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Happiness v.s. HAPPINESS

There are many myths about happiness, so what do you really need to do to feel happy?


I was raised by my father who encouraged me to set big goals and go for them. He drilled me in the importance of good grades and doing well in life. Yet, while it led me to go out there and do my best to achieve my goals, it also led to depression, because I was constantly thinking about how much better I needed to become. I was never satisfied with myself.

As we grow up, we form an idea in our mind as to what success is. For me it was driving a blue convertible sports car and rolling in millions of dollars in Hollywood. And at some point, I made an unconscious decision that if I did not achieve that, I wasn’t good enough. Or rather: I didn’t deserve happiness if I couldn’t achieve success.

As it turned out, my unconscious beliefs created havoc in my life. Instead of me enjoying each step of the journey, I kept beating myself up about not being a millionaire already. Naturally, that led to one failure after the next, as I was always caught up in the negative stuff.

Once I realized I didn’t have to achieve anything, that I could just sit back and enjoy the moment, everything changed. For starters, I began to appreciate myself for the first time. Before that, I could never really relax, because I was always on my way somewhere else. I needed to get further along — even self-improvement to me was a torture device where I was constantly berating myself and pushing myself to become a better person.

While it’s great to evolve, it’s not great to think that you have to become better than you are to deserve love and happiness. A toddler can’t run before they crawl, but that doesn’t make them bad. And if you are learning to run while still walking, that doesn’t mean you’re bad. It means you’re growing, which is a wonderful thing.

When I picked up Derren Brown’s book Happy last year, it reminded me of some of my own struggles, as he mentions that we all have these “conditions for happiness,” that we believe in. Only, they aren’t real. They are ideas in our head of what we have to do to deserve happiness. For some it’s putting the laundry away, for others it’s winning an Oscar. The truth is, you can be happy even if you don’t have time to put the laundry away one night, or don’t win an Oscar.

There are many things in life we think we need to be happy. We have ideas about who we should be, how we should live and how the people around us should behave. The truth is, you can be happy even if all those things don’t all pan out the way you thought they should. Friends will let you down, jobs will turn out bad and relationships don’t always work out. That doesn’t mean you need to be unhappy. In fact, by shifting your focus to the things in life that you’re already enjoying and letting go of the pressure of thinking of where “you should be” you can enjoy this very moment.

The funny thing is, in the quest for getting somewhere so as to feel happy, we lose track of the idea that we can actually be happy right now. Right this very moment. We’re working so hard to become happy when we could already be happy. It’s a little bit ironic…

I always say this, but how many times have you worried about your wrinkles, or perceived flaws, instead of just gone out there and had a blast? Why worry about these things? I’m the first to say yay to a bit of nip and tuck, but why waste time thinking about things like wrinkles? It’s such an incredible waste of time. Just as thinking that my log cabin, in Swedish standards, is a disaster. I love it, so why do I care?

Of course, basic things are needed for happiness -- comfort, healthy foods, a healthy body that we look after with exercise, great food and proper sleep, time spent in nature, self-love, doing something we love to make a living, surroundings and people we enjoy. All I'm trying to say is that often we're focused on where we need to go and what we need to have (just look at the fashion industry), instead of just enjoying what we have. 

Today I was thinking about the joy of eating home-baked cookies. About how much I love Paris. About sun ripened pears. About how beautiful life can be, when you just sit back and enjoy what’s right there in front of you. It’s your life. And one day you can’t book that ticket to Paris, or eat that pear, so enjoy it now. Even if you’ve had a divorce, lost your job, can’t get it up, or can’t run as fast as you want. Enjoy what you can and work towards what you want.  

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