As I learn more and more about what it means to be happy, I've come to realize that there are three fundamentally different ways that people go about finding happiness in their lives.
As you read, think about which level you reside on, and how that is working for you. Think about the consequences, both negative and positive, of living from each level.
My hope is that you will realize that no matter which level you're on, there's always a higher place to be. I've realized that, and that's why I decided to spread this message with you.
Happiness Level 1: The worst way to live
The first way is the worst way, as they say. This is where you accept that life is a struggle. You've succumbed to only feeling good when good things happen to you, thus making your happiness entirely conditional on what's going on around you.
If good things happen, you're happy. But when bad things arise - boy are you unhappy. Does this sound familiar?
For the most part, life is a struggle because you rarely get what you want, and you constantly get what you don’t want. When things don't go your way - which is most of the time - you sulk, you complain, you blame others. You're miserable most of your living days, and you feel that life is out of your control.
Occasionally, something will happen, someone will say something, where you experience joy, enthusiasm, or maybe even love! A beautiful sunset will take your breath away. You'll catch the eye of a stunning onlooker for a second. But those fleeting moments are few and far between. The majority of your life is spent in a miserable, unhappy state, and you think there's nothing you can do about it. That's just how life goes. After all, life is hard, right?
Happiness Level 2: A better, but not ideal way to live
The second level is where you actually want to feel happy and you feel that you have some control over that. You have a desire to create the life of your dreams. Most of us live here, by seeking happiness in the external world - that is, our job, family, relationships, living conditions. People in this camp spend their lives trying to manipulate and create their realities around them. "Manipulate" might sound harsh, but it's true - you're trying to act a certain way and do certain things to make other things happen so that you'll feel good inside. That's manipulating reality.
Similar to the first level, your happiness still depends on things outside turning you on, making you feel good. However, in contrast to the first tier where people don’t even make an effort; these second tier people make a concerted effort to make the conditions around them conducive to their happiness. In this level, you have goals, ambitions, desires, and you spend either a small portion, or in some cases, a large portion, of your energy going after those things.
The problem is, your happiness is still conditional. The only difference is you're more in charge of those conditions. But you're still wildly out of control of all possible conditions. In reality, you're only in charge of the smallest fraction of the smallest slice of the smallest moment in time. The idea that all the forces of the universe (which are completely out of your control) will also go as planned so that you can be happy, is ludicrous, but most people don't consider this.
The sad part about this level is, people spend their lives in a lie, because they never wake up and transcend to the third level.
Happiness Level 3: The path to true fulfillment
Finally, there’s a third tier. This is the most interesting one, and one where few people will ever enter, let alone come to know. This is true inner fulfillment. Here we learn to surrender to reality and the forces beyond our control, give up all preferences that limit our happiness, and learn to be happy no matter what. This is where the true juice of life is found. This is true spiritual fulfillment.
In this state, we no longer need anything from anyone or anybody else. That allows us to show up fully to every situation life presents us, and give to that moment. We leave every moment that touches us just a little better than it found us. Because we're already fulfilled, the world and our surroundings become so much better because of us.
Imagine not ever needing anything, or anyone. Imagine what you could do in that state - what you could create, how you could make people feel - simply because you're overcome with love, joy, and enthusiasm, and you just want to share it all the time with people.
You don't depend on things going your way in order to feel that love, joy, and enthusiasm. You feel it all the time. That's true happiness, and that's what everyone deserves.
But it requires us to go inward, to focus on substance, rather than seeking it through the external, style world.
Which path are you on?
Live with substance!
P.S. I have a secret. I've heard there's a fourth level, but I do not dare speak of it, for I have no experience or business talking about it. Perhaps one day I'll find out through experience, but for the purpose of this writing, neither you nor I have to worry about that state. I'm sure we'll know it when we find it.