In my experience, no they don't. If they truly did, they would do something about their circumstances and be happy. But here's what I find more often than not: They want happiness to happen to them, not be something they have to work for. As you can imagine, I've read a lot of personal development (aka "self-help") books over the years and there is a theme that has emerged that isn't really a secret, although many people don't fully embrace it. It's the concept that happiness is a choice.
Invariably whenever I bring this up, people love to argue with me.
- "But what about depression? People don't choose to be depressed."
- "I want to be happy but I'm miserable in my (job / home / marriage / body). If I choose to be happy doesn't that mean that I'm settling?"
- "Whenever I make the choice to be happy, something terrible happens. It's like the universe doesn't want me to be happy."
I could keep going, but I think you get my point. And I'm not arguing that depression doesn't exist. Believe me, I know it's there. I live with it. But you can still get help. Medicine is a wonderful thing. But that's another topic for another time.
You see, there is a strong tendency to resist the urge to embrace the idea that we are in control of our happiness. Why? The reasons vary to be sure, but there are a lot of trends I see including resistance, fear, stubbornness and sometimes downright laziness. We don't want to do the work to be happy. It's easier just to blame someone or something else for our unhappiness.
In my reading and my hunt for keys to achieving happiness, I did learn one thing that really opened my eyes to my quest and what I was hunting for: Happiness is fleeting. It's temporary. It describes a small period of time that is gone (always) much too soon. "Being happy" is a now-thing. It's not a lifestyle or a way of life. It's an emotion that I'm feeling RIGHT NOW. I can't guarantee that I will feel this way tomorrow and it feels pretty elusive at the moment, but there you have it. I'm happy, so I've succeeded right?
Possibly. But I want something more. Don't you?
I'm a firm believer that you get out of life what you put in. If you treat people poorly don't be surprised when you don't have very many close friends to help you when the chips are down. If you're always too busy to help others, don't complain when there is no rescue aid society running to your side. What does this have to do with happiness?
If all I'm looking for is happiness, then I'm basically just looking for highs. I'm looking for the temporary highs that can get me through until my next high. That's what happiness is. It's an emotional high. We're not meant to live in the state constantly. If we were high all the time, we'd lose appreciation for it and search for the next thing up the ladder.
So what are we supposed to do?
How about this: How about we live with JOY.
Joy is so much better than happiness. Joy is both an action and a result. I can be joyous and feel joy. I can show joy to those around me and revel in the everyday moments and I can let that joy wash over me when I least expect it. I figured out a while ago that happiness doesn't last very long and that it has a shelf-life. It gets stale after a while. But when I live with joy, it can go on forever. The only limits I have are the ones I put on it.
Joy can be found in everything. In every conversation, every interaction, every smile. It can even be found in every chore and task. It is everywhere. And it's not hiding from you. You just need to decide to notice it.
Joy is available to everyone who wants it. It doesn't rely on circumstances to align or people to give you permission. It's here and it's ready for you.
And by the way, it's way better than happiness.