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Why the Search for Happiness Keeps Making Us Sad - Chasing Rainbows

chasing rainbows the search for happiness

I have lived with this illusory search for happiness for as long as I can remember. I have captured instances, moments, and clusters of happy, yet nothing that ever stood the test of time. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if happiness is a wild goose chase, something that will always be ten steps ahead of me — like the chicken in the Rocky movies that is just too quick for me to catch. Each time she slips through my fingers, I think about how it makes me so inherently sad. So should I still exert myself and lose every second of the here and now just to chase this chicken?

Happiness means different things to all of us. For some, happiness is a fulfilling career. For others, it’s a contented relationship, the smiling eyes of their children, or just embracing something that fills one’s heart with joy. In truth, no one can give or sell us ‘happy’; happiness is an emotion and a state of being that must come from within. Emotions are fluid, they will come and they will go — so is happiness ever really meant to stick?

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life. ― Albert Camus

Ask most people what they want in life, and many will answer, “I just want to be happy.” We are all on a quest for joy, fulfillment, and soul riches. Perhaps what we’ve been sold about happiness since our childhood days of reading fairy tales with happy endings has twisted and tangled our ideas about what happy actually looks like. Because in those fairy tales and heroic stories, happiness is never now — it is always far away in the future some place, and it always depends on something or someone else.

Is happiness an illusion?

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. — Brené Brown

Perhaps the way we view happiness is where the illusion lies. When it’s away into the future it’s too far off for us to grasp, and when we do it’s too fleeting for us to slow down and savor. It’s too broad as a concept to be able to define and limit to the achievement of any one thing. When we focus our dream of happiness onto a present lack, we are setting ourselves up for sorrow. Happiness comes with no guarantee. It is not something we can fix in place.

When we think of how we measure our happiness, we’re often geared towards massive accomplishments and the blissful rewards they promise. Yet we can find greater meaning and purpose in the smaller, everyday things which the wider, more ambiguous search can sometimes steer us away from. Inwardly, happiness is more simple: it is self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love. Our inner sources of joy should not need external definition.  

The impermanence of happiness

People who postpone happiness are like children who try chasing rainbows in an effort to find the pot of gold at the rainbows end…Your life will never be fulfilled until you are happy here and now. — Ken Keyes Jr.

We don’t need the perfect marriage, the perfect job, or the charm of monetary riches to feel happy, and if we think we do then we are lying to ourselves. Even if we were to attain everything on our list of goals, it would never satisfy our deeper hunger for happiness. These things are all brushed with the strokes of impermanence — to have, but not to hold. We think that we have to work so hard to be happy, yet why should it be such a struggle? It is the struggle itself that fills us with lack, despair and the holes of missing happiness in our hearts.

Anyone looking down on humanity may poke fun at our overwhelming failure at finding an innate state of happiness. We complicate many things, as it’s within human nature to always be battling some kind of inner confusion, like we’re constantly at war with ourselves. True happiness will always seem out of reach as long as we don’t take the time to give it real meaning, purpose, and an invitation into our present reality.

Redefining our vision of happiness

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices — today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. — Kevyn Aucoin

Instead of chasing distorted ideals of happiness based on childhood/adolescent influences or whom and what we see around us, we can seek out how we can belong to ourselves and evolve in our own spiritual sense of what joy is. We can look within and redefine our highest hopes around something less fragile and fleeting than the grandiose accomplishments we’ve fixed our happiness to.

We can focus on what we have right now rather than what we don’t have, we can find happiness in living fully and transcending our limiting beliefs, and we can experience fulfillment when we recognize our own ability to inspire and create it — inside.

We already have the rainbow

I wonder why no one ever told me that the rainbow and the treasure were both within me.  — Gerald Jampolsky

For many of us, happiness has become the gold star award at the end of the road. We look at strangers’ faces in pictures that seem intoxicated with merriment and we want the same for ourselves. Are those faces in pictures real, and what story do they tell? We are already inbuilt with love, meaning and worth. Happiness doesn’t lie in what we have or hold onto. It is who we choose to be right now.

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