Best You Guru™
Happiness and Authentic Identity
Happiness. Isn’t that all we want? People pursue money believing happiness can be bought happiness. Money can purchase things that temporarily distract or entertain. People pursue fame believing fame provides lasting happiness. Fame surrounds you with more people that distract you. People are socialized to run away from themselves in the pursuit of happiness. Fame and fortune do not necessarily equate to anything more than cheap thrills. Happiness can only be found by holding onto you. Happiness should be something that we are encouraged to embrace by embracing our authentic identity. Happiness is not something out there in the world. Happiness is something within you. Happiness is found within the authentic identity.
Happiness is a powerful force. The founders of America believed in the power of happy so much that the words “pursuit of Happiness” are found in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Happiness is not guaranteed but it is an American right. Happiness is critical to individual achievement and the advancement of humankind. It is difficult to pursue happiness as someone other than your truest self. A difficult concept for many people to comprehend is understanding you do have an authentic identity. To achieve happiness an individual must know you they are and resist living as who they were told to be. A happy life requires you to be yourself. The truest version of the self is found at birth. Everything from that point either builds upon their authentic identity or takes them away from their authentic identity. Individuals either build upon their authentic identity and become strong in their self-identity or they fall victim to the negative influences of society becoming society’s version of who they should become.
In the beginning
Everything in life begins at the beginning. Why should we assume that happiness is any different? The beginning of our authentic happiness begins at our beginning. People seeking happiness with fame or fortune remind me of the story of a man who lost his car keys at night while walking from his car. A passerby saw him under a street light searching for something on the ground. The passerby asked him what he was looking for and the man said his car keys. The passerby responded, “where did you lose them”? The man said he had dropped them as he attempted to place the keys into his pocket. He then pointed to his car which was about 100 feet away in a very dark section of the parking lot. The passerby asked him why he was looking for his keys under the street light. The man replied the light is better here.
To live in happiness requires us to look where it can be found. Happiness is an inside job.
Happiness is not a noun; it is a verb. It is active and we can achieve at work or play. According to Psychology Today genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, or even your neighbors influence an individual’s happiness. Acacia Parks, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hiram College states “our general happiness is more genetically determined than anything else”. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the originator of the Flow Model Theory, the hypothesis is happiness will “occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile”. Three important factors of the Flow Theory:
1) Formulate clear objectives
2) Maintain a good balance between challenges and individual skills
3) Informative interim feedback and timely adjustments as necessary
Csikszentmihalyi invented the phrase “Go with the flow”. Happiness is being absorbed and experiencing joy at the moment. People are most happy when they are completely absorbed and focused on an activity. Athletes call it being in the zone. Csikszentmihalyi believed flow was an intermediate short-term life occurrence. The flow could not be long-lived. Contrary to the flow theory. Viktor Frankl believed happiness is something “you have to let it happen by not caring about it”. Abraham Maslow spoke of a Peak Experience. Much has been written of happiness and yet people continue to search for something they already possess.
The Authentic Identity Theory believes you can’t be truly happy living life as someone other than yourself. People fight so hard against themselves to conform, to fit in, or measure up to the standards established by societal institutions. These efforts may qualify you to be regarded as a good member of society but fitting into society as someone other than your authentic self is a recipe for unhappiness. Lifelong happiness can only be found in living as you. Situational unhappiness will occur in life. Bad things happen. Tragedies take place. But do not mistake these situations with what it means to be happy. Do not mistake lifelong happiness with situational happiness. The happiness found in the authentic identity is deep and provides comfort when misery befalls us. Happiness assists in providing the strength people require to overcome life’s difficulties. Happiness prevents tragedies in life to become our life. Happiness is an internal asset. It is a natural strength that each individual has the potential to develop. The happiness Flow does not have to be an intermediate short-term occurrence. Flow can be life long. The deep feeling of happiness does not ever have to leave.
Action step: Write onto a piece of paper the 3 things that made you smile, laugh, or otherwise pleased you when you were the ages of 6 thru 10. Be aware of your daily life of those 3 things and make them more prominent in your daily life. Connect with those things that highlight the happiness within you. These things don’t provide happiness. Happiness is already within you. These things ignite what is already inside. The power of happiness in life is not the things in life. Things ignite the fire in you. Ignite your happiness.