The challenge of happiness
Throughout our lives, we are incomplete. Happiness is the search for what is missing. It comes from finding whatever you think you need to be complete, like doing well in school, finishing a project, or helping another person finish their job. It can be a small thing, like having pencils and pens at your disposal, or big things like building a new home, and anything in between.
The mind plays the central role in your happiness
Your mind plays the central role in whether you are happy or not. What makes you happy? Is it family, weather, money or a hundred other items? Is happiness based on having a certain amount of money, owning a particular object, seeing other people succeed, or having success in some way by yourself?
The benefits of happiness
If you are unhappy, that unhappiness can cause sadness, worry, envy, anger, physical illness, and excessive anxiety. That unhappiness can lead to not eating properly, not sleeping properly and not exercising properly. Being cheerful preserves your health and helps you cope with adversity.
Besides being happy yourself, your attitude can cheer other people up, not only your family, but also other people who may be unhappy. Happiness can be infectious.
The unhappiness formula
Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem,” came up with an unhappiness formula. The formula is U = I – R. The amount of unhappiness, U, equals your image, I, minus your reality, R. Your image is what you want to achieve compared to the reality of what you have actually achieved, and where you are now. The greater the difference from your image to your reality, the greater the unhappiness or dissatisfaction.
Your image is your expectation of what you hope to achieve, which could be very far away from where you are right now, or relatively close. You decide what that expectation is. For example, if you are out of shape and can only walk or jog one mile in 25 minutes, and you expect to jog a mile in eight minutes, then that difference is huge and can make you quite unhappy. If, on the other hand, your expectation is to walk one mile in 20 minutes, then the difference is not as great, and you shouldn’t be as unhappy.
In a similar fashion, having an image to lose 5 pounds from what you weigh right now should make you somewhat unhappy, but expecting to lose 60 pounds should make you more unhappy. That is not to say that the 60-pound loss is 12 times more unhappy than the 5-pound loss. Unhappiness does not move in a straight line and the scale of unhappiness is very likely different for different people.
However, the point is that the greater your expectation is from where you are today, the more likely you will be unhappy. You can reduce your unhappiness by dropping down your image, by lowering your expectation. It will be easier to achieve that expectation than having a goal that is much more difficult. Intermediate goals are easier to achieve. Smaller goals can make it easier to celebrate little, positive results. Over time, the image you have going forward can be closer to where you are right now, making your unhappiness a little less and your goal more achievable.
Of course, you can also reduce your unhappiness by boosting your reality, but that is much more difficult because reality is what it is, which is much more difficult to change than some future expectation in your mind. In short, by either lowering your image or increasing your reality, you can improve your happiness.
If you are not satisfied with how you act and who you are, does this dissatisfaction make you unhappy? Are you willing to accept your own reality, or do you want to be a better person, however you define better? Do you want to reduce your anger, your suffering, your arrogance? Do you want to improve your kindness, your commitment to family, friends and others? Do you want to hate less and love more? If any of these thoughts, among others, make it possible to change and you want to change, then character improvement is possible. You can be happier. It’s all up to you.
The Bottom Line: Begin right now to be a little happier to enjoy your life a little more, and you might even live a little longer.