Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: “A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s pretty telling that Eleanor’s response here had nothing to do with money or social status or possessions. Two of her most important requirements are feelings, and the other is the ability to love others. Does that mean that we can be happy without any of the other stuff in life? In theory, yes–it does mean that. There have been plenty of human beings who have rejected the allure of possessions and lived without any at all, and they’ve found a great deal of happiness.
Others, of course, have done the same thing and have been miserable. My guess would be that they became miserable partly because they started to focus on the things they didn’t have–the very things that they rejected–as opposed to the things they did have. I would also guess that the unhappy ones, much as unhappy people everywhere, haven’t been honest with themselves, haven’t given their all to their work, and haven’t made an effort to improve their own ability to love others.
It’s not hard to be happy. We tend to convince ourselves that it is, though, because we want to think that happiness can come without effort, and that we don’t have to work at being happy. Nothing could be further from the truth, though–happiness does take effort, and it does take dedication. We can’t give just a few minutes of effort each day and expect happiness to drop out of the trees onto our heads. We have to continue to put our best efforts into our search for happiness, and that search can lead only inside, where our true selves live, often hidden from the outer world in our efforts to protect it from the dangers of the world.
Questions to consider:
- How much effort do you put into developing your happiness?
- Do you allow your inner self to shine through, or do you try to protect it?
- How hard is it to be completely honest with ourselves?
For further thought:
Happiness? It is an illusion to think that more
comfort means more happiness. Happiness comes
of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply,
to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.