Warm sunshine. Bountiful smiles. Open laughter.
The popularized idea of happiness is free-spirited and effortless; it is less often associated with concentration, hard work or sacrifice. In addition to believing the myth of happiness is a must, we also have this idea that happiness is easy. There is often an odd sense of entitlement and lackadaisicalness that’s assumed with happiness. Many of us have an underlying belief that happiness is something that should exist without any effort on our part.
Myth 3: Happiness is effortless
Happiness is far from effortless. Happiness is intentional choice and work; it’s simple in concept yet more complicated in practice.
It’s a seemingly paradoxical balance of choosing to be happy in the present moment while taking action in the pursuit of happiness in the future.
Happiness in the present moment is a choice.
It takes effort to choose to be happy when there is more to be desired in the imperfection of life.
Choosing to be happy isn’t settling for the status quo; it’s simply accepting that nothing will be 100% perfect—appreciating, showing gratitude for the good and loving the moment for what it is. As mentioned in the first myth of happiness, the choice to be unhappy is also yours, and is sometimes necessary in order to spur change.
Happiness is also linked with a personal sense of growth, meaning and progress.
The second part of the balance is just as important. This is where the intentional work towards the pursuit of future happiness comes in.
Taking action in being true to yourself, listening to your intuition, working on your Art and living a life authentic to your values and beliefs are all tied to meaningful progress.
Meaningful progress increases your satisfaction and personal growth, and it is in that process that happiness occurs.
It’s tempting to continuously strive for the future—never feeling good enough, never feeling complete—which is why the pursuit of future happiness must be balanced with the choice to be happy and appreciative at this very moment.
Because there will always be the next goal, another milestone, an additional improvement.
That’s the beautiful yet sometimes frustrating part of it all: it’s a lifelong process and there is no such thing as being “finished” or having “made it.” All you can do is continue doing the best you can, as long as you’re able.
Anything truly worthwhile takes effort.
Without the effort, the feeling of accomplishment and meaning wouldn’t be as fulfilling; after all, there is a correlation between the amount of effort, accomplishment and resulting happiness.
Intentional effort, a choice in the present moment and action towards meaningful progress for the future, are necessary qualifiers of true happiness once the basic human needs are met.
Those born into lives of privilege and wealth—people who are handed everything plus more they need to survive and thrive—many of them seek the intentionality and effort in their search fill a universal need for meaning and happiness.
Happiness is not meant to be easy.
You are not entitled to happiness as the default setting in your life. Put in the effort, take responsibility and work towards what happiness means to you.