Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Short Guide to Happiness for Dummies

I like to believe that I am a happy and content human being even if I aspire for more. And this self-belief has only been heightened by hundreds of my friends who seek my advice and guidance in matters of happiness at moments of perplexity. So I figured I must be doing something right to be in this constant state of flux, always changing, transforming, yet smiling and happy and joyful – most of the time. Few religious beliefs and schools of philosophy has led us to accept that ‘life is suffering’, also most of us find life too difficult or complex and complicated. But not once do we see that the key to happiness is with us, within us. Happiness and sorrow are simultaneously present no matter who we are, where we are, what we do or how we live. The difference is in our vision, in our attitude, in our way of life. I must explain the title to this post before we proceed further, lest some of you may be offended: a short guide since your guide here is short (I am only 170 cm in my heels) and by no means I am implying that any of you or all of you are ‘dummies’, it’s just a figure-of-speech I like.

We shall not seek happiness (just as I never seek the summit), we shall only endeavor to remove the elements that cause us misery and sorrow and unhappiness and thus when our cup of sorrow is empty will flow in the breeze of contentment and happiness by itself since that is the law of nature, nature abhors vacuum.

To understand happiness we must discover what makes us unhappy and miserable just like we must explore those roads too that we do not wish to traverse. Objectively life is not a matter of choice but subjectively almost anything is a matter of choice, we can choose to be what we want to be, if not materialistically but intrinsically for sure. The thin line that stands between these two opposite states is not insurmountable or impregnable like the one between North and South Korea. Every choice and option that we opt for in life, either makes life simpler or more twisted and from there on it is like a jigsaw puzzle which keeps growing in size and number of pieces and we scatter them around so far and so quick that soon enough we have no idea how many there are and where they went. And then one day when we try to assemble the pieces trying to put them back together we find that it is impossible; there lies much of our sorrow. No matter what we do, life will get twisted and difficult at times, yet at that point rather than trying to recover and put back every piece, try to find the ones we can discard and obliterate, the ones that are no longer relevant, no longer needed since life has changed and so have we. This is a cleansing process by selective reduction of our needs and greed and illusionary essentials.

Another primary cause of our sorrow is that we expect too much too soon from life while doing too little. Life is short I agree, but not so short that we don’t even do our bit but want everything.

It is simple logic, more complex the machine, more complex the problems and even more complex the solutions. Human is an evolutionary machine both physically and mentally and emotionally and spiritually. We have the power to decide whether we wish to evolve in complexity or simplicity, whether we wish to de-clutter or fill ourselves up with inanity.

If we are unhappy it is because we have chosen to grieve, as easy as that. And if we are doing what we have chosen to do then shouldn’t it logically make us happy! So grief and sorrow are also sources of joy and contentment.

We can keep wishing for things to go our way or according to our wish but we should not be complaining when it doesn’t. Happiness is also about accepting that there are things that you cannot make happen and you have no control over yet it doesn’t mean we should stop wishful and positive thinking. If you can change something then do it and if you can’t then either accept it or change yourself. Idle whining and complaining gets you nowhere.

Happiness is a state of existence, of being, of how we react to the external world and to the internal conflicts, what we allow to enter and what we expel, it’s precisely who we choose to be; and exactly that’s how we are in total control. Suffering is a figment of the mind, only physical pain is real since it is inflicted yet that may not be a source of sorrow or suffering. 

Steps to Happiness (in no particular order)

Take each day of life as one, rather than at life as a whole and get bogged down by its magnitude, mysteries, uncertainties and failings.

Accept that everything is not possible and you cannot do everything and then go for the things you really aspire for and are practically most feasible

Follow your dreams no matter how impossible they may seem. Don’t waste your life in following dreams of others

Live selfishly; the primary cause for doing anything or not doing something should be your own wish. If it also benefits someone else than it is a bonus. There is no such thing as being selfless. Most of us who are into charity believe that they are acting selfless, but they are not. They are certainly doing it for their own happiness or because such acts make them appear magnanimous in their own eyes or to others and also out of sense of piety perhaps.

Don’t take life seriously. Life is fun, life is a journey, life is exciting and life is a never ending adventure; there’s nothing to be serious about any of these.

Never expect that you would be understood, or appreciated for what your worth is, or lauded when you do something extraordinary. In fact the opposite is more likely to happen; you will be subject to envy and defamation.

React to every situation with a hearty laughter followed by a deep smile

Put in your best in all you do but stay unaffected by the outcome of your efforts

Accept that not everything is under your control, so just do your part that is and leave the rest to what it will be

Accept that you cannot change everyone

Accept that not everyone will love you or care about you

Accept that everything changes in this life, everything, and everyone and that nothing lasts forever

Don’t be scared to start something new, something fresh

Keep life simple, since it is simple

Make the choices that you really want to and if you have to make a compromise then be sure of how much you are willing to lose in order to gain. It doesn’t really matter what you choose or do as long as you know clearly without a shadow of doubt the reasons for making that choice

Accept that you are responsible for what you do and don't blame others for what you couldn't 

Life is a climb but the view from the top, the fresh breath of air and the sense of accomplishment are absolutely worth it, so never give up, neither on your dreams nor on those you love and certainly never say no to life

I can of course go on and on upon this topic but then they would all be slight variations to what I have already summarized above. What is most significant is to understand and realize that YOU have the power to decide how you want to be, Happy or Sad. It’s your life, it’s your choice. Go out and make it happen!

Just like any other pursuit, the path to happiness is also unique for each one of us, like I climb mountains and travel the world and my full time occupation is to enjoy life, so shall you find your own pursuit own path and while doing so if you keep my guidelines in mind I am sure your path may be less pernicious without reducing the thrill of the adventure.

I will always see you on the top…

P.S. The accompanying picture is that of one of my daughters from the mountains. Archana is all of 17 years and I have known her since she was a baby. Never have I seen this girl sad or without a smile. Her world surrounded by misty hills is beautiful as she is both from within and without and I couldn’t think of a purer soul or smile to go with this article


  1. Thank you
    words appear when the mind seeks it

  2. a very happy post and coming from you every word can be believed and sunk in. Can't think of any other human that is happier then you :-)

    happiness is a habit that i want to get addicted too and i think i am almost there... just one more step ;-)