Whether or not it is recognized as a right by countries around the world, the “pursuit of happiness” is one of the great motivations that underlie human actions. People have fought wars, amassed goods, engaged in philanthropies, pursued holy grails, searched for fountains of youth, all in attempts to find an elusive joy. It has been said that happiness cannot be found directly, but instead through the process of pursuit; however, only few seem to have found it, although many pursue it. For most, happiness appears to be like a carrot, always ahead, and never quite achieved. The corresponding stick would be the misery to which people seem to cling via the tendency to keep the misery in focus and engage in dialogues of complaint.
In fact, happiness is not quite so elusive as it would seem. It involves a choice, the choice of being truly open to being happy. The common denominator of those who regard themselves as happy is gratitude, accompanied by the letting go of complaint. Letting go of complaint does not mean that one cannot recognize that there are things that need to be changed. It means that one does not dwell upon those things, keeping them in mind by a continued stream of words, vocalized or unspoken. Gratitude means focusing on those things which in the moment are positive aspects of one’s life. It means that instead of repeatedly reviewing what is unsatisfying, painful or needs to be changed, one continually observes and acknowledges the large and small things in life that create joy.
What is focused upon tends to increase. Thus, even a small amount of desirability contained in whatever disaster situation can be increased by focusing on it. One evokes such focus by observing and giving thanks. Observing what is unwanted and complaining about it brings a continuation of things to complain about. Observing what is positive and giving thanks brings a continuation of things to be thankful for. Examples abound in history, folklore and literature. Try it and see. Focus on the positive moves one forward.
That forward movement is enhanced when the positive focus is increased by gratitude, by a heartfelt thankfulness. This is a habit of mind, and like many habits can seem difficult to change. Making a conscious choice each day to remember what one is grateful for is the first step. Little by little, that daily choice can lead to a reorientation of mental process and focus. Little by little and consistent are the watchwords. Gratitude is the elixir.
What are you grateful for?