THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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Thomas Jefferson – albeit a seriously flawed man – brilliantly authored the Declaration of
Independence, specifically enumerating, and thereby prioritizing, three “unalienable rights”: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In terms of basic, must-haves, these rights would make everyone’s Top 5 Rights-I-Want List. But, it is interesting that, while life and liberty are each listed as “rights” in and of themselves, it is only the pursuit of happiness that Jefferson calls a right; apparently not recognizing a right to actually be happy. Nonetheless, that pursuit of happiness is the only right that belongs solely to each of us and it is within our exclusive power.

The right of — not to — life is provided by our parents without any contribution from us. And then, life happens to us, requiring us to respond, adapt and grow as we seek enhancement and, perhaps hopefully, the extension of that life. We can certainly influence life, particularly our own, but regardless of our diligent efforts, life will keep coming at us, as long as we live.

Liberty is also not dependent on oneself alone, except on a deserted island or atop a lonely
mountain; it requires the participation and assent of many others. Liberty is completely unnecessary in the absence of society. But, within a society, liberty (like many other quality-of-life ingredients, if not rights), necessarily requires acknowledgement, sensitivity, empathy and affirmative acts by and from members of that society in order for any of us to enjoy it – even for just a moment, much less a lifetime. Unfortunately, the reality is that the “others” on whom liberty depends are too often unreliable guarantors of anything valuable, much less liberty. The result is oftentimes a bad case of disappointed expectations. Regardless, liberty, both itself, and as a proxy for all aspects of life within a society, including its burdens, is always a byproduct of communal effort.

Nevertheless, each of us has the unilateral ability to pursue happiness — all day, every day — by ourselves. And is there any feeling other than “happiness” that we need or want to experience more? If, during the course of a day you consider how you feel, or are asked how you are, the available responses are limitless: good, bad, terrific, sick, amazing, tired, etc. into infinity. But, whatever may be impacting your life or liberty, neither your circumstance nor company will matter much if you can sincerely say that you are “happy”. Obviously, it seems like an insurmountable task. No one can be happy all the time and certainly, the happiness gamut (even within one day) can run from giddy or ecstatic on one end of the spectrum to pleased or content on the other. And all of us have bad days and for most of us, the best day at work is almost always less enjoyable than the worst day having fun. Most of the time, it’s a matter of perspective; perhaps it’s just about finding a silver lining. Notwithstanding, we each have within us the power to pursue happiness and we should do so always.

With most of us, relationships provide an important foundation for our personal happiness. Be they relationships to which we are bound by blood or marriage, friendships and acquaintances, or strangers never before met, each of them can and does impact our happiness quotient each day. But, whether you are better-suited to close relationships with a very few loved ones, or you have many friends and acquaintances, or a combination thereof, there is no person that brings you, or engenders, all good things, with no flaws or baggage. Even people whose personal or professional talents and accomplishments are considered world-class (e.g., Thomas Jefferson), have shortcomings that can easily and regularly disappoint us. For all of us (particularly as we age and become less tolerant of such flaws and baggage), the ability to focus on the good, and forgive, forget or set aside the bad, becomes increasingly critical. It is self-evident (as well as supported by extensive research) that having good and many relationships is likely to make us happier. But, if – regardless of the length or depth of a particular relationship — you disqualify or discard a potential or existing friend because he or she says or does something that hurts your
feelings, you will severely limit the upside of your pursuit of happiness. We should welcome the good from each relationship and avoid dealing with the parts that are less than good. Not everyone can be your soul mate or best friend, and even with those, perfection and relationship are oxymoronic terms. Yet, most people can be a source of happiness to the extent you can look beyond or deemphasize the parts less preferred.

We each have limited days in this life. How do you want to spend them? And with whom? Are you willing to think and act – each day – in ways that will promote your happiness? It is up to you– and you alone – every day — to pursue the people, things and circumstances that bring you happiness.

The pursuit of happiness must be intentional. Plan it and make it happen. When you know or suspect that something on your calendar will likely make you unhappy, and you cannot change the schedule, fill in the rest of your day with people and things that will promote happiness. When someone or something brings you down, be with it, feel it, think about changing it and then move on from it, so you can go back to pursuing happiness. Focus whenever possible on those things that make you smile, even if for just a few minutes during the day. After devoting the bulk of your day to addressing life’s daily or chronic challenges and feeling their consequences, there will still be plenty of time to devote your words, thoughts and actions to achieving a state of happy. Whenever possible, do the things, and be with the people, that make you happy. And, in every spare moment, think about who and what can make you happy — tomorrow and in the future. There is no worthier endeavor. And the people that you care about and that care about you – as beneficiaries of all that your happiness can bring – will agree.

I wish you and your family a Healthy, Prosperous and HAPPY 2023.

Miami Community Newspaper is an online newspaper that provides up-to-date local news and information about the Miami community. This daily newspaper provides local news coverage and keeps its readers up to date on the latest developments in the area. Their website also includes a Miami community podcast, where listeners can get the latest news and updates on the Miami community. Miami Community Newspapers is the perfect source for all your local Miami news needs, whether it is from their daily newspaper, podcasts, or other media sources.


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