Getting money, an ‘attractive’ girlfriend or a fancy car won’t necessarily make you happy in the long-term.
Rather, finding answers and meaning in your life are considered to be among the things that can make you enduringly happy.
We need three things to be happy, suggested the Greek philosopher Epicurus in the fifth century BC
- personal freedom
- friends, and
- the ability to analyse life.
He said freedom from others’ opinions helps you to be yourself, as does the ability to analyse yourself.
While in today’s modern world, people often equate pleasure with happiness, Epicurus taught that pleasure and pain were measures along a scale. People do a lot of things to avoid pain, such as trying to hide it behind pleasure, and end up swinging between the two. When you do not suffer pain, you don’t need to seek pleasure, he cautioned; rather accept the state of “perfect mental peace” in between.
Another famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, also promoted asking questions, gathering knowledge and self-examination as the highest form of human excellence. He believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development, rather than to pursue material wealth. Ironically, he was condemned to death for telling his fellow ancient Greeks that they were too concerned with their wealth, careers and politics, rather than the welfare of their souls.
Today, there are a lot of suggestions on how to be happy. You are told by many marketers that this product or service will make you happy. As a result, we all have expectations of what we think will make us happy – if we could have this or become that.
As a result, we rely on something or someone else for our happiness. This is why the entertainment industry is a trillion-dollar business. It is a reason why we all want to fall in love and have a loving partner – it saves us from having to do the work ourselves.
But you do not need something or someone to make you be happy; it is ultimately up to you.