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What makes you happy?

I came across this question while aimlessly strolling through the internet.

Almost 4 years ago, Manu publicly asked: What makes you happy? Here’s the full post, for convenience (but Manu’s blog is interesting, go check it out):

Do more of what makes you happy they say. But what is that? What if you don’t know what makes you happy? How do you solve that? How can you even know what makes you happy? I found myself bouncing between different activities lately but the thought of what makes me happy never left my mind.

Do you know what makes you happy?

I thought I’d reply here. Isn’t it great to engage in a public conversation that spans four years? I’m starting to really love personal blogs. But I digress.

What prompted me to answer in the first place is: that’s a loaded question.

Why would we need anything external to make us happy? I know I don’t.

I could elaborate, but honestly I don’t feel like. The gist of it is:

I just want to share what Hesse’s Siddhartha helped me find out: most truths are not meant to be understood, but rather to be experienced and embodied.

And that’s enough wandering off for this article. Now let’s get back on topic.

The question and the first sentence of the quoted post strongly imply that your activities impact your mood, happiness, well-being – however we want to put it.

Well, that’s the very assumption I want to challenge. I feel it’s mostly the other way around. To me, the how matters more than the what here.

Sure, under normal circumstances (whatever that means) you might prefer X to Y. But what if both X and Y suddenly stopped bringing you any joy or pleasure?

In my experience, apathy is a big struggle when you’re depressed. You just can’t feel happiness, no matter what you do, and surely not for the lack of trying.

Luckily, though, the opposite may happen as well! Sometimes I’m just feeling blessed, and grateful, and joyful. And I’m happy, whatever I might be doing.

So, my main point is: take care of your mood, and it will take care of you.

Our internal swings (our baseline, how we feel) are orders of magnitude more important than the external swings (our activities, what we do).

Clearly, between apathy and bliss there’s a whole lot of “normal circumstances” where the assumption I challenged (not rejected) might still hold true.

In other words: doing what you love is great, loving what you do is even better.

Time to recap and drive a few points home:

Finally, to answer Manu’s question: do I know what makes me happy?

Yes. I know I myself am the main maker (or breaker) of my happiness.

(And yes, sometimes I do forget it. I am such a forgetful creature…)