The purpose of life is to live and be happy.
A mentor and friend to us all at Insight Principles is a man named Sydney Banks. I often listen to his recordings and read (re-read) his books. I recently heard the quote above on a recording I’ve heard many times. Though I’ve listened to it many times before, the sentence struck me in a new way.
“The purpose of life is to be happy.”
Really? What about being productive or helping others? How about being a good person or a good parent? Curing diseases? Saving the world?
I found it hard to accept that I should just be happy. That’s it?
Sydney Banks’ words have prompted many insights in me over the years, so I stopped the recording and reflected. When something he says lands, I typically pause to see if a new idea comes. I’ve learned to simply wait to see if something occurs to me instead of thinking more or trying to figure it out.
I thought for a moment about being happy. I’m generally a happy person so I had many examples to look to. As I reflected I realized that when I’m happy, a host of other qualities show up: I’m energetic, creative, caring, compassionate, responsible. I tend toward generosity without obligation and helpfulness without judgment. My professional work flows easily and I seem to know what to say and do at critical moments.
But what about the tough stuff? The disappointments? The impossible workload? The serious medical diagnosis? Climate change? War? Some people are living through heart-breaking events. Surely we can’t always be happy.
I reviewed the list of traits that accompany my happiness. Wouldn’t these traits be beneficial during tough times? What if, when going through a difficult time, I was able to find moments of happiness? What if all those traits could come online when I need them the most?
On this same recording, Sydney Banks says, “Happiness is your birthright.” When I observe babies and small children, they do seem “born happy”. Where does happiness go as we age and learn and live life?
Sometimes it looks like the tough stuff erodes your happiness. Or, more commonly, that happiness requires certain conditions. When you mistakenly believe this, circumstances, situations, other people can interfere or interrupt happiness. But the mind does not work this way.
It’s not what happens, it’s what you think about what happens that brings or buries happiness.
For example, a recent client was filled with worry when he found out his job was being eliminated. His unease and sense of failure lasted for days. Then in the middle of the night he woke up to a feeling he described as “pure happiness.” He was flooded with ideas about next steps and started his future plan that same morning. He soon was hired by a new company and had the job of his dreams.
As another example, a friend of mine spent a final day with our mutual friend who was dying of cancer. The two of them got to laughing so hard that neither could catch a breath. When my friend learned that our mutual friend passed away the next morning he told me, “I couldn’t stop smiling. I think I smiled through the entire memorial service and to this day whenever I think of him, a smile comes to my face.”
When you fall into the misunderstanding of where your feelings are coming from, not only do you give up the good feeling of happiness, you interfere with all the traits that naturally accompany it. You may give up being your best self.
I am not saying you should always be happy. Because we’re thinkers, ups and downs are a normal part of the human experience. However, at the same time, I am saying you could be happy – no matter the circumstances – that happiness is your nature – that happiness is one thought away.