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It’s OK not to be happy.

Seen in a meme:

“Nothing is worth it if you aren’t happy.”

While being happy is something to celebrate, there are some who promote happiness as if any other option isn’t acceptable. As if, if you aren’t happy, there’s something wrong with you. And that simply isn’t true.

The ability to feel a full range of emotions and different states of being is an important part of the human experience.

It’s ok not to be happy. And in many cases, a large part of personal growth is dependent on recognizing when one is not happy and then actively working through it.

“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” — Oscar Wilde

While it is said that,Inner Peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.” — and it is a skill and state of being everyone is capable of — it is much easier to talk about inner peace than it is to achieve it.

It takes a tremendous amount of mental discipline to achieve a state of mind in which we are unaffected by the negative events around us. And, like having a fit body is a choice and it’s something everyone is capable of, it’s not something most people have. Mental discipline takes practice.

Unless one is a Zen master, creating the expectation that being happy at all times is a simple matter of choice, is to set one’s self up for what will likely be a difficult task. Because the moment something almost inevitably disturbs your state of being — and you suddenly find that you’re not happy — you’ll feel as if there’s something wrong with you.

But it’s ok to feel sadness. It’s ok to feel pain. It’s ok to feel frustration and anger. Again, these feelings are a part of the human experience.

[*While feeling anger, frustration, unhappiness is ok, it’s important to deal with such states in a healthy and productive fashion. And that is beyond the scope of this post. Adopting behaviors that put you or others in harm’s way is not healthy — and if you are inclined to do such things, it is important to seek help.]

Telling someone who has just suffered a tremendous loss to “just be happy”, “happiness is a choice”, and “it’s always darkest before dawn” generally isn’t helpful (at all).

And while it’s ok to want to help people — and it shows you care, it’s also ok to let people work through their issues and to just let them know you are there to support them if they need you.

In his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes, “All transitions are composed of (1) an ending, (2) a neutral zone, and (3) a new beginning.” and “The neutral zone provides access to an angle of vision on life that one can get nowhere else. And it is a succession of such views over a lifetime that produces wisdom.”

Feeling things other than happiness are an important part of growth. They lead to changes where we often transition from one level of awareness to another.

So it’s OK not to be happy. Not being in a constant state of happiness is not unhealthy. But it’s important to remember to channel that energy effectively and to not simply dwell on it. Acknowledge it and move on, transitioning to your new beginning.

And as you transition from one level of awareness to another, if you make a conscious effort to practice mental discipline and choose where to focus your mental energy, you may just find the inner peace so many wish they had, but never put in the effort to achieve.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” — Carl Jung

Refuse to emotionally succumb to the negative events around you and tap your mental toughness to thrive in any environment. The good guy doesn’t always win and justice doesn’t always prevail, but where you direct your mental energy will always determine your attitude and it will always be controlled by you.” — Steve Siebold

Related:

 

From the comments:

Eric: Very good piece. Whole books could be written about what the word ‘happiness’ even means. Probably there already are such books.

But in short, for me, I try to draw a distinction nowadays between being happy and being ‘at peace’ or ‘contented’. I am much more at peace nowadays, but I’m not always ‘happy’. I value peace much more than happiness (although peace is for me often the conduit to happiness).

Zero: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that’s a great distinction. I used to think I knew what happiness was — I had a mental picture of it. But it’s changed. It looks more like contentment and “inner peace”…

Just because you don’t have a smile on your face, doesn’t mean you’re not happy. But just because someone is smiling, doesn’t mean they’re happy.

There’s a sort of congruency and balance that needs to be in place… and that creates a sort of “emotional calm” or satisfaction (I’m not sure what to call it).

Kitt: (twitter) Similar words in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Burkeman

Happiness. Contentment. Inner peace.

Happiness. contentment. inner peace.  Have you ever gone looking for something, only to realize you had it with you the whole time?   It&039;s like that.

Happiness.
Contentment.
Inner peace.

Have you ever gone looking for something, only to realize you had it with you the whole time?

It’s like that.

Related:

What’s the rush?

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

We rush to work.
Rush home.
Rush through our meals without even tasting our food or remembering what we ate.

Even when we’re on vacation, we’re always rushing.

It appears many of us are operating on the belief that we don’t rush, we won’t have time.

But time for what?

Every second that passes is a moment of our lives that we’ll never get back. Time, of all the things one has, is the most valuable.

We can never get more time, we can only manage the time we already have.

And while rushing from one thing to another — to “save time” — may seem like a sensible solution, rushing through our lives — as if it’s only the “highlights” that matter — is to sacrifice the vast majority of the moments that our lives are made up of.

“One day at a time, this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.” — Ida Scott Taylor

Rather than be present in the here and now, aware of our thoughts, our bodies, and our surroundings, we zone out and go through the motions — waiting for the moments that “matter”, not realizing how valuable every one that passes actually is.

Because the truth is, every moment matters when the future is guaranteed to no one.

When we live our lives as if the best things in life are always scheduled at some distant time that we are rushing to get to, we fail to truly experience the here and now.

And as it turns out, staying in the moment tends to yield greater happiness and greater appreciation and gratitude for the individual moments in life than constantly reaching for things that are forever beyond our grasp.

In his Ted Talk, Want to be happier? Stay in the moment (video), Matt Killingsworth says:

“Our ability to focus on something other than the present is an amazing ability it allows us to learn and reason and plan in ways that no other species can.” However, … “People are substantially less happy when their minds wander than when they are not” … “when our minds wander we often think about things which are unpleasant … our worries, our anxieties our regrets.”

Just something to consider the next time you find yourself rushing from one thing to the next without being mindful of the moments already passing.

“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” — Alan Watts

Related:

whats-the-rush-every-moment-matters-zero-dean

Why “follow your passion” is NOT bad career advice.

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post called, “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bad Career Advice“.

And while I do agree that “Follow your passion” may be considered “bad career advice” if one chooses to follow it without any bit of common sense — or to follow it without any regard to all the other factors necessary to make a career “successful” — being successful in one’s life can mean any number of different things to different people.

Some people consider their careers successful when they make X amount of money per year. Others measure their success by how many people they are in charge of, or how broad a territory they cover, or how many stores they own. Others aim to leave a legacy behind.

And then there are others still, who consider themselves successful if they are simply able to pursue what they are most passionate about in life while making just enough money to meet their basic needs to afford them the luxury of doing more of what they love.

And as Confucius said, Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Alan Watts poses the question (in this video), “What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?” because to do anything other than that sets you up to, “Spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

I think he makes a very good point. The alternative to not pursuing your passion is to spend a life following a vicious cycle of doing things you don’t want to do to make a living doing things you don’t want to do.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” — Seth Godin

In his commencement speech at Kenyon College in May 1990, Calvin & Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson, had this to say about careers:

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” – Bill Watterson

As such, I don’t think “Follow your passion” is bad career advice at all. And if one is simply looking for a problem with it, as the Huffington Post appears to be, then I would say that problem — if you can call it that — is simply this:

It isn’t complete career advice. It’s only a single step in a larger process.

Step 1, of course, is to discover what it is you are passionate about.

This isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds. There may be many things you like to do, but nothing that you are particularly passionate about. There is a big difference between simply enjoying something and being so into it at times that doing anything else feels like a distraction. Eating, sleeping, bathing? They can wait!

While a rare few know exactly what they want to do from a very early age, most don’t discover the things we are truly passionate about until they stumble upon them. And then, whatever it may be, the process of doing it becomes enthralling.

“Many people fail to find their passion because they either fail to search methodically or search persistently. Some will simply not commit the time and energy to a search that can often be frustrating. In fact, they want their “destiny” to find them; they do not want to find it themselves. You cannot find your passion idly staring into space, hoping for it to appear as a revelation, from one book, article, blog posting or casual conversation.” — Larry Smith

Discovering what you are truly passionate about is important is because people who truly love what they do tend to want to do it to the best of their ability and continually find ways to improve — all the while enjoying the process.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs

See also: How will you recognize your passion when you encounter it?

Step 2, after discovering your passion is to pursue that passion and hone your skills. All the while keeping the third step of this process in mind:

Step 3, is to use your passion and skills to create something that others desire and will pay for.

Because unless your passion fulfills a need, you can work night and day and never do enough to generates a sustainable income, let alone a viable career.

A sustainable career is built upon the ability to show that you can fill a need that someone is willing to pay for.” – Monique Valcour

This is why it can be to your benefit to not quit your day job (as I did, for example) while you are still in the process of discovering how your passion will generate income.

See also: You might have to look for more than one passion

“Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you’re going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with.” — Seth Godin

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Gaiman Describe Vision & Brilliance

“If everyone had the luxury to pursue a life of exactly what they love, we would all be ranked as visionary and brilliant. … If you got to spend every day of your life doing what you love, you can’t help but be the best in the world at that. And you get to smile every day for doing so. And you’ll be working at it almost to the exclusion of personal hygiene, and your friends are knocking on your door, saying, “Don’t you need a vacation?!,” and you don’t even know what the word “vacation” means because what you’re doing is what you want to do and a vacation from that is anything but a vacation — that’s the state of mind of somebody who’s doing what others might call visionary and brilliant.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

Related:

“You have to be burning with “an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right.” If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” — Steve Jobs

Article: Why "Follow your passion" is not bad career advice. (click through to read)

Depression. You’re having a bad time. Not a bad life.

Authors note: At the time I wrote this, it was actually directed towards a friend who was going through a really hard time (on facebook). I’m not sure they ever read this post — and it had a different title — but I know they occasionally read my posts (and still do) — so I put it out there in case the universe directed them to it. In any case, I’m happy to report they bounced back.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

Life is not all peanut butter and chocolate (assuming you like peanut butter and chocolate) — sometimes it just sucks. [ And sometimes the hard times seem to just land in your life out of nowhere <–> (Hyperbole and a Half) ]

And no one escapes completely — we all have “bad times”. And that may seem obvious, but mostly when you’re not in the middle of one.

Even for those of us who seem so positive, optimistic, and cheerful all the time (something I’ve been accused of on occasion), there isn’t always an escape from hard times when Trouble — with a capital T — comes calling.

And let me be clear here, I’m not talking about the little things like burning your toast or dropping your phone or being denied entry into Canada or destroying your dream laptop with coffee or having $5,000 worth of bikes stolen or being escorted out of Starbucks by 2 police officers

I’m talking about the times when it seems like nothing is going right —

Read moreDepression. You’re having a bad time. Not a bad life.

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