What is happiness?

I’m not short on ideas, but I’m short on the energy to write about them. I started working on a post in my drafts just now, and just petered out. I’m low on focus at present, but not low on determination. I said I would show up, so here I am.

Today I’m rereading one of my favorite essays by Daisaku Ikeda. It’s called What is Happiness? and it challenges us to remember that true happiness is forged through inner work. Writes Ikeda,

Happiness is not a life without problems, but rather the strength to overcome the problems that come our way. There is no such thing as a problem-free life; difficulties are unavoidable. But how we experience and react to our problems depends on us.

Sometimes I feel stagnant, or catch myself thinking, “I’ll be happy when…” In those moments I check myself and probe to see what it is I’m doing or not doing in my life. Why am I looking for happiness in a time and place that simply don’t exist? What is right in front of me that I can impact today? Have I settled with an attitude of complaint or complacency? What am I staking my happiness on? How can I make the shift to become self-reliant and grateful for the little things that are undoubtedly present, even if difficult to spot at first glance?

True happiness is to be found within, in the state of our hearts. It does not exist on the far side of some distant mountains. It is within you, yourself. However much you try, you can never run away from yourself. And if you are weak, suffering will follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you do not challenge your weaknesses and change yourself from within. Happiness is to be found in the dynamism and energy of your own life as you struggle to overcome one obstacle after another. 

Happiness is an active, not a passive state. Are you actively pursuing your happiness? If not, today is a great day to start. 

Beyond the Bright Side | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

Success is not a matter of accumulating more of this or that; it is not measured in quantity. It means changing the quality of your life. Wealth, power, fame and knowledge alone cannot make you happy, no matter how much of these you acquire. Nor can you take them with you when you die. But by improving the quality of your life you will at last approach true happiness. ~Daisaku Ikeda

But how does one change the quality of life? Lots of guidance encourages us to remain steadfast in difficult times; refuse to give up during challenging circumstances. Some people mistake this kind of rhetoric to mean just look at the bright side. This understanding is inaccurate, or at the very least, incomplete. The better reading is that you should become the bright side. It means build the kind of core, that regardless of your surroundings, you can maintain hope and cheer. Furthermore, actively radiate that cheerful, hopeful state of life in the actions you take to change your surroundings for the better.

Easier said than done.

One way to build this kind of core is through a practice of gratitude. Far from something “hokey” or “mystical,” it’s a grounded practice of being present and appreciating even the slivers of goodness in daily life. This does not mean you don’t notice when things are awry. This does not mean you can only see the glass as half full. But it does mean that even if your glass is half empty, you can be thankful for the half that remains. And as a second step, take action to help make fuller glasses more likely in the future. Anyone can sit back and complain, but how does that improve quality of life?

Developing a solid state of life is not a spectator sport. It’s an act of creation. We witness. We appreciate. We build.