Happiness isn’t a pursuit. You don’t Get Happy, you Be Happy. Happiness exists in what you do and who you are, not in what you’re chasing or who you want to be. Thus, the importance of doing what makes you happy, and being a man you’re proud to be.
If you relegate happiness to a place that can only occur in your future, you’ll be hit with the terrifying reality further on down the road, that no matter what you accomplish in life, you’re always going to want more. That’s the nature of man, the nature of the ambitious, and something we shouldn’t avoid, but rather shift.
Alas, I feel like somewhat of a fraud as I tell you that happiness isn’t a pursuit because it’s something I’ve been pursuing my entire life.
My Struggle With Happiness
Happiness, to me, was always something that I pursued along with my goals. It was my goals, dreams, and ambitions that would make me happy. That’s how I’ve always thought, at least up until the last couple of years. What’s odd is that I’ve always been a happy guy, but as soon as I thought about happiness, I wasn’t.
I let my dreams keep me awake at night. I worried about whether or not I’d succeed instead of just working my ass off and allowing my hard work to bring me peace.
That’s the catch with ambition. Ambition, as we’re told growing up, is your burning desire to accomplish something great. Ambition is, and should be, praised and encouraged. But it should also be understood.
Steven Pressfield, that author whose work I recommend, applaud, read in awe, and with a tad sprinkle of jealousy, has given the best definition of ambition I’ve come across.
And Pressfield’s ability to write isn’t an innate gift. If you’ve read any of his work you’ll know that his work is, indeed, work. He’s given his 10,000 hours, and then some, to his craft. Which is also a part of what draws so many young artists and entrepreneurs to his books. He’s real. He’s worked hard to get where he is, and he glorifies not ease or talent, but discipline and hard work.
And so as I worried about whether or not I would succeed, or if I would win my fight, grow my business, or end up where I want to end up, I moved further away from my definition of happiness. I created a happiness that could only exist in a different world that had not yet come in to existence.
Here’s the thing, even if I did win my fight, play well in a basketball game, reach a milestone with my business, or pick up a beautiful young lady and take her on a glorious date that would make Casanova role in his grave with envy, that accomplishment wouldn’t bring my “final happiness”. The bar would be once again, raised.
Ambition dictates that you’re always moving forward. Actually, being a man dictates the same thing. You’re progressing, improving, evolving. So if your happiness isn’t present, in the moment, and is instead tied to a future goal, you’ll always be chasing your happiness as your goals get bigger and more audacious.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I came to grips with this problem of mine. It must’ve been within the last year, or year and a half, that I truly began to realize that by making my happiness contingent on a future goal, I was not only removing the possibility of being happy from my life, but damaging my effectiveness in whatever venture I tied my goals so closely too. And I say began for a reason, happiness is a battle, not for the future, but in and for the present.
Happy People Are Successful, ‘Successful People’ Aren’t Necessarily Happy
Back to Mr. Pressfield’s definition of ambition.
The guy with true ambition is the guy with enough balls to pursue what he truly wants in life, and that’s the essence of happiness. To be ambitious is to embrace the true calling of your soul. If that means you create a billion-dollar company, then that’s your ambition – hello Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs. If your soul is calling you to help kids in Africa, feed the poor, and save lives, then that has to be the focus of your ambition – hello Mother Teresa, Pope Francis. If your soul calls you to bust your ass everyday to give your children better opportunities than you had, then, my friend, you know what you have to do – hello to my Poppa, and my Nonno.
Ambition, I have come to believe, shouldn’t interfere with your happiness, but feed it.
The realization, in my instance, came because of books like Mr. Pressfield’s, Napoleon Hill’s, and Robin Sharma‘s. I understood that my line of thinking was initially wrong. That I was never going to be happy if my happiness had stipulations. But I had to take a sharp look in the mirror, be real with myself, and call myself out before I could ever make a change.
Tying your happiness to a future goal is weak. It’s weak because you don’t have the courage to man up and be happy in the moment. You’re weak because you actually, in some way, enjoy the fact that you can’t be happy right now. You use this as an excuse to do certain things, act a certain way, and make certain decisions.
A man is happy happy happy. A coward allows outside sources to effect his happiness, his ability to be happy, and his attitude.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
I know a person who is – in their mind – intelligent. So intelligent, in fact, that they don’t need to take the opinions or beliefs of others into consideration. There are many flaws with this line of thinking, but let’s focus on one. This major flaw being that they’re not happy.
If you’re not intelligent enough to figure out that your happiness is completely under your control, then you’re not at all intelligent. If you’re not intelligent enough to take the actions that will bring happiness into your life, then you’re not very intelligent at all.
Happiness is the primary pursuit of the human being. We spend our lives toiling, learning, growing, evolving, helping others, making more money, all in an effort to be happy. If, then, this is the primary pursuit of human beings, are those that have created happiness in their own lives the most powerful, intelligent people around?
The more you know, the stronger you should become. The more you expand your mind, the greater your understanding should be as to what’s important in life. There’s a lot of stuff that pisses me off, I mean really pisses me off, but as soon as I let these things effect my ability to be happy, I become a weakling, a coward, a man so petty that I’ve given a large part of my meaning to an external circumstance that has created an internal emotion that is completely under my control. Alas, it’s time to man the fuck up and once again take control of my happiness.
How to Be Happy
Happiness isn’t something that we see as intangible. It’s spiritual and emotional and mental, not concrete. There aren’t “steps” you can add to your day-to-day that will make you happier, are there?
There’s always actions that can be taken no matter what the goal. Here 8 that I took and implemented into my day-to-day.
1. I answered the BIG question.
Why are you here? We all ask this question, even daily.
It’s something I’ve struggled with. I can’t see you or I being here for no great reason other than to exist, then die. So I take time every week to look at, and find the answers to, this great question. If you don’t feel as though you’re here for some greater purpose, it’s pretty damn hard to be happy. It’s nearly impossible to be happy if you don’t find meaning.
My journey to find these answers was largely a matter of diving into my faith, beliefs, and values. If you believe in a higher power, then learn more about why you believe in what you believe in. Faith needs to be worked at and strengthened. Your faith should help you understand life’s big question; that of your existence. If you don’t, you’re not at all doomed. You do, however, need to find meaning in your suffering.
Every human on the planet, no matter their background, religion, politics, or worldview, should read this book: Man’s Search for Meaning.
To some degree we’re all suffering. Life is about suffering, and that’s not a bad thing. Learn how some men, in the midst of the worst circumstances known to mankind (the Holocaust) maintained their happiness, while others – justifiably so – went mad. Find meaning in your day to day life, struggles, and worries. Without meaning, happiness has no foundation.
2. Work hard.
Sure, ideally work hard at something you love. Everyday I love what I do more and more, but not because I simply love doing what I do – yes, that sounds weird – but because of the fact that I work hard. In fact, I don’t love what I do if I’m being lazy or not working my ass off because I don’t see the growth that gives me confidence, I don’t experience the reward that hard work brings, I don’t feel the benefits that hard work brings to my character and personal development.
Hard work, no matter what the field or focus is, brings happiness. If you tie meaning to your work, then you’ve created an atmosphere where only happiness can occur.
Why are you working? Who are you working for? What are you trying to create? What are you trying to build (Legacy)? Answer these questions and apply them to the work you’re doing.
If you’re reading, expanding your mind, developing your body, strengthening your warrior’s spirit, you’re going to be happy. It’s when you stop, regress, that you depress your ability to be a happy person.
Have a checklist of things that you need to do everyday. Have some for your work, others for your own development. But always be growing, evolving, and moving forward.
4. Be healthy. Be happy.
Health, both of the mind and the body, are incredible aids in the quest to be happy. Train your body and make it immune to depression. We’ve touched on it a bit here, but healthy, natural testosterone levels lower the risk of depression in men. As you become healthier and you lower your body fat percentage, your testosterone levels will naturally increase.
Thus, getting rid of your excess fat will make you a happier person, and this isn’t even taking into consideration the body image advantages of looking like a boss.
Avoiding your problems or your struggles is no way to be happy. Dealing with them head on, with courage, is. However, escaping your day-to-day and finding clarity and a renewed focus will help you become a happier person.
It’s time, now, to call myself out for all to see and hear.
A few months ago I went on a wee little adventure to Whistler, BC. I came back rejuvenated, and with a promise in mind to take these mini-vacations at least once every 2 months. And I haven’t. The value of escaping the city, of removing yourself from your stressors, is immeasurable.
It’s also a great way to lower your cortisol levels, which will positively effect your testosterone levels. Stress is a happiness killer. Removing stress from your life doesn’t mean that you have to remove work from your life, in fact, the opposite. Bring on more work to make sure you finish the stuff that may bring stress to your life if it isn’t completed. But getting out of town and finding perspective is vital to your quest for happiness.
Take 1-2 days every 1-2 months and find silence. Take an hour drive, get in nature, read a book in silence, bring your journal, find an adventure, do those things that will bring focus back into your life, and help you work on those things in your life that make you happy, not unhappy, stressed, or lost.
6. Take Control.
Your thoughts are under your control. I talked about it earlier, that to be a truly intelligent person, you have to have control over your thoughts. Well, to be a happy person, the same is true. You have control over what you think, what you read, what you talk about, who you talk about, and the thoughts that you allow to fester in your mind.
Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one of the best books I’ve read on this topic. Buy it. Read it.
7. Find Adventure.
I believe that men need adventure. Society can crush our masculinity, as can school, and the boredom of our 9-5. Find adventure. Break free from the society that binds and crushes masculinity and create happiness by bringing some damn excitement back into your life.
Part of this is escaping. Me and a pal of mine have started a camping tradition that we do once a year. Here we are, two city slickers out in the wild – we actually camped in the Canadian Rockies this year – learning as we go, and having a blast while we do.
Adventure makes you feel alive, and to feel alive is the essence of happiness. It’s tough to feel like this working, doing the same shit everyday. Even though we need to work, and work can bring happiness, we, as men, need adventure. Without it life gets too timid, boring, and lacks the danger that we crave.
8. Never Compare.
Success isn’t something you can accomplish in comparison to another, nor is happiness. Don’t compare your life, in any way – good or bad – to the lives of others. It’s a mode of thinking that will only bring you grief, but jealousy. The weak man compares, the strong man simply goes about his day, works hard, and takes care of his shit.
Your success in life will be original. They’re going to happen in a way that’s never happened before. The timing will be different than your friends, the degree of your success will be as well. But you will create success.
Happiness Isn’t a Quest At All
What I’ve found, above all, is that struggle and strain and hardship bring more meaning to life. They make me feel more alive and in it. I’ve grown to embrace hard work and discipline as the root of happiness, and laziness as the root of evil.
Sure, it starts with a mental switch, taking control of your thoughts, and not giving power to other people, situations, or sources. It starts with you man-ing up, and taking responsibility for everything in your life – thoughts included. Then, and only then, can you begin to take actions that will make you happy right now.