What may be considered as the most encompassing definition of happiness was provided by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle. He said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” The Dalai Lama seemed to have concurred when he said that the very purpose of life is to seek happiness.
Life indeed is an endless quest for happiness. People always seek for things that gives them pleasure and enjoyment. They do whatever it takes for them to attain contentment and satisfaction. They enjoy the moments when they feel untroubled, delighted and satisfied.
Happiness may come from different sources. It can be put this way also…that happiness is an effect resulting from different causes. It depends on a person’s beliefs and perspectives. People define happiness in different ways thus they tread different directions when pursuing it. They differ in opinion as to what brings joy and meaning to one’s existence.
Since time immemorial people have been debating whether or not money can buy happiness. The question commonly asked is “Are wealthy people really happy and those who are not unhappy?”
Democritus articulated,“Happiness resides not in possession, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” In disagreement Albert Camus had this to say, “It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.”
Which of the two contentions would hold water in a world driven by materialism, Democritus’ or that of Camus? Can people be happy without money? Does happiness reside on the things that a person’s wealth would allow him to buy and to own…clothes, jewelry, gadgets, cars?
However a person responds to the questions aforementioned is grounded on his perspectives about life. Whatever a person does to his life is his own prerogative. Believing that money dictates happiness would not make a person bad. And if believing so would make him focus on amassing wealth then fine. People do whatever makes them happy. As Aristotle said, “Happiness depends on ourselves.” How a person gets the money is another question.
Oscar Wilde once said, “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.” Believe that or would you rather take it from Benjamin Franklin who said, “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness.” He also added that the more of it (money) one has the more one wants.
Here’s another one from Henry David Thoreau… “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” In response, Dennis Waitley explained, “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, work or consumed.” In addition, he argued that “happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
The downside of embracing Thoreau’s thoughts can be summed up in the following question: What happens if you don’t have wealth? Would it mean that those who do not have money cannot fully experience life?
Not everybody can be rich so much so that they can buy beyond what is necessary. Many are content with having just enough. Many live modest lives and they do not complain.
There are people who earn just enough to buy the basic things they need yet they are happy. They live in modest houses, not big mansions and not all of them have cars yet they are satisfied and contended. Why? They don’t have lots of money but perhaps they have love. They chime to George Sand’s idea that there is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved or sing along with The Beatles who, in one of their songs said, “For I don’t care too much for money, for money can’t buy me love.”
There are people whose happiness lies not in the material things the world offers. Some people find happiness by helping others. They believe that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). They embrace the idea “Happiness never decreases by being shared (Buddha).”
Some feel ultimate joy when they bask in the glory of their achievements, when they finally get what they have worked so hard to achieve. As Franklin D. Roosevelt puts it, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
However a person wants to achieve happiness is entirely up to him. But as Zig Ziglar pointed out, “Until your are happy with who you are, you will never be happy with what you have.”
We don’t only chart our own destiny but we also define our own happiness. It starts from within. It should not be contingent on anything nor dictated by terms set by other people.
Happiness is a decision we make. “Most folks,” according to Abrham Lincoln, “are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
So, heed Leo Tolstoy’s advise, “If you want to be happy, be.” Remember what Buddha said, “Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are; it solely relies on what you think.”