This is the story of a member of my family. A 25-year-old who, like everyone else, is looking for happiness in his work. After finishing his education as a pastry chef, he could no longer bear the smell of pastry, the atmosphere at work nor the working hours.
He tried other ways of earning a living, but alas, nothing gave him happiness in his work. Luckily he found a passion in his private life: building and flying radio-controlled helicopters.
In the course of a few years of this passion, the models became bigger and bigger. One day, by chance (unexpectedly!), he saw an announcement in a newspaper. A start-up company was looking for an expert to test drones.
He didn't hesitate for one second and applied for the job. At first, there was a pre-selection of 100 candidates of which he was one.
Of those 100, 20 were selected for then next round, and he was one of them. And in the end, he was hired for the job.
So despite the fact that he had no technical degree, he won against very stiff competition. This was the beginning of great satisfaction and happiness in his professional life.
Definition of happiness
According to Wikipedia:
"Happiness is a state that is experienced as pleasant, balanced and lasting by anyone who feels that they have achieved the satisfaction of their aspirations and desires, and who then experiences a feeling of fulfilment and serenity. The notion of happiness has been part of all Western thought since Socrates, but it has evolved significantly over time".
According to the Larousse:
"Good luck, favourable circumstances: We were lucky enough to arrive in time."
"State of complete satisfaction: Nothing can disturb their happiness."
"Happiness is a state of complete satisfaction characterised by its stability and durability".
"The search for happiness is the search for ourselves. Happiness is different for each one of us; it is different like vocations: identical and uniform, it would be its own negation".
One thing is sure: for some, born under a lucky star, it will remain a lifetime. But very often, this state is rather ephemeral.
Sometimes it happens suddenly, without warning, stays for a while and then leaves just as quickly. Some forms of happiness can last for years or for a brief moment.
And in the blink of an eye we may fall into melancholy, just at the thought that this happiness we have experienced is not going to last.
If we are not careful, our psychological state can play tricks on us. All it takes is a spark, a little thing to turn everything upside down. Above all, in emotional relationships, a little something can make everything uncertain.
Happiness can be linked to a passion for music, sports or other activities, but it can also be a moment when you do nothing. Looking at a meadow in spring with its fresh green flowers and herbs. A summer day by the sea. The blue of the sky and the sea and the vastness of the ocean. Or in the mountains, with grandiose views that make you feel small and grateful.
There is no one particular activity or reason to feel happiness. It is often simply there, within easy reach. Letting go, finding one's own place to be happy often requires a certain amount of effort.
"Turn to the sun, and the shadow will be behind you!"
How did happiness develop for the individual?
Humans, like animals, have always needed security, well-being and a comfort zone. However, in the past (or for animals) this was not called happiness. Having enough to eat and drink have always been essential requirements for well-being.
If we look at it from the point of view of longevity and health, there has undoubtedly been an enormous progression. In the past, our average life expectancy was 30 to 50 years, and many people died from a common cold or a simple injury, or by bacteria or viruses still unknown.
The knowledge of the human body and the new technologies of the last few decades are a great help in improving of our quality of life. But even a few thousand years ago, we already possessed a deep knowledge, for example Ayurveda, as you can read here.
Over millions of years of evolution, our ancestors adapted slowly and perfectly, both physically and mentally, to the life of hunters and gatherers.
In the space of a few thousand years we had to adapt to a completely different kind of life. First of all with the Neolithic revolution and then with the different religious and social (r)evolutions.
And then during the last century or so, with the industrial revolution and the technical era, changes have come extremely fast and we have to adapt continuously.
How we use our time is also an important factor with regard to a longer life span: travel possibilities, independence and equality of men and women. All the experiences we can experience, thanks to time saving and technology, free trade with people all over the world... and much more... give us possibilities never known before.
There is no one formula to define happiness. It depends on the sector we want to analyse and on the expectations of each person…
A smoker, for example, experiences so much happiness while smoking that he accepts coughing, bad breath, smells and even the serious consequences for his health. Very similar with alcohol drinkers.
It's a paradox, but most of them are happy with their addictions. At least they say so. It's really an artificial well-being. There is also often a search for happiness in the face of a certain lack or even despair.
At all times and in all places each individual will define other criteria to say what he feels happy with. Many will deceive themselves by reciting criteria from the environment in which they were born and the society to which they belong and not from their real and personal needs.
The ideal of happiness is dictated to them, and if they do not become aware of it, it will be these ideas that are taken from their search for happiness and not their own. And those who rebel against these doctrines can no longer be part of this society and must live on the margins of it.
"The greatest secret to happiness is to be at peace with yourself."
It would be a mistake to believe that progress automatically makes us happier. Some critics of today's civilization claim that progress leads us directly to misery.
It is true that power and money corrupt. It is a fact, and with the majority of our inventions we have created a cold, mechanical and even dangerous world, which does not always meet our needs and replaces individuals with machines. Sadly, the corruption caused by money always ignores the consequences...
On the other hand, progress used for useful and positive purposes can have a lot of potential and benefits. The saving of time or rendering hard work in factories or with harmful products superfluous, for example.
The mobile phone has become an object of addiction, but it can also save lives and bring people closer together. The internet is a very useful tool, but it can be used with bad intentions or be highly addictive.
It always depends on the level of mindfulness of the individual and how he or she uses it. We cannot stop progress, but we can become aware of the consequences of our actions.
"Modern man is the slave of modernisation: there is no progress that does not turn into complete servitude."
New technologies, today's way of life and the pace of life with a stress never before experienced, often generate dissatisfactions that are generally very difficult to control.
The transition to big industry over the last 200 years has been so rapid and has imposed a lifestyle that is no longer in harmony with our instincts and no longer meets our real needs.
Fortunately, for some time now, many people have become aware of their situations and their surroundings and are looking for answers. And today we have possibilities that have never existed in the history of mankind.
The quantity of books and other publications available to us is impressive. Also, the internet opens up possibilities for us to connect with the whole world. To share our ideas, our concerns, to ask questions to all the world's specialists on all subjects, and to do so at lightning speed.
"The word progress will have no meaning as long as there are unhappy children."
Generated by abuses of power and the selfish agendas of human beings, not all progress has always improved the life of mankind, let alone made them happy.
Each period in life has different values to define happiness. But also a combination of these values can help to find happiness or to pretend to have found it.
It starts very early, for the newborn baby with the maternal need. The mother's voice and caresses, the satiation of its hunger or the warmth of its body. It continues throughout life and can also be called well-being or comfort, material or physical security. A state of intense satisfaction. A child finds happiness by creating its own world.
An adolescent, depending on the level of hormones released in his body, will find it difficult to find joy. Music and going out with friends and especially a good family relationship can help to overcome this period.
As we enter adult life, this too is often driven by hormones. The search for a partner to start a family and have children is part of our genes.
Sex, power and material things vs. food and water
During the sexual act we also have these moments of intense well-being, even if they are very short. Some people find their happiness in an addiction to this.
Oftentimes, the goal is to have a job that fulfils us, to be creative, and/or to find some financial security. Others will want to accumulate as much wealth as possible without necessarily spending it. Just having enough…
The passion for power, for making decisions and for leading others will also find its followers. Many will be tempted by their ego. To show what they have, my Rolex, my horse, my motorbike, my car, my house in Tuscany, my yacht... etc.... There will often be a combination of the above.
In the other hand, for the poorest people on this planet, having drinking water, enough to eat, a roof over their head, will already give a lot of gratification and a certain happiness.
Everything is relative... Because there are no standards or recipes to define what it feels like to be happy.
"When you get up in the morning, remember how precious is the privilege of living, breathing, being happy."
One day, after spending a certain amount of time in the material world, a spiritual journey begins. When everything else has been reached, and something is still missing. But this can also come very early, a vocation in lieu of other values.
As far as I'm concerned, I've noticed that the image and impression of happiness varies over time and even within the space of a day... Everything may seem ideal, but suddenly, a letter with a bill or a ticket, an unwanted phone call, a misunderstood sentence from a partner or a colleague, pain or an accident can capsize the boat of happiness.
At present, for me, it is mainly the news concerning the measures taken or not taken regarding a certain virus that is the main focus of my attention. Unfortunately, I can only accept the facts...
Suddenly we fall into a hole of despair and powerlessness in the face of external circumstances. Why now when everything was going so well? Why me?
We were so well in that comfort zone and our joy of life, in that cosy cushion of well-being and then something happens, which puts everything in jeopardy. You always have to keep in mind that nothing lasts.
With a lot of work on ourselves, reflection and keen awareness, we can overcome these periods and regain happiness. We often have to accept situations, illnesses or failures. By letting go of compulsive thoughts that are like quicksand, we can slowly regain confidence and return to the surface.
Of course, it is never won forever... This is why, when we feel this happiness, we must be very conscious of it, and savour it like a little flower that one day will wither... But there will be other flowers to come...
"Trust is the shortest route to happiness."
Aline de Pétigny
It is difficult to talk about personal happiness without talking about collective happiness and our beloved Planet Earth (or Gaia as some call it).
We cannot continue at this pace, with this thoughtless over-consumption, which gives us the illusion of happiness. The frenetic plundering of our natural resources, the exploitation of cheap labour in third world countries (women and children), to satisfy this idea of happiness in so-called civilised countries, cannot go on forever. The planet simply can no longer satisfy the growth of our material needs in the so-called civilised countries.
How can we feel happy knowing that modern industrial animal husbandry has become the greatest crime in the history of mankind? We cannot accept, as Voltaire said, that the misfortune of some is the happiness of others, even if some are “only animals"...
Only a global awareness can help us to slow down this process and change our deepest values to value what collective happiness really is.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats animals."
When you feel happiness in your life, breathe it and memorise it. And when it's gone, you will have recharged your batteries. In moments of loneliness or despair, you will be able to close your eyes and remember those great moments of happiness.
Of course you will experience moments of nostalgia, perhaps a certain sadness even. But the good moment you experienced tips the balance and you will be able to smile again.
You can relive at any time those beautiful emotions, those good times you had. Nothing and nobody can take that away from you.
"Happiness is sometimes hidden in the unknown."
And remember, if you cannot be happy by yourself, you will never be happy as a couple. Happiness comes from within, not from others.
So the search for happiness is done by working on oneself through non-judgmental reflections and an awareness of the individual that you are.
Do not allow your well-being to depend on others. But of course, shared joy redoubles in value.
"Happiness is the only thing that doubles when shared."
And how does that work? What is the value of happiness? Is our happiness totally independent of the happiness of others or of money? Or: how can we be 100% happy when we know that so many people around the world are currently suffering from hunger, physical and mental pain?
Quite simply, because the individual has, fortunately or unfortunately, the ability to veil the things that he cannot change, that bother him or that he does not want to see as real or close!
There is no doubt that health, nutrition and prosperity contribute a lot to being happy. It is also important to find a partner to share one's life with, to have healthy children, a stable circle of friends and/or a satisfying job.
Colleagues at work with whom you spend a third of your days also play an important role in making you feel happy. And yes, happiness is a very subjective and multifaceted feeling.
Money can make you happy if it really helps to get you out of a bad situation, to solve primary problems, to eat, to have a roof over your head, to put clothes on your back... Beyond a certain amount, needs change, they are no longer the same and become secondary needs.
The purchase of a car, real estate, or other material things may be necessary, but will only be pleasures of short duration or to which the individual will get used to very quickly. Nothing special... it becomes normal!
"It is said that money cannot make you happy. Perhaps, but it does allow you to choose the kind of misery you prefer."
Happiness depends above all on subjective expectations. And at a time when we are overwhelmed by advertising and propaganda dictating to us what we need to be happy, it will always be very difficult to achieve these goals.
The result is unfulfilled expectations, which will eventually frustrate and make us unhappy. Achieving perfection in order to be happy is not a practicable path, because perfection rarely exists.
"Happiness is found not in the pursuit of perfection, but in the tolerance of imperfection."
I think it is very rare to live 24/7 in a state of complete happiness. A few monks or other very alert people perhaps. Most people will go from one state to another. Because our moods and the experiences we have throughout the day lead us to live and overcome sometimes difficult challenges. We can be in a state of great joy, and all it takes to bring this curve down is one negative thought.
And then, all of a sudden, the smile of a stranger, the laughter of a child, a beautiful song or a beautiful object, a flower or a painting will restore the joy in our heart and make the bad feelings we experienced only moments before disappear. Happiness is more like a statistical curve that goes up and down throughout the day.
Our moods change very quickly and react instantaneously to the emotions we experience. But beware, often the paths leading to happiness are deceptive. The goal becomes a static idea and also the one and only possibility to be happy. It can be in the material, the purchase of a house or a big sailing boat, or in the emotional, in search of the ideal partner who does not exist. This is where people become slaves to their own thoughts.
"I've decided to be happy because it's good for my health."
It is said that evolution is not interested in joy or happiness - it is only interested in survival and reproduction... During this process, nerves, neurons, synapses are activated and various messenger substances such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin are released.
And yet some people, myself included, continue to believe that our presence here, this materialisation, is the result of an awareness of the universe itself. After billions of years of trial and error, we have reached this stage of development where we are looking for the why of things.
Does the energy that is the source of all creation also seek happiness? Strange but interesting thought, isn't it?
"It's important to make someone happy and it's important to start with yourself."
Be happy and awake, be present and when happiness knocks at your door, acknowledge it, be ready to welcome it as your best friend, take it by the hand, and don't ask questions. Enjoy the moment consciously. Be happy that he or she is there, and know that nothing is owed, nothing is forever. This makes these moments of happiness so valuable.
To sum up, I think that happiness is above all to live the present moment as if it were the most important and in any case it is unique and will never come back.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.”
Alice Morse Earle.