I’ve been thinking about human happiness and what it is all my adult life. Are you also seeking some answers and looking to be happier or more content? I have always understood happiness as a feeling, brought on by rare moments free of doubt and worry. Living has brought me to a different understanding.
My life journey has taken many twists and turns. I’ve traveled in over 60 countries and lived in vibrant and interesting places. I’ve found love, lost love and found it again. I’ve been an idealist seeking to change the world and am now more of a realist interested in changing myself.
I can't say if I have had more moments of happiness when riding the waves of success or when I came crashing down to earth. In truth I experienced moments of happiness during both success and failure. longer term happiness, however, has been largely elusive. Strangely, perhaps, it has been the moments of personal crisis (redundancy, divorce and a cancer diagnosis), the “dark nights of the soul”, that have proved most essential in my search for happiness. Crisis has given me some moments of perspective, self-awareness, courage and prompted necessary change. I’m sure that you also could tell a similar story.
Right now, approaching my 55th birthday, I am the happiest I have ever been. I don't mean life is a bed of roses. No, life still throws unexpected challenges my way. I still experience doubt, sadness and occasionally anger. However, crucially, I am more able to find my balance. In the words of the legendary comedian Bill Hicks life is “just a ride”. The analogy of the roller coaster in an amusement park is a good one. “There are thrills and spills… don’t worry, don’t be afraid, because (life) is just a ride.” I’m less afraid of the rollercoaster and starting to embrace the ride as it is, whatever it throws my way. Perhaps as a result I find that I am now able to inhabit a more authentic me. Is this just a result of the experience of time? Maybe, but I am also hopeful that the choices I have made, to get outside, to serve others, to meditate & breathe and to seek collaboration, have also led me to this new understanding.
A few years ago I heard the Dali Lama speak at an event in London about happiness. The event was hosted by Action for Happiness, who have identified ten keys to happier living. You can find it here:
I think it's a pretty good list of actions and attitudes that can help us as individuals and communities to be happier. Yet, being told the keys is not enough. We have to arrive at an understanding through our own experience. It's about the journey we make, with all its twists and turns, rather than the destination we arrive at that has true value. The key that resonates most with me currently is "acceptance". I have stopped chasing the approval of others so much and the need to obtain endless qualifications to prove my worth. I already have enough qualifications for many lifetimes. Instead I choose to embrace what I have been thinking about, but afraid to really commit to do, for many years.
I have now begun creating and giving myself a voice. One of the most exciting creative ventures is collaborating with my friend Josh Bulpin, on The Living Projrect. We believe that connection to nature and consideration of our human experience through the lens of the wild elements: water, earth, fire and air allows us to make sense of our own and shared human experience. It unlocks creative potential and provides the inspiration to explore an authentic path to our own truth. Our strapline #betruelivewild is the journey of now rather than the elusive search for happiness.
Finally, the search for meaning and truth, like all quests, is about committing to the journey, surfing the wave or riding the rollercoaster. With a little luck we will find our balance to really live without fear. That is my version of being human.