The third state on the Meaningful Path is happiness. As a reminder, this series is all about the five meaningful states we seek, also known as the “Five Strivings”, or the “Meaningful Path”. Each post in this short series aims to cover one of these meaningful states to better understand what it is, and to be able to take some time to consider each throughout your week ahead.
If you haven’t seen the series posts up to this point, I recommend you take a look at the three prior ones before continuing, starting with 5 Ways We Strive and Thrive. There is a benefit to allowing time for each one to be considered thoughtfully and in the context of your own life experiences before moving on to the next, so you may want to come back for some review if you choose to go through them together.
Primal Root = Harmony
Up to this point we have explored that the start to the Meaningful Path is through prosocial environments and behavior, and peace. Now, and with those conditions in place, we look at happiness as the third state.
To be truly happy is the heart’s desire for most. Anyone who has considered what it means to be happy is likely to have come across the thought that this is subjective, and that it might be a different bar for each person. That subjectivity is an important consideration when determining what makes each of us truly (and meaningfully) happy. What is common to happiness itself though, is the need for a harmonious foundation.
Think about when, and under what conditions, you experience happiness in your days. Are those times ever affected by a lack of harmony in other areas of life? How discord, or the lack of harmony, can quickly diminish the spaces where we typically find happiness. A political disagreement at a holiday family dinner, financial stress in a marriage, or workplace transitions affecting relaxation at home - these are just a few examples of how the lack of harmony can impact our happiness.
When a person’s life is in harmony that means that there is a contentment with the way things are. There is a Sanskrit word, santosha, that translates to “complete contentment” that is a great help in considering what harmony, and happiness, is and isn’t. Keeping santosha, or contentment in mind, let’s consider what happiness is and is not.
What happiness is…
A true and felt contentment with the way things, other people, and you are. In other words, being accepting of the state of things and people. Happiness is freedom from the strife and conflict that come from being bothered by states and circumstances, and having your mind occupied with desires to see things altered or changed.
When we are happy, we understand that there is a reason and a story for all things, for all people. Being resentful for the way a story has unfolded does not change the story. It burdens the person holding on to the negative thoughts and emotions and those they interact with.
What happiness is not…
While happiness is contentment, it is not complacency. The desire to learn, grow, and evolve is a natural and a healthy desire. Life is a journey and we should never stop working on ourselves; and to make the world better for ourselves and others.
So, an important distinction to make here is that when you read that happiness is accepting of people, things, and us as they/we are, that should not be understood to mean that we don’t want improvement. It just means that the state of things currently is what it is, we should accept that as the case and know that it’s okay. Then, as we seek to improve and evolve, know that this too is a natural and progressive process.
We’ll cover more on growth and improvement in the next post in this Five Strivings series as well. For now, let’s say that…
for happiness, we must be able to be accepting of how things are, even if we seek to improve them.
Think about someone who goes to the gym regularly to work to improve something about their physical health. This person might feel terrible about themselves and the state they are in. Even telling themselves that this is the fuel that they burn to keep going to the gym. Or they may accept that they are who and how they are, while the effort they put in will make them who and how they will be tomorrow.
Is there anything or anyone in your life that you aren’t as accepting as you could be about them as they are – even if improvement is in progress? Maybe even yourself?
Happiness means not requiring things and people to be okay only when they reach their ultimate goals.
It’s natural for us to be continuously improving and evolving. In fact, many of the goals and intentions we have will never be fully met. We’ll progress, and in the process, we may adjust the goals considering the new state of things – of ourselves. It is in that state, when we accept ourselves, others, and things for what they are, and how they are, we find our santosha, our complete contentment, and enjoy happiness as we continue to grow.
With solid footing in prosocial behavior and environments, a strong sense of peace, and a state of happiness, harmony, contentment, and growth, we are well on our way along the meaningful path. Just two more strivings to cover. In the next post we'll dive into Engagement.
See you there!