Last updated October, 2019.
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Happiness is elusive. Or, it might be more accurate to say, consistent happiness is elusive.
We stumble on it now and again, but life is a series of peaks and valleys - it seems any happiness we find is fleeting. Maybe we're looking to the wrong things?
Most of us tend to think that changes to external circumstances will bring us internal happiness (and peace, and contentment). Getting a new job, a new partner, a new "toy" or gadget. Or, moving to a new location. That's what will finally do it!
This thinking is reflected in the old adage represented above:
"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
But, when you reach the other side of the fence, the grass seems to be greener somewhere else. Perhaps even back on the side you originally came from!
By searching for happiness "out there" - in the next promotion or position, the next city or house, the next car, the latest smartphone, the next relationship - you may find some satisfaction, but it never lasts:
And, when the satisfaction disappears, you go back to searching for the next thing to make you happy. It's a vicious cycle which only serves to prove if your happiness depends on something external happening, you will never achieve it.
This bears repeating:
If your happiness depends on something external happening, you will never achieve it.
Because there will always be something else external that needs to happen - it's a trap of the mind!
Your happiness gets lost in "If only...":
But, external circumstances do not produce happiness, they merely trigger it.
By strengthening awareness* of your mind and its activity, you come to see it runs you through a never-ending gauntlet of "If only" scenarios. You see how it constantly promises you that happiness is somewhere just over the horizon, and it will be yours once you achieve "this" or acquire "that."
Awareness also teaches you that the trigger for happiness is something you can control internally. And, once you realize this, the "seeking trap" dies. Your happiness is no longer dependent on something from the shelf in a store (or something you order online), or the approval of another person.
To the contrary, true happiness is cultivated from within, right here and now.
This understanding brings another positive side effect: when external circumstances don't go the way you want, they no longer have the same effect on your internal happiness.
Consider the ocean. The surface may be in turmoil due to storms and rough waves. But, deep down below the surface, it's calm and serene. As you strengthen awareness, the same applies to you - the turmoil on the surface (external circumstances) does not affect the conditions deep down (internal happiness).
Your happiness is within your reach - you just have to quit putting other things between you and it.
*How do you strengthen awareness? Through a consistent meditation practice. We have a free guide here.
Common questions we're asked:
Our 15-day meditation challenge - "Your inner narrative" - answers these questions and more.