Happiness Explained: It’s a Choice, Not a Destination

Every time I think I’ve mastered the topic of happiness it finds a way to slip through my finger tips. Sometimes it is so elusive, I have my hands clenched around it so tight that it disappears into thin air altogether. The struggle with happiness is that it is not a destination, and the harder we grasp at it, the quicker it escapes us. As soon as we notice it, and try to give it a location, we find it gone with the wind once again.

happiness explained

Happiness is not a destination at all, in fact it is a choice – a mindset, and the lens with which we see the world. Like your favourite Instagram filter, it can be turned on or off in an instant. However, it often takes resiliency to evoke it in the first place.

Regarding the topic of happiness, one of my favourite philosopher’s, Srikumar Rao, says in his famous TedTalk, “There is nothing you have to get, do, or be, in order to be happy.”

But what does this mean? It means that we often build narratives for our inner worlds about happiness. For example:

  • If I land my dream job, then I will be happy.

  • If I graduate with honours, then I will be happy.

  • If I have three healthy kids, then I will be happy.

  • If I lose the weight, then I will be happy.

  • If I buy my own house, then I will be happy.

Whatever you are telling yourself, whatever “if-then” model of the world you keep shrinking into, it is simply not true, and there is research to prove it.

Like most things, the more we have of something, the less happiness we derive from it. The first slice of cake: awesome. The fifth slice: not so good.
— Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute

Meik has researched happiness extensively throughout his life, reminding us that destination-based happiness is in fact destined to fail. Yet, modern society constantly bombards us with messages that say otherwise from advertising campaigns to news channel debacles. This makes training your brain to see the innate happiness in everything very difficult. None of us are immune, unless perhaps you grew up in the forest with no electricity or subjection to the modern world. But you are reading this post, so we know that is not true.

Let me summarize: YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE.

You need to remind yourself of your innate ability to evoke happiness every day to prevent constantly reverting to the way we have all learned to be. We have spent our whole lives learning how to be unhappy, noticing the worst, versus the best in every situation.

I do want to note that while it may be unrealistic to choose happiness when the world seems like it is crumbling down around you, and I am not saying you should force it, you can start to exercise the muscles involved in this neuropsychological process whenever you are ready. Don’t let the hard times stop you indefinitely.

Every single day you choose to exercise your happiness muscles, just like every single day you choose to hit up barre class (or spin, or yoga, or kickboxing, etc.), you are choosing to loosen the grip on searching for happiness and strengthening it as the default setting instead. Rather than looking for the destination that holds happiness, think about the situations that evoke belonging, kindness, trust, health and freedom. This is a more sure-fired way to start the re-programming necessary to live your life with happiness more regularly.