Here’s a heady question to start out the new year. What do you think is the purpose of life? I’ll admit I haven’t considered this question much lately. I’ve been way too busy with meeting deadlines, running errands, and trying to spend quality time with the people I care about. Who has time for philosophy these days?
Recently, however, I came across a magazine article called “In Search of Heaven” and found a curious answer to this question. In the article, during an interview with Barbara Walters, the Dalai Lama said the purpose of life is to be happy. What an idea! It’s so simple. too. But lurking behind the simplicity of those words are a whole slew of questions: What is happiness? How do we become happy? What if happiness is elusive?
Certainly to be happy is a worthy goal. I just never thought of happiness as the ultimate purpose of life, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? If we feel happy, we’re not inclined to be unkind or jealous or angry or any other of those negative emotional states we tend to slip into without even realizing it. Just think: happy people wouldn’t need to fight wars, engage in political unrest, or commit crimes.
So the question is how do we become happy? The answer is unique to each one of us. What makes me happy is not likely to be the same thing that makes my husband or my kids happy and vice versa. Scott, my oldest, for example loves to play computer games—definitely not on my list of ways to get happy. In fact, what makes me happy is leaving the computer screen behind and spending time outdoors inhaling fresh air and feeling the sun warm my skin.
Actually I can think of a lot of things that make me happy: cooking meals for my family, sharing conversation with friends, reading in a quiet room next to a crackling fire. I’m sure you have your own list of activities that make you happy. The trouble is we never seem to have enough time for enjoying these happy moments. In fact, trying to find time to fit in our favorite pastimes ends up making us frustrated and ultimately—well, unhappy.
Instead of pursuing happiness in the outside world, perhaps we should be seeking happiness within. The truth is many people are unhappy because they don’t feel they have what they want. They’re always climbing up the mountain but never getting to the top. Maybe they should stop climbing, sit still in a meadow somewhere, and take a good long look at themselves. One of the first questions to consider is what makes them happy. I bet the answer isn’t more money, a nicer car, or a bigger house.
As the new year unfolds before us, it’s like a blank slate for us to fill. A good way to start might be to consider what brings us happiness and then resolve to do whatever is within our power to be happy. Like the ripple effect, the happiness we feel will spread to those around us and then beyond.
Cheers! Here’s hoping you have a very happy new year!