Earnestness – The Key to Living a Happy Life
Is there a specific ingredient that one must have in order to be happy? Is there something that, if we possess it, will cause us to be happy? If this is true, are there only certain people that can be happy? In other words, is happiness limited to only a select few? Let’s explore these questions.
The great news is that I believe that any one of us can be happy, no matter our circumstances. It really doesn’t matter what we start out with in this world as long as we end up living a happy and joyful life. However, there is one thing that we need in order to achieve this, a principle that works across the board in life in general and with happiness especially. What is this principle? This principle is success, to succeed at something.
What is needed to succeed? If you don’t know this about me, I have a private practice in Newport Beach, California. Newport Beach is one of the most exclusive zip codes in the world, and so in order to live there, you must be successful. The people I work with are all very successful at what they do. What is the key, unifying ingredient that I see when working with these people? It is that they really work hard and are really earnest about being successful. They want to be successful, they learn from their mistakes, and they keep going forward. A lot of people work hard but aren’t necessarily successful. It’s not just about hard work, it’s about working “smart”! Teachers, for example, can work really hard but aren’t necessarily recognized for their efforts. But, if a teacher develops her skills, learns from her mistakes, moves forward, and keeps improving, she may end up being recognized as “Teacher of the Year.” That teacher “worked smart.”
Interestingly, once you are successful at something, you tend to breed success again. For example, right now in 2011 we are mired in a pretty rough recession. My clients in Newport Beach have felt the effects of the bad economy too, but because they’re very gifted professionally, they have adapted to the changes, moved forward, and continue to be successful. In general, as long as what we are pursuing is realistic, we can do it. However, if you want to become an Olympic athlete, for example, this may not be feasible. Achieving something like this is possible, but one also needs a lot of other things to fall into place to make this happen besides hard work and earnestness. One needs good genetics, special talents, and special circumstances. Since there’s a limited pool of these types of people, not everyone can achieve something like this. But remember, any of us can achieve general accomplishments, such as financial success, as long as we can adapt, learn, and grow. We can be very successful in many things in life as long as we apply this method. Any of us can be good at something if we apply the same skills of success.
When we pursue things like money, fame, success, or prestige, we are actually pursuing the deepest level of happiness. We all just want to be happy! Unfortunately, when we get on this path toward success, we think that if we reach our goals we’ll be happy. But reaching these end goals don’t automatically make us happy, none of them do. When we reach our goals, we may say, “Wow! That actually didn’t make me as happy as I thought. Everyone loves me, I have a lot of money, but I’m not truly happy!” And, we must remember that anything that we can achieve can be taken away, even if we’re fantastically successful and a multi-billionaire. Our achievements are inherently impermanent and this threat of impermanence always lurks. Life brings successes as well as change. When change hits, we often suffer. If we want to be happy, we have to be very earnest about success and we have to work very hard. We must also be honest and be flexible. For example, if we run a business and it burns down, or doesn’t make us any money, or it doesn’t bring us joy, we must close it down, and move on to something else. Only then will we be truly happy.
Unfortunately, when it comes to happiness, we often delude ourselves through addiction saying, “I’m happy when I’m on my drug, but just don’t take my drug away.” But since it can be taken away, obviously addictions don’t work and they cause us suffering. We can all understand this, so let me offer a different example. Perhaps we say to ourselves, “Right now I really like what I’m doing, I’m in a loving relationship and I have a couple of great kids, but sometimes I have these intense fears that kick in. I get very afraid when I hear stories about divorce, people losing their jobs, or someone’s kids getting sick or being in a serious accident.” If there is a threat to what we have right now, then ultimately we’re really not completely happy. True contentment must be available 100% of the time and unconditionally for us to be truly happy. If our happiness is conditional, it’s not really a true, lasting happiness.
Let me give you an example. Many years ago when our children were very young, my wife was part of a “Mom’s Group.” In Orange County, where we lived, three children were killed in a car accident. The mother of these children was someone in my wife’s “Mom’s Group.” After the accident, all of the other moms were fearful of what had happened, not being able to imagine losing their kids like that. It was such a dark, scary thing and it really made them very afraid. Because of this they suffered. Even though their own children were very happy and doing well, just the fear of such a tragic incident caused them unhappiness. We must be honest when these bumps in life come, and we must deal with them, address them, feel them, and heal. Are we ultimately in a constant state of happiness? If we answer “no,” then this is where earnestness comes in. We must keep learning tools and skills that help us maintain and improve our constant state of happiness. It is possible for life to go very, very well, but it takes work. As long as we’re not turning towards addictions, then we can find this constant state of happiness with earnestness. In turning towards addictions, people delude themselves into thinking they’re happy when they’re really not. We have to be honest, and addictions don’t allow us to be honest. When we’re truly feeling what we feel and we’re honest, then we’re going to keep working on finding ways to be in a pretty regular state of happiness.
This whole series is about happiness and how to be happy. We explore together the world of happiness and how we can be happy. With these tools, we can really have a beautiful and happy life. But happiness takes work and it takes earnestness. You have to really want to be happy. If we are rich or famous, but unhappy, then we’ll probably not enjoy life even though outwardly we may seem successful. We must realize that we should strive to be happy now, even though we are still on our journey toward whatever we may be pursuing; the end result of our journey must not be an overly large factor in our happiness. I believe any of us can have a very happy life right now. It takes work, but it’s worth the effort. Let’s explore, let’s continue to learn ways to be happy. It is possible to have a life of continuous happiness, with earnestness.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books and creates a weekly podcast on happiness at www.HappinessPodcast.org He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation, http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com and a weekly podcast on spiritual enlightenment, http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com His retreat schedules can be found at http://www.HolisticRetreats.tv You also might find his blog useful at www.Meditation-Enlightenment.com If you are interested in having Dr. Puff speak to your organization or company, you can learn more about his speaking services at http://www.SuccessBeyondYourImagination.com