I’m a bit of a nomad. I’m the type of person who craves novelty so much that I get the itch to move as soon as things become too stable or routine. I begin to question if I’m really happy and I wonder if I’m becoming complacent. The usual solution to my problem is to try something new in a different place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed up my things, driven across the country, or flown across an ocean to go to where I’m “supposed” to be.
But as with every situation, the novelty wears off eventually and I am left with those same thoughts. Everything around me has changed, but my internal questions haven’t. I ask myself, “What does it take to be happy — really happy?” And I get confused.
I don’t think I’m the only one who deals with this question in this way. Maybe not everyone moves, but people look for happiness in different places all of the time. Maybe it’s in a relationship or in a job or in the things that they buy. It’s also easy to play the “If Game,” where you imagine that you’d just be happy if this changed or if that changed.
But I’m learning that happiness isn’t a feeling that you get from a situation, your career, your family, or in the things that you acquire. Happiness as a feeling is a humming bird: ever-elusive, fleeting, and ephemeral. It’ll always escape you, always transform before you fully understand it, and you’ll never catch it for keeps.
Let’s face it: happiness is more complex than we could have ever imagined. Because it’s not a feeling, but a choice.
We often imagine happiness as some sort of ride on a unicorn of effortless bliss, but it’s not. Being happy takes effort. It’s the decision to be hopeful, positive, and grateful in any given moment. In theory, that sounds simplistic enough, but in practice, it’s extremely difficult. It’s much easier to be miserable, to commiserate with those around you and to even blame your unhappiness on other people or circumstances beyond your control. But it’s in those moments when you’re filled with doubt, tension, fatigue, and even despair that you get a chance to choose happiness. Of course, that’s when happiness doesn’t look all that enticing anymore.
But that’s what it takes. The answer to that question, “What does it take to be happy — really happy?” is just that: choosing to look around you and not give the negative things more weight than the positive. It’s taking ownership and realizing that no one and nothing else is responsible for how you feel about your life or yourself. It’s up to you.
Happiness will never be something you’ll find outside of yourself. If you want to be happy, you’ve got to be the person to make that choice — even when it’s not easy.
Image Credit: Ashley Campbell / Flickr