I overheard a piece of conversation today where one young man asked another “what is happiness for you?” I began to think about that concept – the never ending quest for happiness. It is a common theme of self-improvement articles and books. How to find it, reach it, define it, aspire towards it and how to fake it if all else fails. I liked the question though, the way it was worded. Not what makes you happy but what is happiness.
The nuance is important. “What makes you happy?” implies the source of the happiness is external. It gives the power to outcomes, carries the weight of expectations. It is based on the if/then model. Or it could based on the acquisition of things. It seems to me to be a formula that is doomed to frequently end in disappointment.
“What is happiness to you?” implies the source is based on an internal definition, it is based on one’s own interpretation of events. Its a definition that allows for the mental re-frame of events. If happiness to me is to be in a state of peace, then I can choose to find that feeling no matter what. If happiness is to be surrounded by love, then I choose to put myself in places where that is possible. It changes the concept of happiness from a search to an state of being.
That being said, I’m sure I would be happier right now if my Spartan’s had not lost in the first round!