“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why is it that we spend so much of our time feeling unhappy? Why do so many people suffer such dissatisfaction with life, forever pursuing happiness, but so rarely actually feeling happy?
If we could float up into the sky, and take a seat on the moon, looking down on our actions, what would we discover about the search for happiness?
We would realize that many of us seem to be doing the same thing, over and over, and are unhappy about the result. Yet, curiously, we continue to act in the same way, expecting the outcome to be different (which is precisely what Einstein defined as insanity).
So many people are searching for happiness, trying to acquire a persistent and long-lasting peace of mind. Yet it remains just out of reach for the majority. At the same time, there are those who live in almost constant happiness and joy. They seem to know the secret of this happiness that so many seek, yet so few actually find.
So, what can we take from all of this? How can we use this observation to make it so that you and I can actually be happy?
Well, if we look closely at the quote by Emerson at the top of this page, it provides us with a clue.
If you spend your time looking for your happiness, you will not find it. I’m sorry, but it will forever elude you. If your focus is on you finding happiness, the universe seems to find a way to keep it from you. Look around and you will see that this is indeed the case.
But, of course, we want happiness. So, is there a better way? What actually works? How can we be happy?
The Actual Key to Happiness
Here is the answer, and do not let the simplicity of it fool you: Stop trying to find happiness and start spending your time in service to others. Then and only then, will happiness come find you.
If we focus on doing good things and being of service to others, happiness follows us where ever we go. If we focus on getting happiness, we are focusing on ourselves. If we turn our attention towards making life better for other people, almost magically, a shift takes place and we genuinely begin to feel happy.
I am not saying you should spend no time on yourself. Absolutely, treat yourself well. However, if your focus is only on buying yourself new clothing, getting a massage, acquiring money, making someone do something for you or getting someone to fall in love with you, the happiness you receive will merely be a short, temporary blip. And soon, the happy feelings you experience will melt away and vanish, leaving you dissatisfied and hungry to search again.
However, something different happens when we are in service to others. If we give our seat to another person, if we help someone feel better about themselves, if we show kindness, give love, support, encouragement and help make life a bit easier for somebody, happiness flows to us in abundance. And it grows and increases. These feelings of happiness do not leave us, they remain and they accumulate in our heart.
The more you give, the more you fill yourself up with joy and happiness.
Then, something just as magical happens. Naturally, what follows is that gratitude begins to well up inside of us.
There are few experiences more joyful than dwelling in a state of gratitude. And, this gratitude makes us feel even happier. And, because we feel so grateful, we are compelled to want to give more. We now strongly want to give because, not only does it enhance the lives of others, but to an even greater degree, it enhances ours.
Then, the beautiful cycle repeats itself, exponentially filling us up with happiness. We have found the path of happiness.
Happiness is a byproduct; it is the result, of giving and of gratitude. And if you look carefully you will see that this is not theory, but is one of the laws of the universe.
And it all begins with serving others, helping others, giving to others.
Taking the First Step
The way to start on this path is so simple, it’s almost ridiculous: spend more time in service to others (and I know life can be busy, but you can certainly find ways to interweave kindness into your life, such as always thanking anyone who does any sort of service for you, no matter how small).
Life in the pursuit of happiness, leads to unhappiness. Life spent in a way that enhances the lives of others, draws happiness to you.
Now know you know how to find happiness: by giving, not by searching.
Again, it is by doing for others, that happiness will come, so don’t simply smile at this and continue on with life as usual. Right now, do something! Take action. Find a way to serve someone else, notice the effect it has, and repeat.
And, fortunately, when you do this, you get the nice bonus of having happiness come find you.