The Happiness Hypothesis
The next chapter in my life is a book.
I've always wanted to write a book. I just realized that, last month, when I cleared my whole room out and took a really good look at all the copious notes I would write, and leave scattered underneath my bed to collect dust. They were mostly lists, and usually, lists of goals. Since I am an achievement junkie, I often spend time writing lists of the things I most want to get out of my life. Every time I cross something off, there is always something else to take it's place. Yet, the things that keep reappearing on my lists, time after time, are all the important things - the things that scare me the most, and the things that most people believe that I can't achieve (and for some reason, I've let myself be convinced of that too).
"Write a Book" has always been at the top of the list, yet I could never summon the courage to write anything at all. What would I write about? I don't even know. I could write about anything. The question is, what do I want to write about?
I've been thinking about this for years, and I'm closer to the answer than ever before. I know this, because for the first time, ever - in the history of Arianne Francesca Tong - do I feel like I know who I am and what I stand for. I stand for happiness.
Happiness drives us all. We act and wake up every day in order to feel happiness, and if we don't act to feel happy, we hope it happens to us - or we die. I've been studying happiness for a couple months now, and trying to understand what it really means to me, how I understand it, and trying to come to some conclusion about how others understand it. The reason I am intrigued by this subject is because for 10 months, I haven't been able to understand why they've been the happiest months of my life, when so much of the life I was so attached to is missing to me now.
What drove me to figure out my own happiness, was to figure out how I could feel so strong and content, when I ought to feel miserable that my dad is no longer alive to share in the rest of my families most important memories. He left such a big hole in my life, yet I feel more optimistic about life since he has passed. So, how does it happiness work? Well, I haven't figured it ALL out yet, but I'll let you in on just a few Coles Notes from my upcoming book that I (and we all unfortunately) learn the hard way.
1 - Hope is critical to happiness.
Without it we are just starving. Belief drives us to act in ways that are inspired. Having hope is kind of like seeing the end of a movie before you even hit the climax. I think hope is interesting because you can always have it, but it is always strongest (and most critical) when circumstances are at their worst. In the history of hope (will elaborate on examples in the book) some of our greatest accomplishments and social revolutions have been born out of a surplus of hope through tragedy. Alternatively, society has turned for the worst in a deficit of hope. Sadly, tragedy seems to be a big part of inspiring hope, and more specifically action out of sheer desperation. Things will always get worse before they get better in a lot of cases. But the most important thing is that sooner or later, they always get better. Life is tragedy and Comedy. (The more I research this, the more I realize these are things we have always known for centuries but we are in constant need of reminder). I think that society tells a lot about the individual. If we can see hope on a large scale social body, then we can surely see the same kind of patterns in one human body.
2 - Pride in Self is critical for Hope.
People who are happy are happy because they are proud of who they are. Being proud of yourself is simultaneously the ability to be truthful and open with others about who you are, and what you've managed to achieve in life. This ability to recognize the truth in yourself empowers you to continue to achieve, or at least continue to strive towards future goals. Moreover, fear of failure - the antithesis of pride - loses it's ammunition to cripple you before you even start fighting for your life. Being proud of yourself for all the right reasons means you know your worth, and then failure is not even a viable option.
3 - Happiness is practice.
We are often told that happiness is the end of the road - just another goal to cross off the list, and the end of the list of all lists. I once thought that happiness was something I could only have if I accomplished a certain number of critical pieces of the puzzle of life. However, I know that this is not true, at least for me. I have achieved many things in my short life, but not nearly everything I want to achieve, and not even close to the scope of what I want my life to look like in 30 - 50 years if I'm graced with the lucky to live that long. However, I feel genuine happiness every day by merely appreciating the little moments that often go unnoticed in the grand scheme of life. Before my dad died, I never took stock of all the things I was lucky to have, and I never took stock of all the little memories we shared together. After he died (and I'm sure you've done the same in the wake of a great loss), I found myself scrambling to remember things about him, and special moments we had so that I could always remember him in a certain way, and be able to tell my hypothetical future husband & children about my dad, so they could have an idea who this great big part of me was, who they'll unfortunately never meet. When you feel unhappy and lost, you really appreciate the small moments of happiness more than the average person. The mistake that average people make is that they care too much about things that don't matter, and ignore the opportunities for simple joys, like when a stranger assists you when it wasn't necessary, or vice versa. Happiness is not the end of a road, it is a lifestyle. You choose to be happy and you work for it like you work for everything else in life. Your work is going out into the world every day and being authentic, knowing how to pick your battles (priorities), and always remembering how lucky you are. If you don't have a reason, make one up and start from scratch. If happiness is, indeed, a goal, it is achieved by everyday practice - and made up of a collection of moments that create something much larger. Instead of waiting for something dramatic and life changing, happy people take everyday as an opportunity to create their own happiness by living well with others and never forgetting to love themselves. I think great people are happy people, and those people inspire hope in others, and that's how we get to be a better society of human beings.
It's just a hypothesis for now. Keep you posted.