Happiness isn't the final goal of life; it's the way we live along the way.
When it comes to happiness, we should heed the words of Spanish psychiatry professor Enrique Rojas Monte, in his book, El hombre light (“Lite Man,” 1992):
“Happiness is the greatest desire of man, towards which all vectors of his conduct aim, but if we want to reach that goal, we must search for it. Besides, happiness isn’t something we find at the end of our existence, but rather along the way.”
Putting this into practice isn’t a one-time thing we can then forget; it’s a continuous challenge. With a little bit of practice and interest, it’s not too hard to attain an emotionally healthier lifestyle that will lead us to greater success on both a personal and professional level.
To this end, we need to keep in mind five practical rules, based on the ideas of a Hungarian expert in matters of happiness and subjective well-being: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in California.
1. Know your goals, seek to act congruently with them, and measure your progress
It is a question of setting reachable goals for yourself, and making them progressively more challenging. Having a clear understanding of our desires and goals and working to achieve them is fundamental for enjoying life, because “those who know what they want and work to achieve it are people whose feelings, thoughts, and actions are congruent with each other, and therefore, they are people who have achieved internal harmony.” Life isn’t just the sum of things that happen to us; it’s also a group of things that we want to happen to us.
2. Persevere in the face of failure
Of course, we must be ready and willing to persevere despite obstacles, and we need to understand clearly that “enjoyment doesn’t depend on what you do, but on how you do it,” because the way we do something can keep us focused and enjoying what we’re doing, or can make us feel bored or impatient.
3. Setbacks are challenges!
We can transform adversity into a challenge that can offer us satisfaction. Csikszentmihalyi sees this ability as the “most useful virtue, the most necessary one for survival, and the one most likely to improve our quality of life.”
4. We are part of a world that does not belong to us
There are attitudes that are very important for us to practice, such as self-confidence without egoism, and humility, because people who manage to enjoy facing challenges don’t dedicate their energy to “dominating their surroundings, but to finding a harmonious way to function within their surroundings.” This brings us to the conclusion that it is better not to seek only your own interests, but rather, to be willing to get involved in the system and think within the system as a whole.
5. Find alternative solutions in order to deal with obstacles
We shouldn’t let failure or adversity frustrate us. When dealing with obstacles, we often center our attention on what is keeping us from achieving our goals. It’s undoubtedly better to have a broader perspective so we can discover alternative solutions which — although they may fall short of the ideal — are surely better than being crushed by the obstacles. We must have broadness of vision so we can discover new solutions and give the problem only the relative importance it truly has.
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers.