Sometimes, to some people, happiness happens by luck. For others, for most, it needs planning. Management. But it needs to happen in the now, because it is a feeling, a state of being. I can remember being happy at another time in my life, or I may expect to be happy when something happens, but for happiness to be real it has to happen now.
I think this because in our positions there is always a temptation to think that when our child has caught up we will be happier. When something else happens we will be in more of a similar position to others around us – compare and despair. Sometimes social media can be a dangerous thing as well as a liberating innovation. But life is now, experienced in the moment, and so we have to make sure we are happy now.
If a magic formula exists for happiness, I don’t have it. I have a few pre-conceived ideas of what makes it if I’m not to trust to luck – achievement, moving towards goals, discipline. But these aren’t happiness in themselves. They are the cogs of contentedness. But in them all put together there can be found the overall sense of well-being which I would describe as happiness.
Discipline is where it starts. Doing the right things every day to move me to where I want to be. In relation to my daughter, it’s having a long term goal and short term objectives – as Andy describes in this week’s podcast Long Term Goals Built On Small Steps. That means having a plan for where she is heading. A vision of how our family will function in one year, three years, five years from now.
But while the feeling of movement is important, it’s not the achievement that matters. It’s the achieving even the smallest goals. The sense that we are moving forward and, with each day, things are getting easier. If we pin achievement to happiness we are bound to fail. However, if we pin a sense of progress to achievement we can have the feeling that life is getting better. And for me when I feel life is getting better, I can feel a sense of happiness in the now, for today is the day that I’m having that feeling.
So how do we get this? For me it’s setting goals. Maybe very small goals, like we have in the past for our daughter. Getting dressed by herself might not seem much, but in the days when it was hard for her it was a goal that needed to be overcome. Andy talked about breakfast in his podcast, and for our daughter to get her own breakfast was another goal. And with these it wasn’t the achieving them that morning that was a source of joy, but the feeling that she is getting better and would be able to do them one day totally independently and I must admit I’m very happy that is exactly what has happened in our house.
As the goals get achieved, the new goals get slightly bigger. We don’t have walking to school on her own on the horizon, but it is a three year goal. As a part of that, as we walk now, she says when we should cross the road. Each day she gets slightly better. Each day we get the feeling that we are moving forward. Each day we have to take the small victories.
In the small victories are happiness. I’m not saying winning the lotto wouldn’t put a smile on my face, but I don’t think it can make me happy in the same way as a feeling from within. And that feeling can only come about, for me, through discipline. If I have discipline I move towards my goals just one little bit each day, and then I feel happy. Achievement of a goal does also make me feel happy, but it is the progress towards the goal that’s important, otherwise I’m saying that happiness can only happen in the future, defined by whether a target is met or not. And then what happens, I can’t be happy for weeks or months until another target is met? No, for me happiness is in the feeling of moving forward. Happiness is in the now.