drinking a coca cola or walking around in that new pair of Gucci heels. These ads have caused our perception of happiness to become skewed. These fake marketing ploys have objectified happiness to the point that we have begun to think that it can only be achieved by buying that brand new iPhone 6. Think I'm wrong?
If you could have anything in the world right now to make you happy, what would it be? The majority of people would say a million dollars, a brand new Lamborgini or a 64 bedroom mansion. Now how you would feel if you were handed that right now? Would you feel like you have finally achieved happiness? Or would you have an overwhelming feeling of joy that slips away once you get bored of whatever it is? If these objects only provide a fleeting moment of gratification, why do we continue to define our happiness through these materialistic fixations?
We do this because society has directly correlated happiness to money. This concept has been carved into our brains in order to keep the economy thriving.
With that in mind, now think of a time when you were really happy.
I mean a time where you were so full of bliss you could feel it in your bones. A time where your heart felt so full and your mind felt so free that you could feel the joy radiating off you. A time where the only concern you had was the pain in your cheeks from not being able to stop smiling.
Was it when you got your big paycheck after working 30 hours of overtime?
Or was it that time that your grandpa took you sailing for the first time and you looked out at the horizon with awe when all you saw was a radiating blue since you couldn't distinguish between the water and the sky.
Or was it the time you stayed up all night with you best friend in order to watch the sunrise but instead you two ended up laying on your bedroom floor laughing at stupid memes because even though you were too tired to move, you couldn't stop laughing long enough to fall asleep.
Or was it the time you and your significant other were supposed to go on a fancy dinner date but ended up missing the exit and driving around for hours singing off-key to "Livin' on a Prayer."
Those moments. Those defining moments are what happiness is. Those moments when you aren't planning every second of your life. When you aren't obsessing over your bills. When you are fully immersed into the present. Those moments when you are LIVING instead of obsessing over how to live better.
This is because happiness is experienced by living. It is an emotion brought about by experiences. It happens when you actively participate in your reality, not when you meticulously plan out every second. It doesn't have a price tag. Happiness is not expensive or calculated.
Psychological studies have shown that extrinsic aspirations such as fame and riches don’t promote happiness, but instead can actually undermine it. On the other hand, it is shown that intrinsic aspirations such as building relationships and having experiences promote well-being.
Now don't go quitting your job in search of endless experiences. This may be a little bit unrealistic in our terms of society but I implore you to focus on the present. Enjoy your experiences. Travel. Love wildly. Make new friends and strengthen old bonds. Explore. Don’t work your life away in order to have the newest trend because, at the end of the day, you're going to look back and smile when you think of that late-night adventure not that brand new Xbox one.
So I ask you again.
If you could have anything you wanted to be happy, what would it be?