"DESTINATION HAPPINESS": PART 2 -What really matters

What matters most to you?  For me the things that matter have changed over the years as my journey has closed in on what is essential to my life and my journey of living joyfully.  However, I must admit my quest for happiness got detoured, like many people’s, with distractions and influences that certainly didn’t fulfill me.  The list would be too long to put into words, but to sum it up, destination happiness was my way of living.

In my last blog, part I success redefined, I looked at what destination happiness is and how we can all get sidetracked by it.  In this blog, part 2, we continue to look at some of these destinations and how we can navigate our lives through them.

DESTINATION #2 LOOK AT ME

We often connect our happiness with the amount of influence we have, or the recognition we receive from others.  We long to be known, to be noticed and to be someone special.  Don’t we?  This is not necessarily a bad thing since we are created to be in relationship with God and with others. Relationships are important for our existence. Yet for some reason we aren’t content with just being who we are and being loved by those closest to us. We want more! 

We often glance at those who are famous and wish we had their lives. We look at those who seem popular and want to be like them. We look at those who have the stage and we want to be on there with them. The advent of the Internet and social media has allowed us to have an even greater platform for recognition. Anyone can be noticed now! It seems to be the aim of many to be seen, liked, “re-tweeted” and followed. The Internet has also given us the ability to look into the window of the lives of others we don’t even know and compare ourselves to them. 

I met with a person who struggled with a deep-rooted addiction. His tailspin into the addiction was based on comparing himself with others. He’d log onto social media and his slow descent into depression would begin. This would trigger his addiction into more harmful habits.  When we feel alone, left out and not important we begin to sink into non-reality. When this guy began to weed out his “comparison” habit, his other addiction(s) became less and less. He got away from comparing his life to others and began to focus on who he was. He stopped worrying about others and starting looking at himself. 

I’m not saying that what’s bad for one is bad for all in the case of social media. I’m simply saying that the Internet can magnify our need to be known. I certainly see the good things that can be done with the Internet and online technologies. I no longer need a room in my house just for encyclopedias because it’s all on the web. I have access to great information and the ability to connect with friends I lost contact with since childhood. Yet, even if we put the Internet aside, we still long to be looked at, to be noticed, to be connected and to be in relationship with others. For instance, just as someone can have a drink and it’s not harmful whatsoever, someone else can drink and it sparks a problem.

So what’s the answer?

Our longing to be seen only complicates our search for happiness because we have to ask ourselves the question…will being liked by many make me happy? What is it that is really important to me?  The reality is that there are many “famous” people who aren’t happy and there are many “non-famous” people who are. And of course there are many people who are “well known” who are happy and many people who aren’t known who are miserable. So what’s the common thread to happiness in people? 

I sat in the home of a professional athlete, one who is well known, liked and followed. As we talked through things in his life it was apparent that none of his fame made him happy. His life was just as complicated as mine, and being well known didn’t change the reality of those complications. He had lotsmore followers than I had; but more followers didn’t equate to more joy. His problems could not be fixed by fame or money nor could they be satisfied by his fame…he longed for more. Arriving at the destination of being known only leaves us longing for more. I’ve also sat across from a well-known professional athlete who was completely happy and content with his life. He was unfazed by the fame, money or recognition and had a deep sense of peace about life. If our goal in life is to seek to be seen by others we run the risk of arriving at a destination that won’t make us happy, and the consequences can be loaded with regret.

I have found that those who are “well known” and happy and those who are “not so well known” and happy, hold three common traits. These traits are essential to experiencing authentic happiness. 

The first trait people who are happy have is a deep sense of knowing that their identity comes from something greater than themselves. How these people arrived at this point is less important than the fact that they eventually arrived there. They landed at a place in their lives where they understood that their true identity comes from the one who created them. This realization, big or small, crafted a deep sense of surrender and humility in their hearts and lives. There’s a peace that surpasses all other things when one realizes they are created and loved by God. More so, they are a part of God’s own family. 

The second common trait is the realization of what is called divine filiation. This is a crafty, theological term that means we are sons and daughters, “divinely filiated”, and belong to God. Knowing that we are created by God is a powerful thing for us, yet God doesn’t stop there. God gives us our true identity by claiming us as His sons and daughters. We are his! He is ours! Loneliness is something we will all battle at times in our lives but we should never battle with being alone, because we are never alone; God is with us. God created us as His sons and daughters so that we can live in relationship with Him and so that we can lay claim, without deserving it, to His inheritance. Those who have this deep sense of identity don’t worry about “being known” because they are already “known”. 

The last common trait I have witnessed in happy people is one I would call identity reminders.  The people with this trait speak truth into our lives and remind us of our true identity.There are three types of people who can speak into our lives. There are those who speak lies and confusion. We should avoid and weed these people out of our lives. There are those who speak “nothingness” into our lives.  They may be fun to hang out with, but we are neither better nor worse around them. We should limit the amount of time we spend with them. Then, there are those who speak truth into our lives. They remind us who we are. These people bring us back to our true identity when we need reminding. We are better because of them, and we grow by being around them. We should keep people like this close to us. We all need people in our lives who help us become better. Notice any successful marriage, it consists of two people who make the other better by consistently speaking truth into each other’s lives. Having friends, family, a spouse who reminds me of who I am, has radically changed my life and I’ve seen it transform the lives of others. 

We aren’t meant to “journey at life,” alone; we are meant to journey in authentic relationship with others who help us along the path of happiness.  If we acknowledge God as our creator and understand our true identity as His sons and daughters, and if we have people who speak truth in our lives, we can begin to experience the authentic happiness we long for.

So what’s most important to you?  I know that for me, when God is first in my life, I am settled into who I am as His son and I’m less distracted by trying to be someone else.  

Be who God made you to be and that will change everything!

-paul