I was around 16 years old at the time. Depending on who you’d ask I was either a kid, a teenager, or a young adult. It’s a weird age.
But a very important one.
I remember constantly feeling completely sure of myself… and totally confused.
This was an age where I started to have a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. More and more fun every day. I started driving, gained a huge level of freedom, had friends and hung out with them all the time, discovered drugs and alcohol. We thought we were the kings of the world. And we acted that way. I thought I was invincible… not just thought, I felt invincible – like I could do anything. I remember buying my first computer and getting together with my friends and spending endless hours, days, and weekends playing video games, hanging out together, going to the beach, riding dirt bikes. Like a dream, like what you see in the movies of the ideal childhood. Good times.
Oh yeah, those were good times!
Oh yeah, those were good times?
Then why did I start to feel a certain disparity between my inner feelings and my surface feelings? In the moment I was totally engaged in having fun, and having a great time! But in the in-betweens I was kind of down. How can that be?
Until this age, I had been under the impression that fun is synonymous with happiness, that if I was having fun then I would for sure be happy. What I found, though, is that when I increased my fun levels in life, my happiness did not increase with it. (To this day, I’ve found that the only words truly synonymous with happiness are: ‘Pizza’ and ‘Ice cream’)
I was plagued by a question, simple yet too important to ignore… and it wouldn’t go away even if I tried:
What makes me happy?
If having fun is not directly related to personal happiness, then what is?
I would go outside hours at a time, and try to understand myself, the World around me, and my relation to it. I would take specific instances and occurrences, and ask (in a semi-scientific sort of way), did this contribute to my overall happiness… or not? Here are some examples of the types of questions I would think about:
Why is it that spending time with my mom or dad doing the most mundane and boring things (like running errands with them) made me feel better than watching an ‘awesome’ movie by myself?
Why is it that certain personal actions that I took with other people made me overall more or less happy? – treating other people well made me feel better, treating them worse made me feel worse. What is the connection?
Why was time so critical to my happiness? Sometimes when I’m only in the moment I’m happy, and sometimes not? Sometimes when I’m thinking of the future or past I’m happy and sometimes not?
What makes me happy?
Today, as I’m thinking back on those years, I recognize that this was a beginning of a process that led me to be able to define for myself and build for myself a personal definition of happiness. For me, happiness is a relation between personal action/thought and purpose, and the meeting point is my freedom of will.
At any point in my life I choose to be happy, not because happiness is a choice – but because I choose to live my life in that moment either through action, deed, speech, or thought, according to my understood purpose of being (mission statement). For me, happiness is related to the Why I am alive, the Who I am, and the How I can be the most ME that I can be. Happiness is the product of choice (in math, the equation would be: choice of action plus purpose equals happiness).
Today the question is not what makes me happy, but rather:
Am I doing the right things to make me and those around me happy?
Am I a happiness generator for the World?
Do I contribute happiness as much as I can?
Last post I started with a challenge to think about a personal mission statement. This week, let’s take some time to think about what makes each of us happy. Maybe we need to ask ourselves some of the questions as I did when I started this journey.
Let’s try to see if we can’t together make this World this week a little bit of a “Happier” place (now that’s a fun idea!).