Where does happiness come from?
We were visiting relatives a few weeks ago and the topic of our holidays came up. The family and I took a long road trip down the West coast of the USA this year (and yes, we had a great time!)
“What was the best part of the trip?” my relatives wanted to know.
“Oh Crater Lake, definitely,” both my husband and oldest son replied.
“What do you think?” I turned to my younger teen.
“Well I can see why you would think it was Crater Lake, it was nice and everything, but the truth is there will have been other times on the trip when we were happier, when we were laughing or just having fun about nothing — you just don’t remember them.”
Gosh, I thought, he’s so right. It’s easy to make a big deal about the thing that we think will make us happy — or to recall, when asked, the things we think someone is asking about — the relationship, the job, the big trip.
True happiness, though, comes from somewhere else.
It comes from inside us. It comes in those moments when we don’t notice what we’re doing, and, especially, when we aren’t thinking about what we’re doing.
It can come in connection with others, it can come when we’re doing something we love, it can come from time alone, or in a momentary exchange with a stranger.
It’s very difficult to ‘plan for’, though, and it’s impossible to create from the outside.
What I do know, from the work that I do, is that when we allow our experiences to slow down, when we focus on being, rather than the busy-ness of doing, when we savour those exchanges, then happiness and peace seem to be an almost-automatic by-product.
One of my clients called it a sense of serenity.
We had a great time at Crater Lake without a doubt; we climbed one of the peaks, we sat, looking in awe at the scenery. But true happiness? That probably came in other, less planned moments, noticing my sons laughing as they took silly pictures of each other, taking our shoes off at the end of the walk, settling down for a cold drink back at the cabin.
We might not be able to plan for happiness, we can, though, choose to slow down enough to notice when it shows up.
This sense of serenity and true happiness is something that shows up in my coaching. Although we’re working on business, world-changing projects, hig-leve strategic thinking, there’s something peaceful about knowing you’re on the right path and knowing that you’re doing your best work.
I love it, and I know my clients find immense value in it; it’s life-changing not just world-changing.