General Happiness

“The Happiness Hype” – Mother of all Problems!

What is our personal experience with ‘happiness’?

Haven’t we felt that happiness is always elusive? We feel that it is just around the corner or a few feet in front of us. We also feel that it will happen sometime in the future – one-moment happiness is within our grasp but disappears the next moment.

We hear from people around us, “Are you happy with your life? You should be happy! If you are not happy there is something wrong!” This continuous message from outside leads us to believe that the goal of life is happiness. If someone is asked to pick one and only one goal in his life, they will finally say ‘happiness’, because over the past few decades this has been so deeply ingrained in us.

Conventional wisdom insists that happiness is the goal of life. This has led to many happiness experts and happiness institutes around the world researching and spending millions of dollars to find out how to make the man happier. There are ‘happiness books’ coming out by the dozen teaching us techniques of how to be happier. Man is busy pursuing the ever elusive rainbow of happiness.

But, are we becoming happier? A strange paradox raises its head. We believe that happiness is the goal; we pursue it; we learn the techniques to become happier; we become more obsessed with happiness, but, surprisingly we are becoming unhappier! Data shows, that as years go by, the incidence of depression is increasing.  There is a growing acceptance in professional psychological circles that we are becoming more obsessed with happiness. The result of this obsession is that as generations go by, we are becoming more miserable.

These articles come up when we search for ‘obsession with happiness’ on the internet – many are opinion pieces by reputed psychologists. There is a growing recognition in psychological circles that ‘happiness’ is a much-hyped goal. The negative impact of the ‘happiness culture’ is slowly being recognized.

Most of the issues in my life disappeared when I recognized this ‘mother’ of all problems and jumped out of the happiness paradigm. It has far-reaching implications in our personal lives and the lives of our children who are more likely to be distraught victims of the happiness culture.

Our future generations will live far unhappier than us because they will be more obsessed with happiness.

‘Obsession with happiness’ is being recognized as one of the root causes of many psychological issues because of how it also glorifies and promotes selfishness. Bad relationships; incapability to handle pain and adversities; diverting attention from real problems with short-term pleasure binges; focus on getting continuously gratified – all this finally lead to miserable people. How our children are greater victims of the happiness culture is being highlighted in the above-mentioned articles.

Is there a solution? Conventional solutions range from trying to define what is short-term happiness (pleasure) and long-term happiness (fulfillment, contentment, peace) or by listening to well-meaning pieces of advice like ‘be selfless’.  The conventional solutions given by them are ‘be selfless’, ‘be genuine’, ‘learn to handle adversities because they are opportunities’, ‘don’t pursue pleasure’ ‘be loving, be compassionate’ or ‘move to delayed gratification’ – all excellent prescriptions which we have heard multiple times in our lives. But, haven’t we always found them difficult to implement. We could put up an act of being ‘selfless’, but in our inner depths, we know that we are pretending.

Most techniques (prayer, meditation, psychotherapy or relationship counseling) provide only partial results because of our underlying fixation with our happiness. When the fixation with happiness is removed, all these techniques become far more effective. When we SAY NO TO HAPPINESS, we become less selfish. But it is not as easy as it seems, because this will become just another new technique until we really realize how ‘happiness’ is a hyped-up goal. Even though happiness is elusive, at least it existed as an illusory goal. The paradigm shift of removing happiness as our goal creates a sense of purposelessness. This purpose vacuum has to be filled with an alternate goal because it is impossible for us to live without a goal. Otherwise, we will switch back to our goal of ‘happiness’. This alternate goal is elaborated in the book SAY NO TO HAPPINESS.

The book is about how to stop pretending and to become genuinely loving, selfless and understanding. This approach of ‘SAY NO TO HAPPINESS’ is about authentic leadership, relationships, parenting, spirituality – in short, every aspect of our life. It is a counterintuitive approach to living a far more fulfilling life and is founded on my personal experience of jumping out of the happiness paradigm.

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