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My Pursuit Of Happiness And The Changing Definition Of What It Means To Be Happy

by on February 22, 2012

in Adam, Happiness, Inspiration

When I was in Bogota, my friends would introduce me by saying that I’m on a round the world trip in search of happiness. That’s both right and wrong at the same time, but it really made me think where I am now in terms of my “pursuit of happiness.”

happiness plunge making the decision to be happyThe image to the left is the motto of my site as seen in the top-left corner of the site. I came up with it last year while still in Denmark when The Happy Nomad Tour was still very much a seed starting to sprout.

Back then it was easy to say that happiness is a decision. It made sense. You have to take control and ownership of your happiness the way you might over your career or finances or any other area of your life. Many people are reactive toward happiness instead of proactive. All logical.

But as you can imagine, as time has gone on my perceptions and views about life, happiness, and everything have changed. My views continue to change. My life full of experiences constantly provokes thought and makes me question what I accept as true and known.

What Happiness Used To Mean To Me

What Happiness Used To Mean To Me

What Happiness Used To Mean To Me

Sitting in my apartment in Brande, Denmark a year ago, I thought all I had to do to be happy was pursue a life based on my passions. I would never grow tired or bored of a life of bountiful stimulation.

I can confirm that the premise is true. Living a life based on your passions can decrease or eliminate dissatisfaction with life. But happiness, as I’ve learned, is a completely different animal.

What Happiness Means To Me Now

I now see happiness as something different. Very different.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve become a more spiritual person, but I think happiness now is rooted in being more aware and in touch with yourself.

Happiness is accepting what is. There is so much in life we can’t control, yet we often let the uncontrollable control our mood, psyche, and attitude. Go with the flow.

Happiness comes from within. You’ve probably heard that before, and I guess that’s partly why I said before that happiness is a decision. But just as we are capable of infinite love, so are we capable of infinite happiness.

If you exist solely to pay debts, consume, and daily get one step closer to death, that then life is probably unfulfilling and you won’t feel very happy. But if you have a purpose and constantly challenge yourself to achieve inner peace and harmony you’ll be living a better life with each passing day.

But in a phrase, happiness is knowing yourself, being in touch with yourself, and accepting/loving yourself. And I think I was close to figuring this out before the trip. In the end, the Happiness Plunge process I outlined in my e-book focuses almost entirely on understanding yourself better so you can figure out your plunge and then dive in.

Is Happiness Enlightenment?

I now wonder if what is commonly called enlightenment is really happiness. To me, enlightenment is a state of permanent bliss where you are in harmony with yourself and with your surroundings. You have a shield that only lets in goodness and keeps out negativity and no effort is required on your part for this to happen.

In this way, I see happiness as a stepping stone to enlightenment. You can’t achieve enlightenment without being happy. You can’t achieve happiness without being balanced, in harmony, and in tune with yourself.

Nevertheless, when starting from scratch, happiness is probably 80% of the way toward enlightenment since it requires so much work, deprogramming, and attitude change.

So Where Am I?

Happiness Is Temporary Sign

Happiness Is Temporary Sign

The bus station in Medellin, Colombia! Ok, bad joke. But I really am here now.

I am certainly not enlightened. Am I happy? Using the definition above, no. I am still working on achieving harmony inside myself.

But compared to my previous life, I am infinitely happier. I feel much more in touch with nature and my fellow human beings in a way I wasn’t before. I find myself rarely tired despite never having ideal sleeping conditions. I find myself ready for new adventures, never nervous or anxious, and full of smiles and positivity.

According to society, I am now happy. But again, I question the status quo and constantly challenge myself. Though I’ve already achieved a level of happiness I’m not sure I could have achieved in my previous life, I want to keep on developing myself and striving toward enlightenment.

The Secret

Here is the secret though. I left my old, unsatisfying life and the steps I’ve taken since then have definitely put me on a much healthier and happier life.

However… the secret to happiness is, as I said, acceptance. So often people think that if only one particular thing were true, then they would be happy. It’s how the whole field of marketing works. They prey on these insecurities to get you to buy stuff.

Armed with acceptance, you can be happy in any situation. 

Before I started this trip I had the hypothesis that poor people are happier than people in wealthy countries. Although this is an oversimplification, I would say that generally this is true. When you are born poor and know you will die poor you accept it and focus on the things in life you enjoy and value – like family or music or dancing, etc.

Contrast that with the American Dream, which is rooted in the idea that one need not accept his or her economic reality. It can always be improved through hard work and focus. And thus, you can see how it’s possible to enrich yourself financially and slip deeper and deeper into happiness-poverty.

I’m in no place to judge what is best and where one’s attention is best placed. It’s a complicated world we live in and to each his own. Despite being raised and educated to focus on money, I find the pursuit of happiness (and enlightenment) far more gratifying and rewarding than the pursuit of wealth.

About Adam Pervez

In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.

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