Happiness Is A Journey, Not A Destination
Be here, now. This moment is all that matters
We all want to be happy. Happiness is a state that most of us aspire to but are unsure about how to get there.
It’s funny to think that we can lead our lives year after year and still strive to be happy. I have faced this problem. I wrote an article previously about how I wondered whether I would ever be happy.
Well, now I feel as if I have an answer.
For too long I was focusing on reaching a state of happiness. Such was my desperation to become happy, if I had come across an online course which taught me how to get there, I would have bought it.
The irony is that when I stopped chasing happiness I became happier. By letting go of my desire to be happier, to reach this mystical state which I so desired, I was able to live my life without additional pressure.
In a way, it’s a similar feeling to how many people feel about travelling. You can spend all your time travelling around a country, Australia for instance, but have a desire to visit one place in particular.
You want to visit Sydney, but first, you’re backpacking around other parts of the country. You’re having a fantastic time, the scenery is incredible, you’ve met some amazing people, but in the back of your mind, you still want to get to Sydney.
As much as you are enjoying yourself now, you’re sure that you will have the time of your life once you arrive in Sydney.
Once you get there and you look around, it’s true, you’re amazed by the beauty you see. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, they are incredible sights, but as time goes on, a realisation hits you.
Maybe, it’s not as good as I thought it would be. Maybe I had more fun before I arrived in Sydney.
This can happen often when you’re travelling. You’re so eager to get somewhere, or to do something, that you forget to appreciate what you are doing in the moment.
The same is true with happiness. Instead of desiring to reach a state, the key is to live in the moment and enjoy the journey.
Embrace The Journey
For six months this year, I drove around Europe with two of my friends. The plan was to visit every country on the continent and climb some mountains along the way.
This was the only plan. We didn’t have a specific route, we didn’t have a firm finishing point or date in mind, we just jumped in a car and went from there.
The goal of the trip was to see as many places as we could and reach the highest point in each European country. While I wasn’t too bothered about the last point compared to my friends, I was keen to see as many countries as I could.
One particular spot I wanted to visit was the Baltic States. I had wanted to visit these countries for several years but never got around to visiting.
At one point, I even had a job offer to work in Estonia teaching English, but I decided to stay in Barcelona instead. Visiting these countries had been a long time in the making for me.
At the start of the trip, we deliberated heading there or heading south towards Spain. I wasn’t fussed either way, and we ended up going to Spain instead to get it out of the way in terms of logistics.
This meant that, in all likelihood, we wouldn’t visit the Baltic States until the end of the trip. This was fine, but it meant that the anticipation of going there was building up.
I knew that when we went there, I would be excited and my expectations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were already sky high!
When we eventually reached Estonia, I was very happy. I got to see a part of the world I’d wanted to see for ages. The culture, the buildings, the food, the people, it was all fantastic and I had a great time.
The same could be said for Latvia and Lithuania. They’re two fascinating countries and I had a brilliant time exploring them.
However, once we left the Baltic States, my emotions were more or less the same as when we first arrived. I was no happier at the end than I was at the start. That’s not because I didn’t enjoy myself, I did.
I knew why this was, I’ve felt this feeling before. This trip just confirmed it to me. Happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey. In my case, as much as I was enjoying the trip, I was enjoying the journey even more.
What I learned from this trip is that much like travelling, happiness is not somewhere you reach, it’s a process. If you think more money, more followers or a bigger house will finally make you happy, you’re mistaken.
None of this will make you happier. The irony is that once you realise this you will become even more unhappy. An unfortunate paradox.
True happiness comes from accepting the journey we are on and making the most of it. Like travelling, there are good days and there are bad days. There are times when we feel on top of the world and others when we’re at rock bottom.
The key is to accept this as part of the bargain. It’s part of the deal of life. Suffering is unavoidable in life.
It’s when we accept this deal when we make peace with it, that we are finally at peace. The irony is the more you chase something, the less attainable it becomes.
The same is true of happiness. If you pursue it with relentless vigour, it will keep eluding you. The key is to enjoy the ride, take the rough with the smooth and smile at the fortune and misfortune that comes your way.
The important thing to remember is to be present. To live today, not yearn for the past, or gaze longingly into the future.
Your life is here, today, happening right now. This is the moment. Only when you make the most of it and immerse yourself in the present will you be happy.