Happiness is Perception
Western cultures are incredibly unhappy. Although we have the hugest amount of opportunity available to us, we aren't happy. In fact, we are stressed all the time.
We are constantly focused on the next thing and what we need (or consume) next to make us happy. Once we obtain something (possession or goal), we are happy for a little while, but then go back to a stressful existence.
Western culture, and capitalism to some extent, is to blame for this mindset. If I asked you what your largest goal in life is, the underlying reason is you expect achieving it will make you happy. But, if you obtained this, would you be happy? No. You would have a temporary happiness and euphoria which only lasted for a short period of time. Once the happiness goes away, you would set another goal, which you think would make you happy if you achieved.
The Mindset of Happiness
No amount of goals achieved will actually make you happy. You have to change what your outlook is in order to be happy. Both Tony Robbins and Joel Osteen talk about the benefit of being thankful for things you currently have.
Tony Robbins suggests, an hour of power, walking each morning and saying out loud the things you are thankful for. His thought is by doing this and hearing yourself saying the things you are thankful for will create a change in mindset. Rather than being focused on things you want you will be focused on things you have.
Think about it. If you are living in a first-world country you have, clean running water, cheap abundant food, and relative easy access to health care. 95% of the world doesn't even have these 3 things. But are you thankful for this amazing things? We are so focused on what we want that we take what we have for granted.
To put this in perspective the U.S. Government puts out a cost of Food at Home Plan every month. For July 2012, an average person's meals for a month costs around $250. This is not even the thrifty plan. Your $2000 laptop could feed someone for 8 months. Are you thankful you can afford a device to read this on?
Everything is Amazing and No One Is Happy
We are more connected and have better networks than anyone in the past has ever had. We should be able to build amazing things with the resources available to us. But we don't. We are so focused on the bad and rarely focus on the good.
Louis C.K. has an entire rant where he talks about how amazing we all have it, but all anyone does is complain.
I was on an airplane and there was Internet, high speed Internet on the airplane. It was brand new. I'm sitting on the plane and they go open up your laptop and you can go on the Internet and it's fast and I'm watching YouTube clips it's amazing. I'm in an airplane and then it breaks down and they apologize the Internet is not working and the guy next to me says, "this is bullshit." Like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago.
Flying is the worst because people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it's always a horror story. They make it sound like it is the worst day of their life. "First of all we didn't board for 20 minutes and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there." Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? Wow, you're flying! It's amazing!
Appreciate the Things and People You Have
When someone close to you dies, you will often focus on things that were unsaid. Once many experience this they start to appreciate things around them, at least temporarily. However, you need to appreciate those around you regardless of what is going on in your life. You always think you have more time than you actually do. This is a part of the human experience. You think you will live forever.
Appreciation is a critical part of being happy and feeling fulfilled. Every day, is a day to impact something or someone. Make the most of it. Today, you are one day closer to death. Be happy for what you currently have and make the most of what is available to you?