It’s easier to know what we want out of life than it is to truly know who we are. All we have to do is watch television, see a movie, listen to the radio or a podcast, hang around on social media, go to school, go to work, or even go to the store to get the impression that people have certain things that we should also have. And that if we had those things, we would be happy.
And Happiness Doesn’t Work That Way
Sure, we may experience a brief period of time where obtaining a certain item will make us happy, but it doesn’t last. We want more. We need more. And, for the record, I am not referencing having enough money to keep the lights on, the water running, food in the house, and a roof over your head. I am not talking about the basic necessities. For a very long time, my idea of happiness and joy were meeting those needs for myself and my family.
We are raised in a society where setting goals is a normal course of action. To some degree, it should be. We should know what we want out of life. Even those of us raised by people who didn’t believe we could accomplish anything must learn to set goals and fulfill them.
The problem comes with thinking that having things is the only way that we can be happy. We all know that happiness related to things we buy and achieving our goals just doesn’t last. If it did, we wouldn’t be the Prozac generation. We wouldn’t be a generation that looks for solace through drugs and alcohol. We wouldn’t be a generation that tramples each other the day after Thanksgiving for something on sale. We’d all be happy.
Happiness Comes from Who We Are
Happiness doesn’t come from things (and I do not dispute that having certain things can make life easier). It comes from who we are. And who we are is a much more complicated matter.
Parceling Out the Self
We are all different things to different people. I’m a mom to some. I’m an aunt to some. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a cousin. I am a neighbor. I am a content expert. I am someone living the dream as a writer who works from home. I am a friend. I am an enemy. I am a lot of things, and those things depend on the other person. Yet, none of those assignments actually represent me. We all parcel out who we are depending on what is needed of us. In practically every capacity, we simply aren’t our total and true selves. Instead, we work to fulfill a role. And that role may be fully necessary.
Do You Know Who You Want to Be?
The key to happiness isn’t in the money we earn (although money is vital). It isn’t about our accomplishments (although those can certainly make us admired as well as make us feel good). It isn’t about the things we own (most people live paycheck to paycheck and a job loss or an unexpected serious medical condition would bankrupt them).
The key to happiness is knowing who we are and living up to our own values. It’s not found in forcing our values onto others and finding a reason to complain when they don’t rise up to our expectations. It’s an inside job.
You know what you want in life. You know what you want to do. You know the things you’d like to own. You know what you want others to think about you. But…do you know who you want to be? Do you know your own values?
Exploration of self, identifying your values, and living up to them is the only way you will attain true happiness. It isn’t found in some story of a god. It isn’t found in what someone else does for you or what you can do for them. It isn’t found in what the government can do for you. Happiness is only found when you know who want to be and start living out those ideals every day.