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Pursue Life, Not Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness

In the film Hector and the Search for Happiness (September 19, 2014 US release date), Simon Pegg plays a psychiatrist who searches the globe to find the secret of happiness. Early on, Hector is challenged by one of his patients, Anjali, a clairvoyant who has lost her ability to see into the future. She tells Hector she feels like a fraud giving readings to her clients. As Anjali catches Hector doodling during their session, she argues that Hector is also a fraud just going through the motions of being a psychiatrist without actually helping his patients. Hector reacts to Anjali’s candid evaluation by telling her to get out of his office. Of course, when people don’t like what you are saying, they don’t like you. But, deep down, Hector knows Anjali is right. Hector’s daily life is repetitive and mundane, consistently choreographed around perfection and the exact timing of every detail. It’s boring. It’s predictable. Hector knows his life needs a drastic change so he makes a decision to do something quite different from anything he has done before – he sets out on a global journey to find the secret of happiness. Hector uncovers these secrets as each leg of his harrowing, heart-felt and reminiscent expedition unfolds.

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a truly extraordinary film that consistently finds its way back to what is real and true as the audience has the opportunity to experience moments that evoke the love and compassion residing deep within all of us. Chance connections with various people and situations provide Hector with a more meaningful perspective on life than he has ever had. Throughout Hector’s escapades, we see time and again that it is the pursuit of life that makes us happy, not the pursuit of happiness.

Look around and you will see that we relentlessly pursue happiness without ever truly finding it. Of course, we do have the occasional happy moment here and there but, even when we attain these moments, they are short-lived at best. Disappointed, unfulfilled and still unhappy, we set off again in pursuit of happiness once more. It is a vicious cycle. Our most popular pursuits include:

  • Someone to love
  • Recognition
  • Rewarding work
  • Money
  • Stuff

We have, in fact, been trained to acquire things as a way to be happy. Let’s take a closer look at a few of those items on the list. In our pursuit for love, we spend many waking moments searching for, hoping for and acquiring someone who will love us. And often times we do, but in our current state of mind, that love comes with conditions and conditions turn a happy love into an unhappy one. Soon, we are forced into pursuing someone else to love us.

The pursuit of money and stuff, or material things, rarely pays us back for the time and effort we put into attaining them. We are happy for the moment, but the moment passes and unhappiness returns. It’s as if we are grabbing at straws, trying this or that, just hoping we will hit the jackpot and find happiness, yet it eludes us.

The mental, emotional, physical and financial energy we spend pursuing happiness is misguided. The formula for happiness we have been taught is clearly incorrect. It doesn’t work for us. The phrase itself, the pursuit of happiness, is an oxymoron. Happiness cannot be pursued because happiness isn’t something you attain .¨ happiness is a state of being. And you can’t buy that.

As a state of being, we need to look within to find happiness. It is there. It is as easy as shifting your perspective to what really makes your heart sing. When I ask people what makes them the happiest, people say family time, playing with my dog/cat, being with their children or grandchildren or spending time on a beloved hobby. What I don’t hear people saying is “desperately searching for love makes me happy” or “I’m happiest when I’m counting all of the shoes I have in my closet”. We can see that what we have been taught about happiness doesn’t match how we truly feel in our heart. Instead, it’s diving into life, doing the things we love that is the real formula for happiness. It is the pursuit of life that brings happiness.

If there is a difficult part in all of this, it may be letting go of the old training that tells us to pursue and acquire things to make us happy. That means we have to break free from the crowd. Like Hector, we have to do something different- maybe something considerably different than what we have done in the past and perhaps something radically different than what everyone else is doing. But, that’s okay. It’s time. We know this in our hearts. Now we have to match that with our thoughts.

The Assumption of Unhappiness

The pursuit of happiness is fatally flawed because it automatically assumes we are unhappy to begin with. And we must be unhappy because if we were happy we wouldn’t need to pursue it. So, it’s not really the pursuit of happiness that makes us unhappy; it’s the pursuit of not being unhappy that makes us unhappy. At this point, my grandmother would have said, “Sounds like there is a screw loose somewhere.” There is. The loose screw is in our training as we are conditioned more for having than we are for simply being. But, it’s obvious having doesn’t make us happy and neither does pursuing.

Unhappiness comes from the mind, not from the heart. Yes, the heart can break or be sad from loss of a loved one perhaps, but this is not where the majority of our unhappiness comes from. Eckhart Tolle explains it beautifully when he says all unhappiness arises from some form of no. This means we have thoughts in our mind that tell us something about life, some idea we have about how we should or shouldn’t be and how life is supposed to look to us. When life doesn’t follow our pre-set guidelines, we are unhappy.

Now, shift your focus from what your mind tells you about happiness to your heart’s idea of happiness. In the heart, happiness comes from the expression and the expansion of love. Love includes kindness, understanding and compassion. The heart thrives on peace and connecting with others. There is no unhappiness here. What we end up getting with love is, well, more love. The more we give, the more we get. We all want that and when we are focused on the heart, it happens automatically. There’s a bonus, too. With love comes healing.

Healing is not just getting over a cold. It is creating an absence of the symptoms of illness and includes being balanced emotionally, being adaptable, being physically fit and being nutritionally balanced. You may have noticed that healing is more about being than doing. And healing means we enjoy our connections and interactions with others, at least most of the time. Healing applies to everything about you and around you. All of this is in response to shifting our focus to love, a shift to living rather than pursuing. This is the shift that brings happiness to us.

5 Ways to Pursue Life through Love

True happiness comes from living. Living comes from being. Being comes from loving. Pursue what you love and this will give you life rather than take it from you. Pursue life and happiness automatically accompanies it.

There are many ways to pursue life .¨ or simply to expand and express love in your life. You can make a list of the things you love to do. Then, pick any of them and make sure to allow time for what you love every day, even if it is just 15 minutes a day. This changes the energy of your day and your perspective. You can also look at the by-products of love .¨ kindness, compassion, connection, understanding, peace and, of course, happiness .¨ and allow time for one or all of these each day in your life. Below are some ideas on how to incorporate love into your day through being rather than doing.

  1. Be Kind .¨ Kindness is about caring. We are being kind when we care about and care for others. This can be a kind word of encouragement to a family member or co-worker, an offering of assistance to an elderly or ill neighbor or something as simple as saying “Please” and “Thank you” more often than we do now. But, we can also apply kindness to ourselves. We can give ourselves a break, not judging ourselves so harshly and speak gently and lovingly on a regular basis. It takes practice to break free from the mold, but we can do it.
  2. Be Compassionate .¨ There are so many opportunities to be compassionate each day .¨ not only to others, but to you, too. When we look at someone, see them not as you are, see them as they are. Know that everyone you encounter each day struggles through life in many areas just like you. The largest of those areas is a mind that condemns that person for not being good enough in some way. We all have that in common so let’s show each other compassion. A life lived through a mind that tells says you are not good enough is hellish indeed. Compassion brings sunshine to an otherwise cloudy day.
  3. Connect – Connecting with others is highly beneficial to humans. Not only is it natural for us to be social with others, it is healthy for us. Hugs are pure health as science shows that the human touch stimulates receptors under the skin, allows the heart to slow to a healthier pace, allows food in the gastrointestinal tract to absorb more efficiently and releases serotonin into the bloodstream. Serotonin is important for the brain and the digestive system. Make contact with people as much as you can and offer hugs twice as much as you do now.
  4. Be Understanding .¨ Understanding others is a key to understanding ourselves. When we understand ourselves we are able to make much needed changes that provide us the opportunity to be free from old, limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world. These changes are more aligned with the heart and with love which, of course, brings healing. Instead of reacting to something someone says, look for ways to understand what was said, even if you don’t agree with it. This will bring healing to all parties involved.
  5. Peace .¨ Finding peace within you can be a challenge with our busy lives of pursuing and having. This is mainly because we haven’t been taught how to be peaceful, but also because being peaceful isn’t what most people are doing. But, peace connects us to our on-board health system. It also clears the mind and allows us to see what is real .¨ love. To help you experience this, visualize yourself sitting in the eye of a hurricane. The walls are dark and the wind is blowing with a vengeance. You can see lightning flashes and hear thunder booming all around you. But, there you sit in the center where it is sunny, calm and, above all, peaceful. In this place where it is raining all around you, the sun still shines brightly on your face. This is the space where rainbows are created.

Today, make a pact to yourself that you will spend less time acquiring things and more time experiencing life. It may take a drastic life change for you, like it did for Hector, but this is most likely what is needed. In the end, you will know what it means to live through the power of love. This is the pursuit of life where happiness awaits.

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