“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.” ~Bessie Anderson Stanley
Love. Purpose. Selflessness.
That’s it. Everything I’ve learned about happiness lies in those three words.
Why those words?
Because in their absence it’s hard to be happy. Your mind wanders and sets upon trying to fill that void, leaving little room for joy and happiness elsewhere.
I’m willing to go as far as to say that these are the three most essential elements to your happiness.
I spent my formative years trying to understand why I wasn’t happy. And in the times I felt happy, what had fallen in to place to make that feeling possible.
Of course, happiness can be seen through different lights for different people. But I am not talking about in the moment happiness. The kind you feel from a lovely gesture or good news.
I’m referring to the long-term happiness that sits in the back of your mind, every day. The kind that makes you feel whole. The kind that makes Carpe Diem that much easier.
These words are like a Jenga tower. With all the blocks in place, happiness can flow. Remove one, and the tower can fall. Their importance relies only on what you are missing.
It’s easy to feel lost, abandoned, and as if you’re walking through a dark forest all alone; unloved, and as if the world does not care about what if going on in your life.
Behind the tree, in the darkness that has been created, lies an army of people who truly care about you. But it’s up to you to reach out in to the darkness and feel the light.
Without love, and the subsequent support that comes from it, happiness is rarely ever possible.
That is not to say that single people are not happy, or those people who choose to go it alone are not truly happy.
But to feel unloved creates a gaping hole that runs deep.
Love goes beyond that of a partner and intimate relationships.
It stretches out in to the reaches of parents, cousins, siblings, friends, and those around you who care for you.
It’s the people in the world who offer complete and utter support, regardless of how bold, fragile, or doomed-to-fail the thing you’re working on is.
Around my neck I wear a necklace the reminds me that I’m always loved. It reads: “My dear Grandson, forge your own path, anything is possible.”
And with that love, I can achieve anything.
Find Your Purpose
“Try harder next time, son,” said the Recruitment Officer as he closed the door on the way out of the room.
Sitting alone in a tiny cabin on the Air Force base where I so desperately wanted to work, I broke down in tears. I cried until my face hurt and there was nothing but braille-like dark blue patches on the front of my shirt.
I was seventeen and my life was still ahead of me, but in that moment, it was over. My hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the last ten years all shattered by one sentence, from a man who had no idea how hard I’d tried.
For me there was no way out. It was two years until I could reapply, and for seventeen year old me, that was an eternity.
The subsequent months saw me fall in and out of depression. My long-term relationship fell apart, I dropped a tremendous amount of weight, and I no longer felt like James Johnson.
It was a downward spiral in to one of the deepest and darkest pits I would ever find myself in.
There was nothing for me to get out of bed for. I wasn’t walking the path towards my mountain.
My purpose was gone.
Until one day, reading the newspaper, I stumbled upon a personal training course and started down a path toward a new mountain.
Training people, researching how to make them better, faster, stronger, leaner and healthier. How to have a positive, lasting effect on their lives. That became my purpose.
And suddenly, I was well again. I was happy, and I was back to being James Johnson once more.
My purpose is different now, and I have cycled the same emotions time after time.
I’ve seen it not only in myself, but in the people I love.
When they have lost all direction. When they are walking aimlessly on a road to nowhere, they become despondent and their happiness slowly starts to fade away.
Truly happy people have a clear idea of where they’re going. They have something they want to live for. Something to strive for. Something to try and attain.
It doesn’t have to be career-based. It can be passion for fishing or gardening or designing tiny little paper houses from recycled newspapers. Anything you want.
But in order to focus on being happy, you should take the time to sit down and identify what it is you want to do. What you love to do. What gives you purpose.
What makes you, you again.
In 2013 I moved to America for nine months to coach soccer.
The company I worked for had a pretty simple structure for your living arrangements: You coach their kids, and you live in their houses.
That was what we were thrown in to.
And we’d move from house to house, and from town to town. Sometimes I’d stay with a family for sixteen weeks, others it would be one.
They would feed me, let me do my laundry, and take me out with them to do some amazing things.
But there was one family in particular that gave me a lesson in selflessness that will stick with me forever.
In Burbank, California I had to coach a program for twelve weeks. And for the first two weeks, we had places to live; after that, our boss had decided to let me fend for myself.
And I scraped, and I scrounged, and I came up with the odd place to stay for a few nights, or a week or so, before moving on to somewhere else. It was a feeling of upper middle class homelessness.
But there came a point where I had no place to stay at all. No house to move on to from where I was staying. And I was going to spend the best part of the next six weeks living out of a motel 6, eating Panda Express.
The family I was staying with heard me talking to my colleague about this one day, and they offered to let me stay for the remainder of the time.
This was something they didn’t have to do. But they did.
And, they treated me like family the whole time. I was one of them. And I was a part of their daily life. I did everything from watch their kid’s soccer games, to going on their family trip to Disneyland.
They showed me I was loved. They let me fulfill my purpose. And they made me extremely happy.
That is what selflessness is.
It’s going above and beyond you, to let another’s happiness be facilitated.
It’s seeing the bigger picture. Making someone else smile. Showing them the same things that you wish to be shown in your life.
Without any return, because it is the right thing to do.
Truly happy people find themselves taking pleasure in making other people happy, because it is the most universal and sought after currency in the world.
Woman jumping image via Shutterstock