Short Stories

What We Are Getting Wrong About Happiness (A Short Story)

Riya remembered a song she was taught as a child and suddenly burst out laughing. That drew raised eyebrows and awkward stares from those around her, but she couldn’t care less. The ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’ seemed silly to her now, but it did make the 5-year-old her happy then.

So what had changed over the years?

Was it her understanding of happiness that had changed? Or was it the fact that her happiness was no longer confined to the four walls of a classroom or bedroom?

Riya had forgotten how to be happy or what happiness was in the pursuit of getting what she wanted and achieving her dreams. Now that she thought about it, the things that she had worked so hard for had never made her as happy as she had thought they would. Being loved, having a comfortable life, getting to eat her favorite dishes, exploring new places, trying a new drink; these things gave her more contentment than a big fat paycheque at the end of each month.

In the pursuit of getting what she wanted and achieving her dreams, Riya had forgotten how to be happy or what happiness was.

Aren’t we all like Riya that way? We believe happiness is the key to life. We believe that if we achieve something, something that we feel we deserve, something we work hard for will make us happy. But does it truly do so? The problem stems from our idea of happiness.

For instance, an average person, like Riya, if asked about what they want from life, will tell you that they want to be happy. When in fact, traditionally, the term “happy” was synonymous with good fortune, so the whole idea of happiness hinges on our ‘luck’ or ‘fortune.’

If we analyze the average person’s answer, we will understand that what they mean when they say they want to be ‘happy’ is, in fact, their desire to be at ease or feel good about themselves or even be comfortable. Isn’t it? Think about it.

Ask Sameer, for instance, who is always striving for more. He started at the bottom from being a salesman and is now the brand manager. But if you ask him whether he is happy, he’d say no. He would say he wants more. And in fact, we all do, we all strive for growth, we all want to be at the top.

We all strive for growth, we all want to be at the top.

But our notion of happiness is wrongly attached to this idea of success. We think that pleasure and contentment are the pathways to all of life’s happiness. And that once we acquire this kind of pleasure, we will have all that we want. Is that really so?

But there is more to life than happiness. Take, for instance, Priya, who almost always has a smile on her face. When asked how she manages to be so cheerful all the time, she simply said,

“I’m just grateful for what I have, which for me is enough. I don’t aim to be filthy rich or become famous. There isn’t much I need more than I already have, realistically speaking. So why shouldn’t I be happy?”

Priya’s response brings another important aspect to the fore. That the result of her happiness is that she thinks she has enough.

We are all like Priya in some way or the other, too but unlike her, what we fail to understand is that we all have had our struggles to reach where we are today. However, where we stand today is what we have, at one point in our life, wanted. It is just that, today, where we are, is not always where we want to be tomorrow as well.

But what we fail to realize is that these wants will keep getting bigger and that happiness is not a product of getting what we want. It is, in fact, a byproduct of the challenges and struggles we have to overcome and face to get there.

The happiness will linger only for a while, and then new wants will spring up. This happiness cannot simply be refueled by wishing, wanting, and striving for more all the time. Happiness is fleeting in nature, and therefore, it alone isn’t enough.

Happiness is the state of being content, but we don’t or didn’t evolve to be simply content. There’s a lot more to it, as we repeatedly said. To strive, struggle, and compete is what leads to progress and evolution, and the chapter of happiness starts unfolding. Being happy alone isn’t going to be a reward worthy of wholesome happiness!

In the words of Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

This ‘why’ is what makes our story; for a chef, it is getting that perfect taste in the food and the struggle to reach there, for a businessman, it is the courage, challenge, and uncertainty that comes with taking risks on bringing new ideas and propositions to the ever-transforming market.

The story we live and choosing a certain level of discomfort and suffering to attain deeper fulfillment is the real secret.

In short,

you don’t acquire happiness. You earn it.

And never forget, it isn’t the product but a byproduct. Hence, the idea that some peaceful state of pleasure can be constant although desirable is ill-advised.

The story we live and choosing a certain level of discomfort and suffering for attaining a deeper fulfillment is the real secret.

The life that we lead,
The choices that we make,
The struggles that we go through,
Get us where we want to,
This is our journey; this is our story,
The happiness we get thus is temporary
It is not the product; it is not the end,
It is the byproduct, and in the journey of life, just a bend.

*The characters named in the story are fictional.

Note: This story was originally published on The Naked Truth.

Thank you for reading.


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