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If only it were as easy as 2 + 2

“The key to happiness better be able to fit a thousand locks”

Welcome back to Happiness 101. In last’s weeks article, we began a discussion about what would be taught in a class on happiness. The homework assignment was to comment on what happiness means to you. Among the many excellent comments were also questions posed as to what happiness truly is. Some stated it wasn’t a goal in itself but rather an effect created by living congruently. All in all, it brought me lots of happiness each time I read them.

There was never a doubt that one of the biggest challenges I’d face was that happiness is not a subjective answer. It’s not as simple as 2 + 2. Grading homework would have been very difficult and probably based more on grammar and writing styles rather than content. If there were any answers that would have caused me to mark a lower score those would have been: A) if your idea of happiness included damaging or offending others or 2) if you criticized others about their thoughts on or definitions of happiness.

None of the answers ever suggested that happiness was ever at the expense of anyone else. On the contrary, most seemed to imply that happiness was more easily achieved when you made time to help and uplift others. What also was curiously omitted was the accumulation of wealth. While some mentioned having a good job, it was with the understanding of enjoying it – as a part of a life balance – rather than enlarging one’s own bank account.

Potentially, the definitions of happiness are as vast as the population of the globe. Even though I may not have agreed with a particular view, it was illuminating to see them defend their case for why it was so. The last thing I would ever want to do as a teacher would be to dissuade or discourage a student on such a personal and private concept.

Lesson two would begin with an unexpected twist. What about those times when we are not happy but instead upset, sad, or some other feeling more closely associated with unhappiness? Does that have any significance?

It is nearly impossible to live a life where everything is smooth and no problems exist. While I believe there are those who thrive on challenging situations, others, including myself, would rather avoid those circumstances and seek a non-confrontational approach. However, if we are to grow as human beings, facing these challenges and adversities ought to be expected. Understanding this idea and in some ways embracing it, will help remind us that it’s simply normal to have difficult or troubling times.

I use the word “embracing” not as something to look forward to but rather realizing it’s a normal occurrence. There is nothing wrong with your plan because struggles arise. Wanting to “give up” is a typical reaction for many and having that thought won’t stop you from achieving happiness.

This week’s assignment is: what do you do when you are experiencing those challenging moments? How do you get through them and what helps motivate you toward success. This is also a good lesson in helping others, which as we know by now is an indication you’re on the road to happiness.

My thanks to Jonny McLaren on Unsplash for the photo and I look forward to your thoughts.

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