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Maybe Happiness Isn’t So Complicated

Maybe Happiness Isn’t So Complicated

A few days ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a friend about what it takes to be happy.  The conversation convinced me that we often make it more complicated than it needs to be.  Of course, there are sometimes external situations that make the immediate experience of happiness difficult.  But to the extent that we are masters of our own fate, our happiness is largely in our own hands.

The problem – or one of them – is that we sometimes over-think what makes us happy.  Many of us have deeply rooted emotional issues that prevent us from listening to our intuition.  We want to live up to the expectations of our families, for example.  Or perhaps we are afraid of failure.  Whatever the issues are for each of us, they get in the way of our ability to follow our hearts.  In turn, our analytical brains begin working overtime, trying to rectify what we think we should do with our lives with what we authentically want to do.  Suddenly, it feels challenging – if not impossible – to understand what it is that will bring us happiness and satisfaction in life.

In my case, I experienced a period in my twenties in which I was afraid to pursue a career as a writer.  Being a writer is not as safe and predictable a career as, say, going and becoming a dentist.  There is a lot of uncertainty that goes along with being a writer.  So the part of me that was afraid of failure felt that I should pursue a career that was more predictable and “responsible.”  The result was that I spent years analyzing – in painful detail – every career choice I made, trying to find something that was more fulfilling than many more stable career paths would have been for me, but was also more predictable than writing.  Of course it didn’t work.

Finally, I realized that as long as I am making a significant portion of my income from writing – even if I still have a day job – I will probably be quite happy.  It is as simple as that.  Our hearts intuitively know what makes us happy, and all we have to do is listen to them.  Though of course, that can be easier said than done.


Read more: Life, Mental Wellness, Self-Help, Spirit

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.


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12:37AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

thanks for sharing

8:12PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Happiness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

8:04PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

simple,basic thats good

6:17AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

I feel for you, Yolanda J. I have a very hard time with happiness also. When you are feeling low, turn to a friend or family member for comfort. If you have no one, you can email me. I will listen and help the best I can. I care about you. I know where you are coming from and I know what it can be like. But I will be there for you if you will let me. If I can help one person feel better than that will make me happy.

2:55AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Being simple is always the best

3:06PM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Happiness seems so very far away for me. I don't know how to get there a lot of times. My heart hurts and all the cruelty I see around me makes my chest and my heart hurt. My soul is tired of everything going on around me. I just want all the suffering and violence to end.

10:43AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

it does take some courage to figure out what it is that will make you happy and then pursue it. I also tried to go the safer route for a career and found myself miserable. I think I may be able to find a balance like the author of a combination of time spent on my passions (whether paid or unpaid) and time spent working at a "day job".

12:23AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

Happiness is internal. Exterior happiness is short lived.

7:29PM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Writing while also having a day job sounds like a great idea. I too feel that it's important to listen to our hearts and pursue activities that have a strong intrinsic value. Right now I'm getting a little nudge that perhaps I need to do more with the skills I have. It sounds scary but maybe acknowledging this fear is a good step towards achieving a goal. Thank you for the article.

6:30PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Kathy C.

I'm not sure what value hanging onto a relationship has because you don't want to be alone. I would think it's time to move on. Even you said that you regret going back to the marriage after four years of seperation. It sounds like you and your husband have stopped growing as a couple. When growth stops... dysfunction begins. People get attached to the person that used to bring them happiness, even if it was 20 years ago, and they have grown apart, and are different people now. In my opinion, everyone dies alone. I've rather be alone and happy than with someone and miserable. If you are still alive, you have time to not be alone. You are choosing being miserable over being alone! It's really your fear that holds you captive in the relationship. It's your fear of being alone.

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