When I was in my early twenties, I felt a deep sense of emptiness within. On the outside I was all smiles and shiny, but on the inside there was a hollowness, so deep, that I thought I would never be happy again.
By today’s standards you might say that I was depressed. After all, I had lost so much — my father, my partner, my cousin and my business — all within the span of three months! But it wasn’t these losses that caused my grief. No, it was something else.
It was Me
It was all about me. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?”
Me, me, me. That’s all I was thinking about. I had selfishly forgotten about all the other people who were affected by what had happened — my mother, who lost her husband. My brother, who lost his father. My aunt, who lost her daughter and my cousin, who lost her sister. And the impact that these situations were having on them. I was totally unaware of their pain; being utterly consumed in my own.
It wasn’t until I travelled to India to study Vedanta, at the Vedanta Academy, that I gained awareness of just how self-centred I really was. And today I strongly believe that all our problems stem from this one problem:
Thinking about ourselves all the time makes us to feel incomplete, inadequate and unfulfilled. This feeling pushes us into the world seeking fulfilment. We seek to be filled materially, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
However, external pursuits of happiness can never fulfil us. At best they can provide us with a temporary sense of satisfaction. That is all. That’s why we keep wanting more and more.
Enough is Never Enough
Almost everyone is caught up in a mad chase for more — more money, more things, more experiences and more excitement. People genuinely believe that the more they have the more fulfilled they will be, but the result of having more often means that you have less! Less satisfaction, less contentment and less fulfilment in life. The more you have, the more you want.
When America’s first billionaire, J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more!”
“A little bit more” is like whipping cream; if you go too far, it spoils it all.
The Source of Happiness
The wise tell us that the source of happiness is within. If this is true, then why do people run after material things? Why is everyone still so fascinated with the world? The answer to this question is simple: instant pleasures!
The world provides us with instant pleasures — an immediate sense of satisfaction. For example, eating an ice-cream on a hot summer’s day. This is definitely a pleasure, but the satisfaction it provides is only temporary. It disappears as fast as it appears.
And when it disappears we are left feeling a empty inside. Again we rush out into the world seeking fulfilment — it may be coffee with a friend, catching a movie, going for a walk, a run, a picnic. Whatever it is, if we are dependent on that activity for our happiness then our life will be like a roller-coaster ride of happy-sad, happy-sad, happy-sad….
We must therefore learn to shift our focus from trying to find happiness outside to finding happiness within. The question is how?
Below are six simple steps to help you find happiness within.
Step 1: Fix An Inspiring Goal
The higher the goal, meaning the more selfless it is, the more power it will generate within you. Set your goal high, but make sure it is within your capacity to achieve.
Step 2: Create a Plan of Action
Spend some time carefully planning a course of action. What steps do you need to take to reach your goal? Write a list of all the tasks you need to carry out to achieve your objective.
Step 3: Focus on the Present Action
The mistake many people make is that they focus their mind on the goal or the outcome. Focusing on the outcome creates anxiety. Your mind must be behind the present action. Only then will you attain the results you want.
Step 4: Love Unselfishly
Love is a universal feeling of oneness. When we learn to love beyond the boundaries of our personal preferences, then we gain a beautiful sense of inner peace and contentment.
Step 5: Be Grateful for What You Have
We must learn to be grateful for what we have in life — food on our table, family and friends, eyes to see, ears to hear, limbs to move about, a voice, beautiful emotions, the ability to think and oxygen to breathe.
Step 6: Perform Conscious Acts of Kindness
When you are grateful for what you have, automatically you want to give back. You begin to see the needs of others — little things, like filling the kettle after you use it, so that there’s water ready for the next person. Or washing the dishes in the sink, even if they’re not yours. You no longer wait for others to do it, you step up and do it yourself.
You are always ready to lend a hand and always prepared to do more than is expected of you. When your attitude is based on giving rather than taking you will be amazed how happiness fills you up from within.
Image Credit: Christine McConnell