How do you make “happy” happen?
If you ask people what they want in life for themselves or for people they care about, many will answer with the “H” word- “I just want to be happy,” “I just want my children to be happy,” “I want my spouse to be happy.” Simple enough, right? I don’t think so because, if it were that simple, more people would be happy. (Or at least they’d be happy more of the time!)
Have you ever tried to “help” a kid be happy? You buy the toy or candy to keep the peace, and then after a short while, they aren’t happy any more. Have to you tried to “help” an adult be happy? Your efforts may produce longer results, but they surely aren’t permanent.
Have you tried to be happy? What works for you, and for how long? Chocolate works for me, but only for a few hours.
And just how long will it stick?
I tend to think happy is a moving target. What brings happy today for me or for people around me may not work tomorrow. That’s frustrating, really frustrating if you put a lot of stock in that thing or person who you were just sure would “make” you happy. Usually the bigger the buildup and anticipation. the deeper the downer when the happy wears off.
I remember a comedian who talked about sitting on a late afternoon flight next to a grumpy man, who complained about everything: a business meeting, his taxi ride to the airport, the boarding process, the seat assignment, the sunlight coming in his window wrong, just every little thing. The flight attendant announced there would be complimentary Wi-Fi for the flight, and suddenly the grumpy guy was happy. Until… a few minutes later, the flight attendant announced, “We apologize that we are having technical difficulties with our Wi-Fi and it won’t be available on this flight.” Needless to say, this guy was ticked off. The comedian observed that this guy was upset about not having something he didn’t know he MIGHT have until a few minutes earlier.
Happy is a moving target.
So what to do? Perhaps we can pick a different, more reliable target that resembles happy but isn’t as disappointing or frustrating to achieve. Like fulfilled. Like content. I think that’s really what many people mean when they say they want to be happy, but they get hijacked by the way we understand happy in our culture.
It might seem like semantics, but I really think if we adjust our language to reflect a deeper and more stable target for our lives, we will find we can hit fulfillment; we can achieve contentment. But just a heads up, it will require a slight shift in thinking, and the results will be much longer lasting and resonate well within our spirits. If you need a little help rethinking the move from happy to fulfilled, I’d be honored to help.
Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.