Aiming for Happiness & Missing the Mark
by Matthew Anello
Can you pinpoint the moment when you began your quest for “lasting happiness”? You know, that blissful state of being that all of your relationship building, hard work in your career of choice and personal self development are meant to deliver to you. Most of us are told very early on in life that what’s most important (or at least very important) is to be happy. There are too many deeply engrained examples in our sayings and written history to mention (though “Turn that frown upside down” & “Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness” jump immediately to mind). And, while it’s true that happiness certainly feels good, what if we’re chasing after a dream that’s really a mirage?
What if chasing after the emotional state of happiness is exactly what’s keeping you from experiencing happiness more often? And what if the emotion of happiness isn’t actually meant to be lasting? What if there is a human experience that’s much deeper and more sustainable?
Well, it turns out there is. It’s called being satisfied. You’ll notice I’m not referring to satisfaction solely as an emotion. I’m describing it as a state of being. Satisfaction lasts longer than any given emotion you may be feeling. And this is because the state of being satisfied relies on more than just the emotion of being happy. It requires more because it offers more. More on that a bit later…
Now, I don’t want you to confuse satisfaction with laziness. The idea is not to get to a place where you are no longer striving, growing and evolving and instead are sitting on the couch with a full belly, surveying your domain and all the creature comforts you’ve collected. Quite the opposite. Satisfied living requires your active participation and focused attention and requires you to remain hungry. Hungry for building the kind of life that involves lots of risk and lots of reward. Why? Because being truly satisfied means having left nothing unexplored. Nothing unexamined. Nothing left undone.
So, how do we cultivate satisfaction? Well, I say there are four essential pillars for building a satisfied life. First, we have to pay attention to our bodies. We each only get one and it’s going to be our vehicle for exploring our world for the rest of our lives. This does not mean we need to train like an Olympic athlete or eat only raw, vegan, organic food. It does mean we need to learn how to discern what our body is asking for and what it’s saying no to and shift what needs shifting.
Second, we have to learn how to broaden and deepen our experience of emotion. Unexpressed or not fully expressed emotions are slow poisons that sap the life and energy from our relationships and from our capacity to truly feel love (the emotion that we all yearn for most). Some liken our emotional state to the weather because it’s always changing and is seemingly random. And just as we respond by shifting our behavior depending on the weather, it’s important that we learn how to first express, and then channel, emotional energy to live out it’s purpose of fueling necessary changes to the situations or relationships we are in.
Third, we must develop a healthy respect for our mental power and hone our capacity to separate ourselves from the thoughts that are constantly streaming past our awareness. This involves first becoming aware of, and then developing, our mental muscle for choosing empowering thoughts and letting go of disempowering ones. And, as we learn to direct our focused attention in ways that serve us, we then begin to be able to communicate more fully and clearly with those around us. This gives us access to shifting our life situations with power and grace.
Fourth, we must remember why we’re here. Developing a strong and open relationship with our life’s purpose, revealed to us through our unique skills and obvious to those around us when we combine the intensity of our heart with the focus of our intellect, is critical to developing the kind of deep satisfaction that allows us to bounce back when life knocks us down.
Now, the sequence that you bring your attention to each of these pillars and the intensity with which you engage with each them has everything to do with how quickly and how successfully you move from dissatisfaction to satisfaction in any area of life. Learning your particular sequence and the level of intensity to apply is the subject of my upcoming book. I hope you’ll join me as we work with these pillars over the next few months!