“Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.” - Matthieu Ricard
Being happy in modern times: think you can't afford?
In a consumerist era and culture of sharing, has an envy toward those who have more in your social circle got you chasing after all that shine and glitter, and robbed you of your happiness? If you are not working in sectors where the hype is, do you feel a tad unloved in social settings?
If "money equates success and happiness" is conventional wisdom, what else is there? Do you need to be rich or to experience success first before you can be happy? We live in comfortable times where we expect things to be easy and fast - are there still reasons to struggle and is it possible to be happy despite of them?
We may not be suffering from all the symptoms of "future shock", a perception of "too much change in too short period of time" as predicted by futurist, Alvin Toffler in 1970 but undeniably, growth has accelerated and so have stress and anxiety levels. How may we find sustainable happiness in a rapidly changing world?
Is entitlement the reason Millennials and Gen Z are not content with what their grandparents and parents were happy for? While some are chasing after more money and fancy titles, and some feel threatened or stressed out, there are those who have found empowerment in the new developments and have taken it upon themselves to make a dent and create the future they envisage --- inventing the next disruptive thing; championing social and environmental causes; promoting indie culture etc. What is cause for happiness for Generation Self-actualise?
It is easy to be happy when things are going well but Life does throw us curveballs.
When it does, those who are resilient cope well while those who are not, suffer.
The late Al Siebert wrote in his book, The Survivor Personality that people who are stronger, smarter and more skillful at handling life's difficulties are those who are strong in their 3-dimensions of self - self-esteem, self-confidence & self-concept - which I've come to identify as what constitute the "Happy Psyche" as these are what will help one maintain positivity regardless of situation. (Note: The details of this section are not extracted in its original form from The Survivor Personality but have been modified for the purpose of this site.)
Your overall sense of self-worth or personal value
People with strong self-esteem feel less vulnerable to the negative opinions of others. External points of reference such as job titles and paychecks are not the real source of anyone's self-esteem for if it is, once they are taken away, so does a person's self-esteem. Its real source comes from living in alignment with one's true and best self.
Your faith in your ability to do
It is based on your knowledge of your abilities and strengths, which affects your attitude toward new endeavours and challenges. People with high self-confidence believe in themselves, feel in control and are more optimistic. You can build self-confidence by challenging yourself more.
Your idea about who you are & what you stand for
Most people accept their identities according to what they've been taught or assimilated growing up, without diving deeper into their thoughts, emotions and desires. Having a healthy self-concept involves knowing your personal attributes and being able to accept both the good and the bad. It calls for some degree of self-exploration.
Success & happiness take the same work
Invest in knowing self
People are motivated by a desire to live in accordance with their values and beliefs, and express their personality and talents. These areas govern one's core - they make you, you. Discontent or tension builds up when you keep you suppressed or compromised over long periods of time, which would then undermine your self-esteem and self-concept.
Don't let conventional wisdom or popular opinions tell you who you should be and what you should want. Grant yourself room for exploration, learn from failures; ask deep questions that will reveal your deepest emotions and desires. No one will be happy with what they want, unless what they want is what they should have. Many worked hard for things that will not make them happy for long.
Contemporary society celebrates individuality and diversity and has the capacity for it - we can be united by our differences! It is narrow-minded to think that there are only a few ways in which one can succeed, and to confine success into a narrow highway.
So, go ahead, show the World your unique appeal and skill set, and contribute to the society in your own best way. Only when we respect who we are, protect our core and honour ourselves will we love the person that we are, and would be proud and happy to be us and with what we achieve.
Exercise higher consciousness
Temptations and distractions abound in the modern world, and the faster pace of the outside World calls for higher consciousness of our inner World lest we be dragged along in a semi-conscious state, only to keep losing our footing and stumbling over.
Most people are at best, living semi-consciously - having days running them instead of them running their days, and allowing things to happen to them instead of making things happen for them.
To exercise higher consciousness is to have clarity of self and to align one's intention and purpose accordingly; be able to identify self-sabotaging behaviours and choosing to do what's right, not what's comfortable. In so doing, one feels in control and is able to steadily stride forward in tandem with the rest of the World without losing sense of self and sight of personal goals.
Work for mastery
Work for mastery, not for retirement. Success and happiness comes from mastery. Know what you're good or can be good at and work towards bettering yourself personally and professionally to achieve mastery in self and your chosen vocation. Having this goal and purpose in mind keeps you motivated and anticipating the future. Independent of outcome, the process in achieving mastery brings joy through immersion, satisfaction from progress, and pride for not giving up in the face of difficulties.
Whatever profession you may be in, make time for wonder and curiosity. With a huge open resource both on- and offline, there is little to stop one from learning outside of formal education. Stay curious and keep learning.
As you hold yourself to higher standards and refuse to succumb to mediocrity, you are also raising your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-concept. Nothing gives us more pride and makes us happier than becoming a master of our chosen vocation, through which we contribute to the society. We derive meanings from our lives through giving our best to a cause greater than ourselves.
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