Himani Datar is a Gym Mag sub-committee member. She is the Hony. General Secretary of the Guild of Service.
Have you heard the story of the 80-year-old who was being driven to an old age home? He was very happy, talking about the wonderful time he was going to have there. When he was asked how he could be so happy when he had not even seen the home, he replied, “How does that matter? I have decided to be happy!!”
Every child in play school sings the song, “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands”. When is a person happy? One can never really say. It is a very personal state, as unique as your fingerprint, characterised by a sense of well-being, joy or contentment. When someone is successful or safe or lucky, he feels happy. It brings a smile on your face, a song on your lips or a spring in your step. Happiness is like a gift hamper. Different people put different things into it at different times of their lives. Money, success, family, promotion, goal completion, work-life balance, jewellery, clothes, shoes and what have you – happiness like the rainbow, is a many splendored thing!
Philosophers, from time immemorial have talked about the fundamentals of human happiness – finding pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is the acceptance of a relationship or situation, with a sense of satisfaction, not with resignation. It is a positive emotion and should never stem from the unhappiness or discomfiture of someone else, because happiness is not a zero sum game. Envy and suspicion are the biggest barriers to a happy state. A positive attitude helps a person to count her blessings, hold back complaints and treat others well. Happiness comes from optimism, laced with a sense of reality. As columnist Brian Vaszily says, “If being happy is important to you, try this: instead of regretting all you lack, celebrate all you have got.”
Are you happy about something you have got, are getting or are likely to get? Have you accepted your circumstances and are happy because of or inspite of the conditions of your life? If our happiness has its foundations in the world outside, as it does for most of us, the structure is likely to crumble at the slightest storm. Waiting for someone else to make you happy is the best way to be sad. However if it has its roots within, not even a tornado can topple it. That is why wise men all over the world and over time have advised us to build our abode of happiness within. The realm of happiness is in the mind. As Goldie Hawn rightly said, “The only thing that will make you happy is being happy with who you are.”
Never try to judge someone else’s ‘happy state’. For a workaholic, work is pleasure. For an elderly person, just being healthy is being happy. A teenager needs his friends, a sportsperson needs his game. Being happy may mean karaoke singing for someone, playing cards for someone else and mountain climbing for another. A good book and a hot cup of tea in a cottage atop a hill may be someone’s idea of bliss. Work may mean happiness for Mrs. X whilst ‘anything but work’ may bring happiness for Mr. Y. A source of happiness could be when you look upon a task that you have completed, to the best of your ability. Marketing gurus have elicited some generalisations about what would make the majority happy. These have become standards on which holiday, consumer goods or salary packages are based. Hotels and lounges also offer the ‘Happy Hour’ based on this understanding!
Several successful, good looking or wealthy people are unhappy within despite the fame and fortune that they have found. In the ultimate analysis, it is not the possession or otherwise of material things that guarantees one’s happiness. Success guru Tony Robbins advises us to “manage our state” – to “awaken the giant within”, and enjoy lasting happiness. Happiness in life, he says, is not only about achieving goals. Life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals. How you feel on a consistent basis is what matters.
In a world which is essentially transitory, akin to the Indian concept of ‘maya’, we need to build on our inner strength for long-term peace and equanimity. Happiness is an emotion, which ebbs and flows with time and circumstances. It is inherently ephemeral like the sand castle that we build on the seashore. To quote Helen Keller, “ Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you, shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
A new acquisition, a recognition, an award or an addition of a new member to the team or family – all these are ripples on the sands of time. What finally remains with us, whom we ultimately spend most time with, is just ourselves. That’s the oasis we need to nurture, to turn to at the end of the day and say, “I’m happy to be me!”