The Pursuit of Happiness: Intro

A question that I get asked, and ask myself, quite frequently is:

“What do you want out of life?”

It’s a difficult question to answer. This question, more than any other, haunts me some times. Frequently, I will jolt awake in the middle of the night with this question resonating in my brain. I will stare at the dark ceiling, my mind spinning like a top. I turn it over and look at it from this angle and that. Associated thoughts, ideas, considerations, bounce around in my head with no resolution forthcoming. There are so many options, so many things to see, places to go, things to do. How could one decide?

Though I do not have a solid answer for that ever-important question, I know this much: I want to have a partner I love and cherish, I want to have kids, I want to have a job I love, and I want to be able to experience life while I am alive. To sum it all up, I want to be happy.

Though it’s a simple statement to make, it may not be so simple to achieve. What is happiness in terms of ones life? How does one achieve it?

I will say I feel very blessed that I am alive in a time and place where I have the chance to think about it. Even though the pursuit of happiness is said to be a right, not all get that chance, even in the free world. That I even have the chance to pursue happiness is the most precious gift I could ever receive.

The many experiences I look back on when I think about the question of happiness are always my first clue. Experience in itself is something that is integral in my happiness. New experiences bring new challenges, change, and fuel personal growth. Novelty helps keep things exciting. New achievements, new places, new people, and new challenges all help to stir up life and keep it interesting. I can tell you from experience there is nothing quite as nerve wracking and exhilarating as leaving your comfort zone and going out into the world. To me, it is critical that I continue to seek new experiences.

To steal a quote from a Queens of the Stone Age song, my god is the sun. I am happiest on warm sunny days when I can be outside enjoying the beauty of nature. There is nothing so beautiful as a desert sunrise with its splattering of oranges and pinks. Nothing compares to the way that colors slowly spread across the sky, the dark blues receding to light blue as the salmon pink and the burnt orange advance. All is quiet and still while the battle rages overhead. It is magical, and something I need in my life. I have had to learn the hard way, that location also plays a large role in my happiness.

Throughout my life I have known happiness and joy. One of the things that I immediately identify when I look back is that the people in my life played a very large roll in making those times great. My family, especially my cousins, have been a huge blessing to me and we have had some great times over the years. I have very fond memories of our camping trips to Lake Powel when we were young. Each trip was two weeks of exploring, swimming, boat riding, and laughter. We laid in our sleeping bags and told ghost stories. We built waterways through the sand then hauled buckets of water uphill so we could watch it all run down the myriad of twists and waterfalls. As we got older, these joyous occasions were repeated in various locations from the beach, to the mountains, to our numerous different dwellings. No matter where we went, when we were together, it was almost always a great time.

I have also had many great friends who were not related by blood. I have many great memories of times spent with these individuals. I remember LAN parties with my friend Sean and his brother where we stayed up all night playing various old first person shooter games on our computers. I can recall many days spent hanging out with great people and many nights spent partying with others. There is no doubt in my mind that the people in my life play a huge role in my happiness.

Of course, there are internal things that are important to achieving happiness as well. Mindfulness is a discipline that was brought to my attention through casual readings about Buddhism and my time spent practicing yoga. The idea of focusing on being present in the now, be here in our own lives, is a very powerful tool. Though I have to practice the idea constantly, it has already played a role in my happiness. In many ways, attitude can be the biggest piece of the happiness puzzle. Happiness is often a choice, not a set of experiences or circumstances and mindfulness is something that goes a long way towards maintaining the right attitude and living life to the fullest.

The subject of happiness is much too large for me to explore even a percentage of it in one post. In the coming days I will explore each of these ideas in more depth in their own posts. The subject is one that I find to be very important. It is also something I find very difficult to write about. The difficulty, as my partner pointed out to me, comes largely from the fact that I don’t have the answer to the question of how to achieve happiness. But I will explore it any way and continue to explore it through out my life with the hope that by being aware of it and putting a priority on it, I will achieve that which is my greatest goal; to be happy.

Cover photo by Jay Roeder http://jayroeder.com/2012/11/08/uncategorized/118-the-pursuit/

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