What are the conditions necessary for happiness to flourish in your life? As we’ve considered, happiness comes not as a result of the perfect arrangement of things, people or circumstances, instead, happiness comes as you unselfishly dedicate your life to true purpose. Most see it as the sweet flavor of the carrot on the stick, but what they find if they do manage to catch a bite is not happiness, but temporary content or fleeting pleasure.
Happiness is not something you will find outside of you, it emerges from within you in relation to the world you center. It grows abundantly in soil that is conditioned with generosity and appreciation; it withers in soil polluted by selfishness and disdain. It is at once delicate in nature, in its germination and richly nourishing to you and those around you once it flowers through your living.
“Happiness represents a peaceful attunement of a life with a standard of living. It can never be made by the individual, by himself, for himself. It is one of the incidental by-products of an unselfish life. No man can make his own happiness the one object of his life and attain it, any more than he can jump on the far end of his shadow. If you would hit the bull’s-eye of happiness on the target of life, aim above it. Place other things higher than your own happiness and it will surely come to you. You can buy pleasure, you can acquire content, you can become satisfied, – but Nature never put real happiness on the bargain-counter. It is the undetachable accompaniment of true living. It is calm and peaceful; it never lives in an atmosphere of worry or of hopeless struggle.” ~ William George Jordan
9 thoughts on “Royal Road to Happiness IV”
Wow, does that fly in the face of a multitude of books, programs and advice – that we can’t make our own happiness! It makes perfect sense though as most who try end up finding it an elusive target. I love the instruction to aim above it and to live an unselfish life, the byproduct being true happiness.
It is wondeful to know that happiness can’t be purchased, it is a priceless possession that we all have access to. Just as it can’t be purchased, noone outside of ourselves can steal this priceless treasure, it is always with us if we tend to the soil properly and nurture the environment around this priceless treasure. Thank you.
I’ve continued to give thought to the idea that only when our true needs are recognized and our pleasures brought into harmony with these true needs, that this can be the only way towards this internal state of happiness. At this point you are free to enjoy the normal arrivals and departures of places, things, people and experiences that we all love and are part of a good life. In my own experience, this was a tough one to learn, because it’s pretty much opposite of the typical way of looking at life and how we are educated, where we revere pleasure (think all the attention on food marketing) and even our sciences tell us that reward seeking behaviors are regulated through a hierarchy of biochemical cascades that are designed to keep us alive, and behavior is governed by these neural networks. In other words, you are hardwired to seek pleasure because it is part of the evolutionary pressure aimed towards survival. It’s good because it makes you feel good.
I have no doubt of the mechanics of our biology, however, what we interpret to be the reality from this can lead to whole different paradigms. This paradigm you have been talking about has to do with another variable – individual purpose – and thus, it demands acceptance of some higher nature in ourselves because a purpose has to have some kind of intention behind it.
I know I have only been truly happy when I have been living in accordance to my highest aspirations at the time. I can look back and see where I have been miserable when this has not been the case. I could try to extract pleasure during these times and would always find myself empty-hearted/minded/handed, the cycle never quite ending until something made me snap out of this self-indulgence. I can see that now, quite clearly.
I am with all that aims to move into this, what I feel to be, nobler paradigm. Something’s got to change today, and this seems the make a heck of alot of sense to me. Appreciate your work —
To understand the simple truth you outline here would save so much misplaced and wasted effort. Happiness is not a goal or a destination – it is the inevitable by product of purposeful, generous, and appreciative living. Love your posts because they are at once so beautiful and so practical, a great combination!
I can really identify with what Jordan said about aiming above the bullseye of happiness. It really makes sense. In fact, it is the only reasonable answer to finding happiness. It is pretty clear through the anecdotal experience of people that chasing happiness is not a solution that works very well. Some people say that aiming below the bullseye works. This might make you feel like life is easier, and it might make you more content, but it won’t make you happier.
When you get the “below the bullseye” advice, it is usually in the package of good and bad advice mixed. Something like “you need to relax”, or “you need to get out of the corporate grind and do what makes you happy”. Well, when you relax, or when you get out of the corporate grind, is it going to allow you to help more people, or is it just so you can relieve some of the stress in your life? What is your motivation for doing it? Sometimes what seems like someone telling you to aim for less just means to focus on a more immediate step in your progress.
But aiming above the bullseye, as Jordan recommends, is really the best idea. It incorporates even the advice that people give that seems to say “aim lower”, because if you are aiming for your best, you must do the surrounding things in your life that support that.
I think the main point here is that if you want to find happiness, just forget about being happy yourself, and worry about how you can be the best person you can be, and how you can assist others to be the best people they can be, as well.
Great analysis, Colin. Thanks!
Great point to aim above happiness. I think maybe Solomon hit the mark there, he asked for an understanding heart. That would seem to cover every attribute necessary to prepare the atmosphere of our lives, to meet what ever the future holds, and add value to it.
The simplicity in Mr. Jordan’s writings is startling to me. He makes his points clear and his vision seems attainable. The only structure I can see that everyone would have to adhere to is getting to know yourself well enough to discover your purpose on this Earth, at this time.
I am thoroughly enjoying this series with your commentary, thanks.
My pleasure. I agree!
Such an excellent summary! Happiness is the natural surround of an integrated state – integration with the unfolding cycles you described and integration with other people and a wide range of activity. No one can make himself or herself integrated, and yet it is the core of a natural state when it is allowed to manifest, and it is the heart of fulfillment.
Ultimately no part of the whole has genuine meaning outside of the whole, regardless of potential, effort or imagination. There is a unique place and a significant part for each one, but the spirit of the whole must be primary in all things if happiness – the sense of belonging in the whole – is to be known.