“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.