All human beings want to be happy. Even in the moments of doubt, when we think that happiness can’t be reached, we don’t quit its pursuit. We all agree that happiness is something we crave for, but we disagree when we try to establish the path(s) to it.
It’s easier for us to say what makes someone unhappy (illness, the death of significant others, the lost of our fortune, the lack of meaning(s) in life, etc.). However, what makes someone happy: a harmonious family, love, fortune, health? If somebody enjoys all these things, can we say for sure that that person is happy?
There are many different ways to finding happiness, here I write about three main human approaches:
1. Achieving happiness through Possessions
We think that acquiring more and more goods we’ll be happier and happier. However, things don’t happen so. The studies show that money doesn’t buy us happiness. Money make a significant difference when they bring us a house, food, a car, but will make a little difference when they buy us a new and bigger house, more and more food, a new and expensive car.
Achieving happiness solely through possessions fail because:
- we get used to new things rapidly and so get bored and even unhappy, yet we have the things we wished;
- acquiring more and more goods means more and more time and effort to make money, so less and less time and energy for recreation, relationships, travels, etc.;
- we always compare our possessions with others’, who usually have more than us, and so we feel unhappy because we see what we don’t have but not what we have;
2. Achieving happiness through Experiences
I must agree that this approach is far more appropriate than first one. Some say that experiences bring us more happiness than our material possessions because they always bring us something very different. Each experience being unique, they can’t be repeated.
I remember here an example that contradicts these things – The Osbournes. They have plenty of new and different experiences (from traveling worldwide to experimenting every new, bizarre and possible human experience) but they always seem to be bored and even unhappy. Why are they so? Why are they so bored even they have plenty of possessions and experiences?
A possible explanation is that even if experiences (places where we travel, new activities, etc.) are always new, they have something that is repeating too (forms, colors, patterns, emotions they trigger, etc.). Therefore, we get used and bored to new experiences as to new possessions. Then we wish more and more new experiences and more and more intensity to make a difference. Nevertheless, as humans we have a limited palette of experiences – earthly experiences, and the intensity of our experiences can’t be raised unlimited, because our human nature can’t bear very high levels of emotional intensity.
3. Achieving happiness through Personal Growth
I think the first approach fail because it seeks happiness in the outside world. The second is more appropriate but encounter problems because of oscillations between outside world and inner world. The third approach I find to be the most appropriate. It means more than seeking happiness in ourselves, it means reaching happiness through ourselves. To reach happiness, we have to develop, grow and build ourselves. In this process of personal development and growth, occurs a very interesting thing: happiness begins to develop and grow in ourselves without focusing on it. Therefore, it becomes a built-in element.
The idea isn’t to search happiness in ourselves but to build it in ourselves. This thing is done not directly (by pursuing it) but indirectly through the process of personal growth. Because of this process, our personality will have happiness built-in.
The new possessions or the new experiences can’t bring us happiness if we remain the same. They can bring us more happiness if we first positively changed ourselves (attitudes, beliefs, values, thoughts, behavior).
Which way do you think is the optimal approach for finding happiness?