Am I Happy? Stop Looking Outside Yourself.

Am I Happy? Stop Looking Outside Yourself.

We introduced our children to Wii Fit recently and they’ve been loving it. Florin, my 6-year-old, will finish every single game and then say: “Am I happy?” and wait to see if her character is excited (happens when played well) or sad (happens when played poorly). She can roll down the entire hill crashing into things in Wii Fit Skiing and STILL be surprised when her character is crying. On the flip side, she can do an amazing Wii Fit ski jump, but she won’t be happy or excited about it until her character starts jumping up and down with excitement.

Stop Looking Outside Yourself For Happiness

This statement means two things:

          1)   Don’t Measure Your Happiness Through External                             Measurements

Just like Florin in the Wii Fit game, we measure our happiness through the eyes of others. Does my boss think I’m a good employee? Then I must be happy. Do people invite me to social events? Then I must be happy. Did I achieve things people think are amazing? Then I must be happy. Do the teachers like my kids? Then I must be happy.

Self-worth and happiness are separate, but intertwined in that we use the measurements of others to determine how good we are or how happy we must be. This must stop.

Happiness is measured by YOU.

          2)   Stop Substituting for Happiness

There’s an old musical called Pippin where the title character spends the entire play seeking happiness doing all sorts of things. He looks for his “corner in the sky” through war, sex, trying to make people happy, simple living, etc. This journey is the familiar journey of so many people. We try to figure out what we should be doing to create happiness.

Often, we try to fill voids with buying stuff. We use money as a way to make up for the things we feel we lack so we can truly find happiness.

As Pippin discovers, these things don’t bring happiness. In many cases, they cause anguish or leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled.

How Do I Know If I’m Happy?

You won’t ever know if you’re truly happy until you spend some time alone with silence. At the pace of today’s world, we are constantly engaging, interacting, moving, doing, functioning, documenting, reacting. In all of this madness, we may be functioning, but we can’t assess unless we slow down.

Clarity comes in silence.

The person you are in stillness determines who you really are.

When you are forced to be alone with yourself, what do you find?

When you have a few hours to yourself (if you don’t have some, make some!), what do you do? Are you happy with the state of your life? Are you happy with your thoughts, your fears, your goals, your worries, your trajectory?

Being happy doesn’t mean everything is going perfectly. One can find happiness in even the roughest of terrains. The path we are on determines our trajectory. If we’re still aimed toward the top of the mountain, and that’s the mountain we want to be climbing, we can see past the thick brush we’re clawing through.

Next time you hear yourself asking “Am I happy?” think of Florin playing the Wii Fit game. You determine your own happiness. And if you are waiting for someone else to tell you if you’re happy, you’re being just as silly as a six-year-old playing video games.


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  1. I definitely think that I am at a stage in life where I can choose happiness. Thinking of it as a choice is really helpful. It isn’t always, but it largely is for me. And what a fantastic Wii Fit story 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      My kids are so full of hilarious stories… And yes, happiness is always a choice (even when life gets in the way!)

  2. I remind myself that “success” and “failure” are both fleeting, so never get attached to either. If you do you could be in for a world of hurt!

    • MaggieBanks

      YES! Thank you for this reminder… I’m terrible at reminding myself this as well!

  3. My clarity moments happen when I’m driving home from work real late and the roads are mostly clear. I reflect on things and I’m happy to say that I’m truly happy! (We both know that that wasn’t always the case.) I had a pick up the other night for work for a wedding. The groom had way too much to drink and wanted to fight everyone. He ended up walking away somewhere and the bride was screaming that she wanted a divorce. Definitely not a good way to start a marriage but it made me extremely happy that my wedding night wasn’t like that and that I have such a better relationship with my wife than that couple.

  4. Wht you need to do is further define happiness. I differentiate happiness and joy. Happiness is externally driven where joy is internally driven. Happiness is only momentary where joy can last a long time. The goal is to find your joy.

    • MaggieBanks

      Hmmm. Good point. I think you’re right. Happiness can come and go, but joy is a more permanent state of being.

  5. TheRetirementManifesto

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the mental approach we CHOOSE to adopt goes a long way to determining the quality of our life. I focus on “contentment” more than “happiness”, as it brings in the ability to accept even negative situations with a positive mindset. Great post, love the philosophical slant (ironically, I’m drafting next week’s article now, and it’s on “Purpose, Motivation and Life Aspriations. Must be something in the air…..

    • MaggieBanks

      Contentment is a great word. It emphasizes the awesome quote: “enough is a feast.” Truly.

  6. Ditto what Fritz said, Maggie. I love the philosophical slant of this post. I stopped long ago trying to be happy. Instead, I just focus on being a good person and treating others with kindness and respect. And I’ve found that happiness is a close companion of honor–at least for me, anyway.

    • MaggieBanks

      I agree with you. If we can’t be proud of the individual we are (which is our own honor), we can’t truly find happiness.

  7. Jax

    I struggle a lot with happiness in general, but lately I have been trying to choose to not be unhappy. It’s not quite the same thing as being happy, but I find that when I turn my focus away from the things that make me unhappy then I can start working more towards contentment.

  8. We are thinking along the same lines these days! I just wrote some of my thoughts on this very topic. And yes, I stopped looking outside myself for happiness a few years ago, and in the stillness, I realized that I was actually happy, at peace, joyful, content. Whatever word you want to use, yes, I’m as close to it as I’ve ever been.

    • MaggieBanks

      Great minds think alike! And I’m so glad to hear that you’ve set up your life such that you are happy. That’s so important to do!

  9. The image of your daughter and the Wii is a very effective illustration. It seems to be human nature to seek the approval and affirmation of others. Especially in the US even the lack of a positive affirmations is sometimes viewed as negative. The thing is what value does that external affirmation of happiness truly bring? True happiness stays with you. Hours later you think back and see something as a bright spot. If someone has to tell you your happy, they won’t be there latter when you think back, only your true feelings will be.

    • MaggieBanks

      Agreed. When we project out own happiness on the reactions of others, our world crumbles when those people leave or shift. Great point.

  10. Great perspective! Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know Wii fit asked those questions.

    I’m a big believer that we can #ChooseHappiness

    • MaggieBanks

      Amazing the lessons a 6-year-old playing video games can teach. 🙂

  11. Oh my gosh, I am so HAPPY (haha) that you referenced Pippin! “Think about your life, Pippin! Think about those dreams you had…” Sorry, I’ll stop. 🙂 But yeah, pretty much ends with the best lesson ever. As usual, we’re on completely the same wavelength, and I have a VERY similar post in the works. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      WHY HAVE WE NOT HUNG OUT IN PERSON YET? You are the greatest person ever!

      • Well that’s not true, but you did just inspire me to watch the Pippin finale on YouTube as my plane was about to take off. I’m sure my seatmates appreciated the seat dancing. Hahahaha. And also, I can’t wait til FinCon to hang out in person!!!

        • MaggieBanks

          My sister played the old lady in Pippin when she was in high school. And I’m so glad I caused you to sing it for a week. 🙂

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