“I just want to be happy,” the woman sitting next to me at the coffee shop exclaims to her friend, “is that too much to ask?”
I’m trying not to listen, but have a hard time tuning her out since she’s speaking so loudly. As I sip my London Fog, I wonder if she is struggling because she’s asking the wrong question.
Everyone is talking about having a happy life. I’m not sure such a thing exists. In true Buddhist tradition, we can’t fully appreciate joy without knowing suffering. Or love, without loneliness. I believe happiness is a byproduct of spending our time in meaningful ways, not a destination in and of itself. It’s really about understanding the impact of the many small choices we make each day. Happiness might come from supporting a friend instead of watching Netflix, or starting that fitness program we’ve been putting off. It’s about choosing to do the hard thing, instead of settling for what’s easy. It’s not always clear how important the struggle is when we’re in the midst of it. The joy of an accomplishment is in direct proportion to the challenge it presents. If it isn’t hard to do, it probably isn’t worth doing.
So instead of asking the question, “why can’t I be happy?”, we should be asking, “how have I challenged myself today?” Ultimately, it’s through meaning and purpose that we find fulfillment.
I remember from when I was a kid how my older brother and his friends were amusing themselves on a hot summer afternoon by jumping off a local shed roof. It was quite a height… perhaps seven or eight feet. Not wanting to be left out, I was determined to make the leap. I was terrified. I summoned up my courage and jumped.
Years later, when I went back and looked at the shed, I was amazed how small it looked. What had seemed an insurmountable obstacle at one point in time, later appeared to be relatively insignificant. It now doesn’t seem like such a big drop. I feel quite proud that I was able to conjure up courage as my ten-year-old self to do it. Had I not jumped, or had someone pushed me, I suspect it would have felt very different. This was a step I had to take on my own for it to have meaning.
Have you ever taken a big leap of faith? The scariest part is generally standing at the edge thinking about taking the jump. Once in motion, it’s not so bad.
If you’re reading this post, that’s already you. Just by virtue of being connected with us via our blog, you have taken that first step.
Anyone who knows me well also knows that I love a challenge.
This may be, in part, why I so much enjoy the show Naked and Afraid. It’s not that I have the desire to be dropped in the middle of some foreign wasteland with a complete stranger and no clothing. Quite the contrary in fact.
It’s the survival aspect of the show that intrigues me. The more episodes I watch, the more I realize that the outcome of the 21 day challenge is largely determined within the first 48 hours. Drinking enough water, protecting oneself from the elements, and protecting oneself from predators (which by the way does tend to be primarily blood-sucking insects rather than large mammals) are all very important. Equally important though is the participants’ ability to work together. Participants who work well together do much better than those who don’t. We survive better in tribes than we do solo, particularly in times of hardship.
That’s one of the big reasons why I believe in a group approach to recovery. Sure it’s hard to form the initial trust, but once we have it, the strength of the team far surpasses that of the individual. It’s a concept I’m totally sold on, because I have seen it work. I hope you will come be a part of our tribe.