You know, it wasn't that long ago that I had no idea what the answer to the question I've posed in my title was. I had spent so many years, like many other people, chasing dreams that were either not what I really wanted, or worse, were actually bad for me. I guess like everyone else out there we all tried the hit and miss methods of seeking happiness.
The last four years of my life have taught me some inalienable truths about life. I try never to have any regrets, as I've always been a firm believer that everything that has happened to me up to this point was leading me, in a circuitous route at times, to the exact spot where I am now. But, if I was to allow myself just one regret it would be that it took me so long to wake up to myself and realize just what it was that I really wanted.
So, you may ask, what are there inalienable truths I've learnt about life, oh great Sage?
1/ YOU are the commander of your own destiny. Nothing that happens in your life, outside of you, is controllable by you. Only you can chart the course of your own life. Only you can make your reality what it is and should be. Too often we accept other people's expectations and limitations on us, without question. You know exactly what I'm talking about: Our parents, our teachers, our peers, our friends, they all impose their own limitations on us. "Oh come on, you can't possibly do that, it's just too hard for you."; "Don't be silly, that's not a real job. You need to get a real job and earn money to support your family. It's a great hobby, but it's not a job."; "You should stick to what you know, what you're good at." From the day we are born we are conditioned by others as to who and what we should be and become. I finally said no more to that conditioning. Writing is my bliss and it's what I'll do from now until my final breath. Everything else will take care of itself.
So - Happiness is being an individual - doing what you want and doing what gives you joy; being the boss of your own life.
2/ There's no point in doing whatever you want to do, if you have to do it alone, with nobody to share that joy with. Solo joy is no joy at all. We are social animals - we were born to love and to be loved. Without love, life has no meaning. There is a reason that humanity organised itself, over time, into family groups. The family is the ultimate unit for sharing love. I don't care how your family is constituted - whether it is two men, two women, a mixture of both, de-facto or married - what is important is that family is the source of all love and the only point for being. We can pretend we are happy to be alone, to live our life solo, but the truth is, I don't believe it. We need to love and to be loved to fully enjoy life.
So - Happiness is loving and being loved.
3/ There's absolutely no point in worrying about the past or what you did in the past. It is gone - it is unchangeable and it is HISTORY. Learn from it, apologize to those who need apologizing to and move on. Equally there is no point in worrying about the future. By all means plan for the future, but don't worry about it - it will be here soon enough. The only thing you can change is the here and now - right this very second, so live every second to the fullest. I always used to wonder what people meant when they said they planned to "live more in the present". I get it now. The present - your reality today, is all there is. There may be no tomorrow, yesterday's well and truly done and dusted, so there really is only today.
Life is short and it certainly is not a dress-rehearsal. Do you really want to be sitting back in a rest-home when you reach your dotage, wondering about what might have been. Forget the "bucket lists", just do what you want to do now. If you've dreamed of always trying something, then just do it - forget about what everyone else says - just do it. On average we only get to live around 27-29,000 days and I don't know about you, but I've already wasted a fair few of them, so for me it's all about cramming every experience I desire into what time is left.
So - Happiness is living every day like it's your last (It just might be)
4/ Make your attitude right. I finally realized that living is actually a true privilege and no matter where you are in your journey, if you maintain the right attitude, you can make the most of whatever situation you find yourself.
What is the right attitude? For me it is an attitude of gratefulness. Gratefulness for life, gratefulness for family, gratefulness for everything I have in my life. I can guarantee you that no matter what your circumstances are there is ALWAYS something you can be grateful for. No matter how bad you might think your life is - there's always someone worse off than you. If nothing else we can be grateful for the air we breathe, the plants in the garden, the eyes we see with, the sleep we have, the life we are blessed to lead every day. Gratefulness is the most powerful force that I've discovered to actually improve my life and change my reality. There's both an emotional and a physical benefit to approaching every day with a grateful attitude. Don't just believe me - try it and see. It works.
So - Happiness is approaching every situation with an attitude of gratefulness.
That is my simple recipe for a happy life. There's so much more that can be added, but I'll end now by summarizing the changes in my life that have occurred from following these four basic principles.
1/ I'm living my dream - I'm a full-time writer now, soon to be published author.
2/ I live in paradise (well my version of it anyway) with a woman I love and adore, some step-kids who are awesome and some grand-kids who are even more awesome (if that's possible)
3/ When something new presents itself that I've never tried before, my first thought is always - "Why not?" rather than "Why?"
4/ Before, I could best be described as a grumpy old fart (Don't believe me? Just ask my son, it was him that called me that). Now, I'm relaxed, stress-free and loving every day I live with an attitude of deep gratitude for all I have and will have in the future.
NOW THAT'S HAPPINESS - FOR ME!
What is it for you?