A few months ago, someone told me, "I just try to be happy every day. I wake up and I tell myself to be happy."
For some reason, that statement really stuck in my mind. Perhaps because it's a phrase I tend to hear over and over again. Everyone is just trying to live a happy life.
Isn't that really what we're all trying to achieve, after all?
Sure, but that made me think.
Is that really the pinnacle of our lives? Is that the highest calling of our existence, to simply live "trying to be happy?"
Don't get me wrong: I think aspiration comes from a genuine, good place. But I can't help but wonder: Is it any good for us?
Is it actually a thought that provokes positive results?
The world seems to have taken on the romanticized, whimsical fantasy that we have to be happy every second of our lives in order for it to be a good one.
But that's simply unrealistic.
We have become addicted to the fantasy of a "good life," in which people, money and things get to decide how happy we are.
Our expectations are to be happy every day. So, when we fall short of that, we believe we have failed ourselves somehow, or that there is something wrong with us.
We marry someone because they make us happy. And when they fail to do so, we decide to call it quits.
We have kids so they can make us happy. And when they inevitably fail to do that, they will learn they are a disappointment and grow up believing it's not OK to be anything but perfect.
Because happiness is not a choice we have, but someone else's responsibility to us... right?
Tell me this then: What happens if your family leaves? What if your wealth and health disintegrate?
What if all that was providing you with your happiness disappeared?
Sometimes, we can't choose what happens to us.
So, for a moment, let's entertain the idea that maybe we shouldn't put our focus toward simply being happy. Instead, focus on living a meaningful life.
A meaningful life doesn't always have to be happy for it to be good.
Why? For one, happiness is a fleeting emotion. It is a feeling, and feelings change often.
They're unreliable when it comes to proving one's happiness. We can laugh a little, smile a little and try to have bounce in our steps. We think just because we LOOK happy, we ARE happy.
But when you are living a meaningful life, you won't need to strive for happiness. It won't be something you will doubt for even a second: You will know you are, whether you're smiling or not.
That kind of happiness is lasting because it does not come from wavering emotions or the extrinsic things we can't control. Instead, it comes through the inner wealth we have created. That itself will be a testament to a life well-lived.
Life is full of ups and downs: happy times, sad times, angry times, confused times, silly times and all the rest. But that's what makes life life: It should be expected.
We should expect to cross difficult obstacles in marriage, and that our kids will someday mess up: It's just real life.
These changing seasons are what help us grow, learn and expand our emotional and physical capacity. We were not born to stay stagnant.
At the end of the day, it's all just a compilation of chapters that make up the book of your life. Just because one chapter was not the best, that doesn't mean it wasn't meaningful.
So, the next time we notice ourselves striving for happiness, let's give ourselves a little grace... a little wiggle room. Let's be OK with not being OK sometimes, and still find the good in the midst of all our troubles.
Because life isn't about trying to be happy. Living a life that's meaningful to you is a truly happy life.