Tal Ben Shahar defines it as the ultimate currency--the thing we should be working towards amassing over tangible items such as money or iPods. But how will you know if you have it--either a small pocketful or enough to choke a horse--if you don't know what it is?
Ben Shahar writes, "Is it an emotion? Is it the same as pleasure? Is it the absence of pain? The experience of bliss? Words like pleasure, bliss, ecstasy, and contentment are often used interchangeably with the word happiness, but none of them describes precisely what I mean when I think about happiness. These emotions are fleeting, and while they are enjoyable and significant, they are not the measure--or the pillars--of happiness. We can experience sadness at times and still enjoy overall happiness" (p. 6).So, first things first--ask yourself that question and answer it before you read my definition below. I do think there is room for all of us to have our own personal definition of happiness and have all of those definitions come together to form a larger, collective definition. Perhaps happiness is something too large to be contained to a neat series of words like a dictionary entry. Instead it needs to be painted, like a picture, with anecdotes and listings.
Okay, you have your own definition in place? Don't read on until you do...
I define happiness as the peace that comes from a lack of anxiety. It doesn't mean that there aren't stressors that occupy my worrying hours, but the major tiles that need to be in place are set firmly in their foundation. My needs--what I need those tiles to be--change from time to time. Some tiles remain a constant. When I have those tiles in place, I have a place to stand and I feel secure. I'm aware that bad things may happen and I certainly worry that I'll have happiness taken away from me.
Which, I'm beginning to think, is part of this book. Helping you maintain that foundation even though the storms. At the beginning of the book, he admits that happiness may not be attainable for everyone. Either a person has internal (depression, anxiety disorders, illness) or external (poverty, divorce, abuse) obstacles standing in the way of setting that foundation. But right now, even though I have infertility knocking me around, I think I am in a space to set that foundation. At least I need to believe that I can set that happiness foundation or this whole project is a moot point. And I'm wasting my time reading these books.
Thinking of happiness in terms of tiles is a scary thing because it means that (1) those tiles can be taken away or (2) they may never be achieved. If one of my needs is completing my family, how will I ever build that foundation if I'm basing my happiness in that? People can leave me and jobs can be lost. It feels very vulnerable to have my heart placed in other people's hands. But how can great happiness be achieved otherwise?
So what is your definition of happiness? If you answer this one on your blog, please leave a link to the url below in the comments section so other people can read along too.