Being happy. Are you happy? I found that happiness has more to do with being than pursuing.
Perhaps the most profound example of happiness I’ve encountered was on a mission trip to Guatemala. I went with a group from my church to help build homes for mothers and their children. Three women had been abandoned by their husbands and were raising children on their own.
These homes were in the middle of the jungle and were made out of cinder blocks. The floors were not parquet or carpeted with plush frieze. The floors were made of dirt. There were bars installed on the windows to keep out bandits. Even a loaf of bread was worth stealing.
Every day we showed up to the work site and so did the women with their children. We were greeted with enthusiasm and big smiles. While we had an interpreter, we couldn’t communicate through language. We communicated through God’s pure love.
They were proud of their new homes and kept the dirt floors immaculately clean. (I still don’t understand how dirt can be clean, but it can!)
No Happiness from iPads, Fancy Cars or Fancy Homes
The pure joy that radiated from these women and their children was infectious. Their joy did not come from having the latest iPad, 3,000 friends on Facebook (really?), a fancy car, and certainly not a fancy home. Their happiness came from living a simple, God centered life filled with love and gratitude and living in the present moment, one day at a time, even one moment at a time.
In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus is talking about being the Vine. He talks about abiding in him and he abiding in us and abiding in his love. He goes on to say, “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
By definition, joy means the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying. I love this definition from Brother David Steindl-Rast, “Joy is the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”
It is not easy to be filled with joy when you don’t know how you will pay your bills, you receive a negative diagnosis, loved ones are sick and dying or the boss makes unreasonable demands constantly.
It’s Not the Pursuit of Happiness
My blog post title says: Being Happy It is not the Pursuit of Happiness. In the Declaration of Independence one of the most famous lines from Thomas Jefferson is that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In 1776 the definition to pursue something actually meant to practice. It meant to practice something until it became a habit.
Our definition of pursue is to chase after. You can see the difference. When it comes to happiness, we say, “I’ll be happy when, or, I’ll be happy with more – fill in the blank for whatever more is.”
That’s when we need to focus on making happiness a habit.
Whether we are conscious of this or not, our culture and our own beliefs have a great influence on us. We are bombarded with marketing to have the latest and greatest thing that will make us happy. That also involves a lifestyle like having the ultimate career and life partner.
None of these things are bad, but when we put our focus on the pursuit, we missed the true goal of being and being happy right here, right now. Perhaps the apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11&12: I have learned to be content in whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.
4 Happy Habits
If you struggle with happiness or feeling overwhelmed, you might have issues blocking your happiness. Some deprogramming or soul-searching may be in order. Try these action steps to tap into happiness:
- Start each day giving God thanks for three things you are grateful for
2. Before you go to sleep think or write down one or two positive things that were good that day
3. Pay attention to your heart. Your heart is your guidance system. Participate in activities that expand you and not contract you. In other words, participate in activities that make you feel good
4. Practice daily, random acts of kindness, like opening a door for someone or letting someone go in front of you at the checkout counter. You will experience immediate happiness and you’ll make someone else happy too.
Behaviors are habits. As easy as we’ve developed habits that have not served us well, we can develop good habits that do.
It takes about 66 days for consistent actions to become a habit. May happiness become a lifelong habit. That’s why I focus on living life with Joy and Flow. I know I’m working on that habit too! It all starts with a grateful heart.
If critical thoughts steal your happiness. If your view of God or what you believe God’s view of you is out of focus, here’s an eBook and audio book to bring that view into focus called Bringing God’s View Into Focus to Live Life with Joy and Flow. Download it while you can for free.