I don’t often repost from other writers, but when I do, it’s likely from Leo Babuta’s Zen Habits. Here’s Leo’s most recent musing on the pursuit and experience of happiness.
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
By Leo Babauta
One of the key learnings I’ve had since starting Zen Habits is that everything I need to be happy is already within me.
I firmly believe that, but I’ve been asked a good question: if happiness comes from within, why should you pursue anything in life?
Why should you pursue goals, achieve anything, connect with others, exercise, eat good food … if you don’t need to do any of that to be happy? It’s a great question, and I’ll answer it with a simple exercise:
Let’s assume you don’t need to do any of that to be happy. You have happiness, from within, and you can go about your day and have just about anything happen and you’ll still be happy.
Now what? You can sit there and watch TV or do absolutely nothing, and you’ll be happy. Let’s call that Choice No. 1.
Or you can take actions to make others happy, to relieve their suffering, to see that they have the tools for happiness already. Focusing on the happiness of others is Choice No. 2.
Now, with either of these choices, you’ll be happy. You can do either, and it won’t necessarily affect your happiness. But with Choice No. 2, you’re increasing the happiness of the world.
I’d argue that Choice. No. 2 is better.
And this choice, to dedicate your time to helping others, relieving their suffering, making them happy … this is the motivation you can use for doing great things, for building something useful, for creating and working and being a good parent. It’s not about increasing your own happiness, but the happiness of others.