What does it mean for you to be happy?
For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.
It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.
It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.
It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.
We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.
The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.
This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.
Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.
The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.