“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
I’d like to bring it one step further and say, “Happiness is when what you feel, what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Some people may argue that there is no need to add in “what you feel,” but I think there is. There is a difference between feeling and thinking.
For example, I thought I wanted to be a travel writer, I said I was going to be a travel writer, and I did travel writing. By definition I should have been happy. But I wasn’t.
Deep down I didn’t really want to be a travel writer, and my heart knew it. I liked writing and I liked traveling, and my thinking brain put the two together to come up with a career.
Last October I flew to Mexico with three of my best mates. I had a writing gig in my back pocket and I also had my own personal blog, which I planned to keep updated. We would be spending three months traveling from Mexico all the way to Costa Rica, so I was sure to have plenty of material to write about.
But only two weeks into the trip, I realized I didn’t like having to write about my travels, especially while I was still traveling. I much preferred immersing myself in the experiences rather than having to constantly step back from them to analyze each experience and write about it.
It felt forced and unnatural. There was too much structure and not enough time to let thoughts simmer in my mind in order to make distinct connections. Another downside was that I would need to spend time alone in cafés each morning to write.
This often led me to miss out on other great things that my friends were doing. While we were in Guatemala, I even missed the chance to see a jaguar in a local sanctuary, one sight I had been really hoping to experience.
I soon gave up on travel writing and any efforts at blogging while I was traveling. I knew there would be plenty of time to write when I got home after I had time to digest it all.
I realized that just because something makes sense in my head, doesn’t mean it’s what my heart truly wants. Deep down I feel like I knew I wouldn’t enjoy much of the hidden aspects of travel writing. But my head outplayed my heart’s instinct and only showed me the upsides and possibilities.
So in order to be truly happy you must have harmony with what you feel in your heart, not just your head. Your heart must be aligned with your thoughts, words, and actions. And the heart should be the one that initiates the rest. Thoughts, words, and actions should follow what you feel in your heart.
Maybe Gandhi implied this in his quote, but I feel it necessary to say it explicitly. The world we live in today can get muddled and complex, so having a guiding mantra that is specific can help direct us.
The Call to Return Home
Earlier this year I returned home to Ireland after spending a total of two years and three months traveling. While I was away, I spent plenty of time tapping into what my heart truly wanted for my future.
There were moments where I wondered if I even wanted to return home. I thought about continuing the traveling lifestyle, seeing the whole world. I could work odd jobs when I needed more cash.
When I think about it, I’m sure I would’ve been able to enjoy myself if I continued traveling. But the reason I didn’t choose it is because my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was yearning for that return home to Ireland.
I was eager to return to my family and get started with my mission to reimagine Ireland’s education system. I believe education should empower young people to find love, joy, and fulfilment in their lives, not just prepare them for a limited number of careers.
When My Calling Was Blinded by Pleasure
There were many moments on my travels where I got caught up in the fun of drinking with good friends and I wondered if I really did want to go home to pursue this mission. One particularly memorable moment was when I was volunteering in the Treehouse hostel in Nicaragua.
As I sat overlooking the jungle canopy, sipping on a cold beer after one of our wild jungle rave parties, I watched the morning sun pierce through the trees. I felt its warmth sooth my face, and any worries about the future were washed away as the refreshing beer slid down my throat. Tropical house music gently bounced from the speakers, and I was surrounded by friends who were all chatting and laughing.
This is paradise, I thought. Why would I leave? Why put all my efforts into something that wasn’t guaranteed to give me immediate joy?
I didn’t owe it to anyone to reimagine Ireland’s schools. Why not just live a carefree lifestyle, traveling to new places and finding new groups of friends to drink with and beautiful girls to chase?
Seeing Things Clearly
Looking back now, I realize the endorphins rushing through my body were tricking me into believing I needed to seek more instant pleasures like these and forgo my grander visions. But once I sobered up and the newly made friends and beautiful girls disappeared, those feelings of joy wore off, only to be replaced with a profound feeling of emptiness.
Deep down I yearned for real connection and a sense of purpose. Something I knew could only be found in a great love or a great mission.
The freedom I felt in the jungle was euphoric, but I knew that it couldn’t be sustained. There was a fire in my belly that couldn’t be ignored. Moments of pleasure could dim the flame for a while, but they could never put out that spark that was pushing me to do something more.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my travels. I indulged in many pleasures and had a great time while doing it. I had lots of amazing experiences, met tons of great people, and learned countless lessons along the way.
I’ve experienced the most blissful peace on top of mountains and the most painful loneliness at the bottom of them. My time spent traveling was an important part of my journey through life. One that I’ll always remember and always be grateful for.
However, I knew that making the pursuit of pleasure my aim in life was dangerous. It was always destined to lead to a life of addiction and misery. I’m aware pleasure can bring me joy and satisfaction in the moment, but I also know those feelings never last.
Where True Happiness Exists
I am not saying I am giving up pleasure altogether, I still love drinking and things like sex and nice food are great too! I’m just putting my heart’s mission in front of my mind’s pleasure pursuit. My mission is what will bring me lasting joy and fulfilment.
My casual indulgences in pleasures will simply bring me all I expect from them. Momentary pleasure.
I urge people to experience the fullness of life through travel. Try the things you’ve always dreamed of trying. Indulge in pleasures and enjoy them in the moment. Just remember that the joy they bring will not last forever.
Lasting joy and fulfillment must come from within. When you are living in line with what your heart believes is right. When what you think, say, and do is in harmony with what you feel. Pursue that great love or that great mission when they ignite inside. When you do, you won’t need to seek happiness. Happiness will find you.