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Are You Happy?

"It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere." ~ Agnes Rippler

Happiness is elusive. That is it tends to evade our grasp or pursuit. It is even hard to comprehend or define. Many times in my coaching practice when I ask clients, "What do you want?" or "What's missing?" - the answer comes back, "I want to be happy." To which I might reply, "What would that be like for you?" or "What does that mean to you?" Here is where the stuttering begins.

The dictionary describes happy and happiness in the following ways: lucky, fortunate, prosperous, carefree, a state of well-being and contentment, effective, pleasant, glad, pleased, a dazed irresponsible state (a punch - happy boxer), obsessively quick to do something (trigger-happy) or enthusiastic about something to the point of obsession. No wonder it is hard to define!

Anna Pavlova has stated "When a small child - I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away." We as Americans are forever in pursuit happiness as a part of the American Dream, but the dream keeps changing. If in fact happiness is our main desire in life, then why aren't we more clear about what it means? One reason is we have no idea how many competitive goals we have set up for ourselves that will in no way lead to happiness - even when achieved. These achievements are nice for a while and yet the feeling lingers that something is missing. As the song says, "….looking for love in all the wrong places." Perhaps we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

Happiness won't necessarily be found in money, people, places and careers. It may not even be found in the pursuit of these things. This does not mean that a happy person cannot have all the accouterments of success - he or she can. Happiness, however, is not a RESULT of these symbols of success. It just takes time to recognize and release the lesser goals so you can finally focus on the goal of happiness. Then you will seek happiness where it dwells for you. Many of us find that first we must know ourselves before we know happiness.

It has been said that there is no difference between depression and happiness in that they both come and go, they both have the same process, but not the same content. The major difference is what we DO with them. They both have their gifts and their time and whether we resist the depression or embrace the happiness - both may continue to come and go.

In America, it's almost as if happiness comes inherent in the Bill of Rights and if we aren't smiling we are practically non-democratic. I for one was never taught as a child to be giddy, giggly, and enthusiastic. I was taught to be quiet and reserved ("children are to be seen and not heard" was the message). Yet it seems that strangers have always been attempting to coax a smile from me with such comments as "Let a smile be your umbrella", (which to this day makes me cringe) or much better - "Oh, what a beautiful smile you have", which actually makes me blush and smile even more.

The French live by what they call 'joie de vivre', 'the joy of life' - which is a form of 'Bliss' triggered by the world at large - not by an internal state of contentment, but rather by things outside the person - in others, in nature, in things. The absence of a smile does not necessarily mean a lack of joy. The French don't frown on sulking! To them, happy and sad are not mutually exclusive emotions; glee and gloom can co-exist peacefully. Think of the elusiveness of the Mona Lisa. Is she happy?

Perhaps we have a fixed idea of what APPEARS to be happiness. Some of us may even need to give ourselves permission to define happiness by our own standards and practice happiness in our own way. (Tip # 18 in my booklet "Living Courageously in a Changing World")

Since I am not a "Happiness Expert", I will just take it on faith that God wants me to be happy and if I'm not - then it's my own doing. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they want to be."

Of this I AM certain - happiness is not found in judgment or in comparisons. Complaints about and justifications of why you aren't /can't be happy, what is wrong with life and the people in your life will not bring you happiness. This repeated conversation is what I call 'your story'. Drop the story. When you recognize you are more than your story you are moving toward happiness.

As it says in The Happy Book by Welleran Poltarness, " Sometimes happiness is a simple thing. For no particular reason it rises within us and we smile or turn cartwheels in our gladness." These very words cause ME to smile - a Mona Lisa smile.

Perhaps if we invite happiness into our life, and ask it to 'hang out with us' ….. it CAN be a simple thing.

Copyright,Judy Irving,2002. All rights reserved.

SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE - "Release your attachment to possessions." - ~ Elaine St. James

WHAT'S HAPPENING - Courageous Living: 101 Steps to Authentic Success -

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