A Moment of Clarity in the Pursuit of Happiness

My eyes squinted, my lips puckered. My palms sweaty and my heartbeat faster. The adrenaline started in my back, tingled my brain, then tickled my toes. It was a moment of clarity: A moment where something obscure suddenly made sense, a moment where the future was laid out for me, waiting for me to realize it. The most recent moment of clarity triggered this blog post.

The realization is that my happiness is something that is in my control to create control, something that I can create for myself and manage. What it means and how it works, are still a little hazy for me, but the idea is there, I feel it in my bones.

I’ve recently started reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a book which analyzes years of research into happiness. Here’s the quote that captures the thesis:

What I “discovered” was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.

The implication being, the quality of your live (and thus, your happiness), is a choice. It’s something that you decide you want, and something you create for yourself.

Here’s another quote from an article I just recently read called Top five regrets of the dying that supported the same argument:

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

Steve Jobs also shared a similar sentiment during his famed Stanford speech:

And since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

I’m trying to internalize this concept and make it a part of who I am. My identity and my thoughts are my own to have, control, and share. Happiness is a mindset for me to create. I find this newfound control over my life comforting since it means I can stop passing the buck and sulking in any form of unhappiness.

A final thought: On average, you have 78 years total to live. The first 18-20 are spent learning, which leaves 58. Spending 2 years doing something you don’t enjoy is a full 3.4% of your life. What are you getting back for that investment? Money? What are you going to do with that money that will be worth the non-refundable 3.4% of your life? An extra room in your house?

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