I can be happy if…
Conditional Versus Unconditional Happiness
Forfeiting conditional happiness is a close companion to letting go of expectations. If being happy is dependent on things going our way, we all know life doesn’t let us off this easy.
Conditional happiness is happiness that is granted only when certain requirements are fulfilled. Unconditional happiness transcends specifications, and flows with life’s changes regardless of their alignment with our desires.
Can You Buy Happiness?
I don’t know about you, but when I buy something new that I have wanted for a long time, I feel happy. I cherish it. I sometimes leave it in the packaging to maintain that shiny, new aesthetic. I use it with gratitude. Eventually it gets lost in the back of one of my cupboards and I’m looking for the next fix.
Western society is fueled by conditional happiness. Marketing companies, advertisements, and corporations rely on our never ending desire for more stuff. I believe most things we buy are tied to the idea that it will increase our happiness and well-being.
Why did I buy that $80.00 makeup palette? I thought it would enhance my physical beauty, contribute positively to my confidence, and ultimately ladder up to my overall happiness and well-being. This idea operates under the concept that:
“I can be happy IF I feel beautiful. I can feel beautiful IF I’m wearing makeup.”
Short answer: no you can’t buy happiness.
Hedonic Adaptation and Happiness
Hedonic adaptation is the human tendency to quickly return to a stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life changes. This human behaviour is also referred to as the hedonic treadmill. The person on the hedonic treadmill is the person making more money, having more desires, and developing greater expectations in a endless journey to happiness that is never sustainable nor permanent; they’re not really getting anywhere.
Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk The Surprising Science of Happiness, grants real world examples of people who have had outstanding events (winning the lottery) and tragedies (becoming paraplegic) occur in their lives, return to the same natural plateau of happiness. This talk and this theory redefine our beliefs about what will make us truly happy.
Happiness is Actually Simple
Have we over-complicated happiness? If we truly believe that we need things to be a certain way, we need a given number in our bank account, and we definitely need all of this stuff to be truly happy, we are setting out on a painful journey.
Add to this, that once we gain all of these conditions, they continue to evolve. “I need a nicer car. I need a better job. I need a younger wife. I need a more of what I like and less of what I hate.”
It’s a relief to realize that being happy isn’t that hard, we are just doing it wrong. We have all the tools to be happy within ourselves. No matter how many outside conditions we set and achieve, the most sustainable happiness is natural and effortless regardless.
Discovering Unconditional Happiness
Unconditional happiness is the ability to flow with life and love and accept the cards we are dealt. Practicing gratitude for what we do have comes with this new outlook. We appreciate what is, without fixating on what could be or what should be.
We begin to see hardships as opportunities. We let go more easily of expectations. We settle into a state of constant contentment. Of course, difficult events can take away our joy temporarily, but they do not crush us. We become a solid foundation, knowing that happiness is always possible.
Write down your conditions for happiness. Do you feel you need certain things in life to be happy? Imagine a scenario where these objects, relationships, or accomplishments would end or not come to fruition. Do you believe you could attain happiness in spite of this? If not, what steps would you take to do so?