If true happiness was an equation, I bet it would look like this:
I don’t really know what any of that means. I don’t know what this equation represents or what problem it’s trying to solve. When I look at it, I see nothing but lines, squiggles, and numbers.
But I do know this about math…
When something is missing from the equation, the answer will always turn out either a little or a lot differently and sometimes it becomes impossible to solve at all.
Happiness is the same way. There are very specific equations each person must solve if they are to find what happiness really is for them. Unlike math, however, there’s no cheating off of your neighbor’s paper because the equation is quite different for every single person.
And also just like mathematics, happiness is something that takes time to learn. Nobody just wakes up one day and solves complicated calculus problems without first learning the things that lead up to it. Even the best mathematicians and scientists in the world started by learning foundational principles such as 1 + 1 = 2. Likewise, nobody can fine-tune their happiness or delve into deeper levels of happiness until they first get the basics under their belts.
Learning what makes us happy foundationally is something we spend a good portion of our lives doing. It’s also something some of us, unfortunately, never quite figure out or are never given the chance to do.
For some, their primary source of happiness might be centered in social connections. For others, family. For others, accomplishment. Some might find the main source of their happiness in animals. Others in service. Others in fitness. Some will find it in spirituality. Some will find it in learning. Some will find it in children. Primary sources of happiness are usually personal and I think are often value or moral based.
Our secondary sources of happiness will be even more varied. Some will find happiness in cooking. Some will find it working under the hood of a car. Some will find it in painting a picture. Some will find it in taking risk or seeking adventure. Some will find it on Facebook. Others on blogs. Others on a walk at the city park. Secondary sources of happiness are usually personal and are often activity or hobby based.
We all seem to understand that it’s okay for everybody else to have their own secondary sources of happiness. We understand that some people will enjoy jogging and that other people would rather workout at the gym. We’re okay with that. We’re okay with the idea that one person may love to scrapbook while another person may love to fish. When one person loves dancing, we are okay that another person would rather be sitting in a bar playing trivia. Very few people try to force their secondary ideas of happiness onto the people around them.
Yet for some reason, most of us don’t seem to understand that it’s okay for everybody else to have their own primary sources of happiness as well. Most of us have a hard time believing that our primary sources of happiness could possibly be different than that of our spouse, our friends, our kids, or our family members.
Because our primary sources of happiness are usually moral or value based, we believe that they are universal and indisputable. We push our ideas of happiness onto others. We look at each other and we think that every equation is going to be the same for every person. We try to tell others how they should be solving their own happiness equations based on what we ourselves have learned while trying to solve ours.
But the truth is…
Some people aren’t happy sitting in a pew. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy working out six days a week. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy being in a relationship or being married. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy having kids or being with kids. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy having a dog. Or a cat. Or a bird. Or any other animal by their side. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy manually laboring to serve other people. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy working a nine to five. And they never will be.
Some people aren’t happy being constantly surrounded by big groups of people. And they never will be.
And… Some people are happy sitting in a pew. Some people are happy spending huge amounts of their lives exercising. Some people are happy being in a good relationship or being married to someone they truly love. Some people are happy having kids or being with kids. Some people are happy owning pets. Some people are happy going out and laboring to serve others. Some people are happy working hard and seeking professional accomplishment. Some people are happy when they get to be the center of attention or go out with friends all the time.
If you think about it, can’t you fairly easily believe it? In theory at least? Can’t you believe that the very things that make you happy (or unhappy) at your basest of levels might not fit correctly into the happiness equations of others?
Of course you can believe it.