We Are Not Born Happy, We Learn and Pursue It
We Are Born Unhappy For Our Own Good
Thomas Jefferson wrote, in the Declaration of Independence, that we are endowed by our Creator certain unalienable rights. Included in those rights is the pursuit of happiness. Clearly, Mr. Jefferson knew that happiness is not merely bestowed upon us. In fact, we are not born happy, but it is our goal and the intent of our Creator. Like any goal, we must learn skills to achieve and pursue it. This post describes our happiness: why we aren’t born happy and how we learn and pursue it.
Imagine what it would be like for a baby to be born happy. A sweet little bundle of joy lying in his/her crib peaceful and content. But wait! How would his mom know when to feed him, change his diaper, or comfort him? His mom wouldn’t know what he needed so she would have to guess. This would create chaos for everyone. The baby could fail to thrive, be overindulged, or be so strictly regimented by his mom’s schedule, he wouldn’t grow to be independent. He wouldn’t learn how to connect with people and develop empathy. His mom would be confused and stressed out from not knowing what to do. Conclusion: If babies were born happy, they would become naturally unhappy.
We Have an Inherent Desire for Happiness
When we are born, we are at a primal level and rely on our instincts for existence. We just know when we need to eat and need to be comforted. And, we know if we don’t eat, we will die. Therefore, we communicate our needs and discomfort through noticeably unhappy behaviors. We cry and fuss. If that doesn’t satisfy our needs, we become even more fearful and angry, so, we scream and thrash about until our needs are satisfied – and we are happy.
Since infants and children have more instincts and emotions than knowledge, their behaviors correlate with what they are feeling. When their circumstances are good, they feel good and they are happier. But, when they have pain or negative experiences, especially ones they’ve never had before, they become afraid and behave accordingly. They fuss and whine until they are reassured and comforted. In essence, they are seeking peace, joy, love, satisfaction, freedom, and contentment, aka happiness.
In order to seek happiness, we must know it exists. Therefore, we have the inherent knowledge that happiness exists. However, we must learn how to experience it and how to get it. But, how many of us got that life lesson?
Happiness Is a State
I’ve had many people tell me they aren’t happy. However, when I ask them what it would be like for them if they were happy, they don’t have a clear answer. Perhaps it’s because many of us weren’t taught what real happiness is. My previous posts define and describe happiness. But, here is an overview.
Happiness is a state in which we choose to live. It’s like where we physically live. Let’s take Michigan where I live. Like all the other states in the USA, there are independent localities within Michigan that collectively make up the state. What happens in one locality doesn’t necessarily affect the other localities, but can impact the state as a whole. No matter what natural or manmade events happen while I’m in Michigan, i.e. tornados, earthquakes, blizzards, etc., it doesn’t change the fact that I am still in Michigan. To leave the state, I must physically cross the border one of two ways. I can choose to cross the border to another state or someone who overpowers me can force me out.
Similarly, there are independent areas that make up the state of happiness. These include joy, peace, love, satisfaction, freedom, and contentment. If something goes wrong in one area, it doesn’t have to affect the other areas. For example, if you have a major loss, you won’t be joyful, but you can still be peaceful. Other examples: You can still be satisfied with your efforts even if you didn’t win a trophy. After having a bad (joyless) day, you can have freedom from guilt if you eat only two cookies instead of the entire package.
More Time in Your Natural State Means Less Time in Happiness
When you’re not happy, you are spending too much time living in fear rather than peace, anger rather than joy, contempt rather than love, shame rather than satisfaction, and guilt rather than contentment. In other words, you’re residing more in your natural state than the state of happiness. If you stay too long in the natural you’ll get sad, depressed, bored, and anxious.
Unlike leaving your physical state, the way you leave happiness is by your own choice. You can choose to cross over to the natural or you can let other people and situations overpower you and push you out into fear, anger, contempt, shame, or guilt. But, only if you say it’s okay.
To Be Happy is an Independent Choice
It is easy to live in our natural state. We’re already there when we wake up every morning. To move out of it, we must have somewhere to go. Therefore, we must decide to be happy. In order to make that decision, we must rouse our conscious mind and launch it into action. When we do this, we awaken our spirit, which is our conscious mind working in harmony with our subconscious knowledge. From our spirit, we set ourselves up to be and stay happy.
The efforts we must do to achieve happiness become our responsibility as we become more consciously independent. We start out depending on others to make us happy. As we mature, we learn how to make choices in relation to our level of independence. It’s our parents’ responsibility to manage this for us. If they use an orderly approach where they give their children age appropriate responsibilities and exposures, the children develop the ability to make more deliberate choices. This brings the children out of their natural state, gets them used to experiencing genuine happiness, and teaches them how to make independent choices that keep them happy.
Parents who didn’t or don’t use this type of approach (usually because they live in the natural) don’t bring their children out of their natural state nor do they show them how to get out.
What We Learned About Happiness
It’s easy to get the wrong lessons about being happy, especially if our parents didn’t learn how. Here’s what many of us learned about happiness — We begin our lives by depending on other people to make us happy. Then, we are shown that celebrations, special occasions, winning trophies, getting what we want, and certain events make us happy. From this, we learn that happiness comes from getting what we want, being indulged, winning competitions, and being in the company of people who are pleased and non-threatening. In other words, we learned that we get happy when our nature gets satisfied and we learned that our circumstances determine our happiness.
We also learned in order to maintain that type of happiness, we must depend on other people to make us happy, we need things to be happy, and we need to make other people happy. These are the very complaints I hear from the people who aren’t happy.
What We Should Know About Happiness
The state of happiness is above nature. It is supernatural and we can only get there if we move beyond nature. Three Men and a Truck or Atlas Van Lines won’t get us there. We can only get there through the one who is super-natural as demonstrated by the story of Jesus and his disciples in the boat. It goes…
A great storm swept over the sea while Jesus and his Disciples were in a boat. The Disciples panicked, but Jesus lay asleep. The Disciples were terrified. Fearing for their lives, they yelled for Jesus to wake up. First, He questioned their faith (asking them why they didn’t stop and think about Him being with them). Then, he calmed the winds. Instantly, they realized the power of Jesus. With that, their fear shifted from the crushing fear of what nature can do to the reverential fear of what God can do. (Mark 4:35-41)
Jesus showed that He is more powerful than nature. So, in order for us to overcome our nature, we need God. We must have faith and practice God’s ways of patience, fortitude (strength and courage), love, peace, forbearance (self-control), kindness, goodness, gentleness. We must follow His rules. But, for those who’ve gotten comfortable in their natural state, this looks boring and scary – like you have to be quiet and submissive.
It might look boring and scary, but it certainly is not. If you are serious about being happy, you must look at the end game. What kind of finish do you want for yourself? How do you want your children to be? What does having joy, peace, love, satisfaction, freedom, and contentment look like in your life?
The state of happiness does not go without excitement, pleasure, and fun. Those are added attractions to an established level of joy and satisfaction. They result in less regrets and happier memories. This is what God wants for us, but we must go after it.
Pursuing happiness can be as challenging as surviving in nature. The customs of nature make us greedy and competitive. Therefore, we’re always wanting something and will do crazy things to get it. It’s easy to be reactive and blame and shame others when we don’t get what we want. It is more difficult to consciously maintain our peace and joy when we are disappointed or when bad things happen. But, these are the challenges that matter. They are the ones that make us better people and allow us to have happier relationships. They help us overcome our nature and make us happy.
Start pursuing your own happiness:
- If you find you blame other people for your unhappiness, stop! Remember, unless you’re an infant or toddler, you’ve outgrown your need for other people to make you happy. Other people can add to your happiness, but you are responsible for acquiring and maintaining it. No one can force you out of happiness unless you say it’s okay.
- Learn to set yourself up to be happy. One way is to start each day with thanksgiving and anticipation. Thank God for a new day and new opportunities.
- Become acquainted with peace and joy.
- Talk how you want to be. Use “joy,” “satisfaction,” “peaceful,” “happy,” and any other word that describes how you want to be as you speak.
Read Essentials to get more tips on how to pursue happiness. Stay tuned for more ways to be happier.