Friday night I watched 20/20 and the topic was happiness. Not only was the topic interesting there were viewpoints from various researchers, authors and even regular human beings talking about happiness. The myths, what it is, what it isn’t, how to get more of it and even how we can rewire our brain to get happier.
I already do some of the things they suggest: I meditate regularly, focus on the positive, I have the greatest friends, a fantastic husband, and my life calling is doing the work I do as a trainer and speaker. I really have a wonderful life.
I’ve even added some fun things to my life. I’m taking dance lessons (Cha Cha Cha and Salsa) with my favorite dance teacher Alex, a former Russian ballet dancer whom I adore, so this new decision also benefits the relationship area. Yet sometimes I still feel unhappy.
After some reflection I have figured out why most of us have some trouble defining, understanding and most of all “being” happy.
The “pursuit” of happiness is the problem, not happiness itself. We pursue something with a belief that once we get (fill in the blank) THEN we will finally be happy. You get your income up to six figures, then you want a multiple six figures. Then you KNOW you will be happy when you make seven figures. I just used money as an example, the principles apply in all areas of life.
The problem isn’t that we want more or strive after more. The problem is that we believe getting more will equal happiness. In other words, we think closing the gap is the answer but the gap can never be closed.
The Parable of the Island
There is always a gap from where we are to where we want to be. You can imagine it this way: you are in a little boat and you see an island in the distance. The island represents everything you think might make you happy.
You might be 50 miles, 500 miles or 5000 miles away from your island. Instead of enjoying the trip you get frustrated because your boat isn’t as fast as someone else’s (comparison) or because you didn’t take a map (not good at planning,) or because your boat sprung a leak on the way (not enough energy to get there quickly.)
So you work extra hours and instead of enjoying the journey you fight against the current. You keep thinking that once you get to the island you will be happy.
That is an illusion that most of us live. The truth is happiness isn’t found on the island. It’s found in the gap.
The gap is the journey…the present moment. The people in Denmark have discovered the “secret” to happiness. The real secret is to BE present and love the life you have WHILE you are in the gap on the journey from point A to point B. Love your relationships, have fun, find meaning in your work.
The fact is, even if you reach the island you will probably only stay a short while. Another island beckons you and you have to remember that happiness is in the gap.