How to Use External Factors to Determine Happiness and Sabotage Your Life

Back in the summer of 2013, I thought I had it all figured out.

I was living on my own again, making some money and witnessing near miracles. Most importantly, I was blissed out of my mind.

I had an epiphany one day in June shortly after my birthday. I realised that no event had an implicit meaning. If someone steps on your toes, it means nothing until you give it a meaning.

This excited me. It meant that I could just choose to be happy. What’s more, I could be thankful for anything. I didn’t have to subscribe to the cultural notions of what is desirable and what is crappy.

I was liberated… for a month and a half.

When visiting a group of friends, I realised one of them was down in the dumps about a few things. Then this thought came up: can I really allow myself to be this happy when one of my best friends is feeling this way?

The answer was no. I relinquished my happiness. A weird swirly thing happened inside me which caused me to laugh at the folly that I just caused and then I sank into a thick fog. I immediately wanted my happiness back, but didn’t know or couldn’t remember how I did it.

I was terrified. I just gave up bliss for bullshit.

I recalled how thankful I was for things. I embraced what was happening in my life at the time. I acknowledged that nothing is good or bad to dispel duality. I learnt to face my inner demons, healed dozens of traumas, meditated, did yoga, attended an Ayahuasca ceremony, had my heart broken and learnt about myself through the relationships I had with those women, and remembered my connection with the rest of the world. All these things made me a better version of who I was back in 2013.

I was healthier, I respected myself more, I was less co-dependent, I was more confident, I was wiser and I was more successful.

But I wasn’t happier.

Sometime last year I decided to stop trying to get it back, and perhaps it has done the trick.

The problem I had was that I was waiting for something to make me happy. I wanted some external validation or achievement to make me happy, or some condition that I learnt internally to do the trick.

More specifically, I did not want to simply decide to be happy. I thought it would be a cheap knock-off to the real cause of happiness.

“Oh, you just decided to be happy? That’s lame. What a cop-out. I transcended my self-concept and learnt that we are all one!”

“Are you happy?”

“…shut up.”

But no, as it turns out, to be happy all you have to do is decide that you are.

“Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.” — Valerie Bertinelli

Sometimes you know something is true because it has this ring of truth to it and your intuition is all on board. For me, I know this is true because I’m really, really annoyed. I’m annoyed because I knew this all along and having run out of options I tried it, and it worked.

I went for a walk last night and I usually listen to music as I go. My mind will do this thing and when there’s a crescendo in the song, it wants to act like I’m in some sort of music video and make the moment significant.

But last night I had no need for it. I could look at the pavement and feel the same joy I would feel when looking at the full moon above the mountains. So while one view does look “better”, I still felt great, and I wasn’t using a scene to add significance or meaning to the song, the stroll or my life.

Happiness is just a decision but society has conditioned us to believe that we can only have it when certain prerequisites are obtained. This is what kneads us into the grave of trying to get stuff (whether spiritual enlightenment or material achievement) in order to be happy.

It makes sense that I would abandon my happiness back then. I was still basing my happiness on external factors. If my friend wasn’t happy, then I didn’t deserve to be happy. I still had a lot to learn.

Moreover, I have released so much internal slime that I don’t feel a need to cling to happiness as I did back in 2013. I have no problems being upset because it doesn’t possess me like it once did. I don’t hate or resent feeling uncomfortable as I once did.

As for the search for happiness, it can actually lead you to the answer, but you probably will never adopt it. Why? Because your approach is off. You’re still waiting on some internal or external thing to trigger it instead of just making the decision to be happy because you want to be happy.

If you’re anything like me, it might take some time to wrap your mind around this because we’re conditioned to think that happiness can only come when something good happens to us. Things cause us to laugh, things cause us to feel good, and things cause us to relax. We want it automatic, not manual.

Not to mention that there could be a thought that if I were to be happy, I might not fulfil my potential and do the things I want to do. I may rest on my laurels and not work. This sounds a lot like fear that isn’t substantiated by facts. If you’re happy, you’ll do things that feel good. If work isn’t one of those things, you may find a way to enjoy the work, or stop basing your happiness on the work, or get a new job.

But this is one of several fears that prevent us from taking the easy route.

If there is anything else I would add to supplement this, it would be to accept what is. Cultivate the practise of embracing what is because there is a reason it is happening. I’ve only ever received the lesson/blessing from what seemed to be an annoying situation when I embraced what was happening to me/around me.

“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find you’re here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.” — Eckhart Tolle

My path to happiness has led me all around the spiritual and material world, but I had to journey to these places to learn that the answer was here at home, within me.

(Man, I’m still annoyed!)

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