Happiness is not about control, contrary to the belief of so many people. We think if only we can control our lives, then we will find happiness. Or perhaps happiness comes from attaining everything we desire in life: A good job, a supportive partner, a loving family. Money, fame, power, success. None of these things really make us happy, though. Happiness comes from within such that if we are unhappy in our current state, chances are that we will be unhappy even with those things that we seek. Old habits die hard, however, and even logically knowing this, it can be difficult to break from our deeply ingrained beliefs. Thus, we find ourselves nonplussed when we have everything that we ever wanted and still somehow feel unsatisfied. What is wrong with us?
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Happiness, like most other important processes of life, cannot be planned. We often come to believe that if we just had an important job, plenty of money, the right relationship, attractive and intelligent kids, and a lovely home, we would be happy. When we attain these goals and still secretly feel depressed, or not quite fulfilled, we immediately ask ourselves, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
We have done all the things that are supposed to bring us happiness, and we don’t feel any better. Where have we gone wrong? We always question ourselves and believe that there is something innately wrong with us. It takes a long time to stop and question the system that taught us that accumulation and control are the vehicles to happiness.”
Society has fooled us into believing the lie that control and consumption lead to happiness. The more we have and the better those things are, the happier we will be. Misfortune doesn’t discriminate based on status or income, though. Similarly, happiness is not based on external factors. It is an intrinsic quality that comes from our own ability to be satisfied and content with our current situation. People who never learn to be happy with what they have today will find that they aren’t happy even when they have an abundance. Things do not make us happy, for we eventually grow accustomed to what we have and it just blends into the background, becoming a part of our regular lives. We can adjust to any level of luxury.
If things won’t make us happy, then perhaps control will. Maybe if everything goes exactly according to plan, if we just get control of our lives and prevent anything from ever going wrong, then we will be happy. Perfection is boring though, and control just means we have to worry about constantly maintaining our grip on the situation. It is exhausting. Even when everything does go our way, we find we are not satisfied. Happiness is fleeting and cannot be held onto forever. It is what makes it so beautiful and special.
Rather than fight to attain and hold onto it, we should learn to appreciate happiness as it comes to us, freely, naturally, in the moment. We can admire it and bask in its beauty without grieving its absence when it leaves, for we know it will return to us again one day. Happiness is a fickle friend. Holding on to it tighter will only drive it further away. Let go, and trust that it will return—for nothing lasts forever, even our unhappiness.