Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happiness Defined?

Happiness:
–noun
1. the quality or state of being happy.
2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

I hate philosophy because the questions are so big, and no matter how many Fulbright Fellows/Scholars we get to answer them for us, our curiosity is never satisfied. With that being said, I must admit that it unnerves me a little that I referred to the Webster dictionary for the definition of happiness, and what's even scarier is that I agree with it partially.

For the longest time I always assumed that happiness was this blissful, sort of Utopian experience that one has when everything is perfect in his or her life. I would go to the park or the mall, for example, and see people smiling with their babies or holding hands with their significant others and think to myself, "Wow, I wonder what that feels like." I actually believed that these people had reached a point in their lives where everything was going right, and God himself smiled down on them daily, giving them that happiness they may or may not have deserved.

Well, recently, after talking with a really good friend of mine about these "big questions" and how hard they are to answer, I decided to see what Webster had to say about happiness. Out of all the definitions I saw for this entry, the word "contentment" stuck out the most to me. Reading this was really a pivotal point in my thinking process, believe it or not. All these years I assumed that when people said they were happy, genuinely, it meant they were on cloud nine and nothing was going wrong in their lives. Now, I suddenly realize that a) it's not about having everything perfect, it's about being content with the way things are, knowing they could be worse; and b) realizing that we, individually, have the ability to determine if we are happy or not.

My dad doesn't say very many wise things, but I never forget the time he told me "If you make one good friend in your lifetime, that's something to be happy about." I didn't take this literally, but it did make me think about how finding happiness in the simple things we have (but take for granted) is a lot easier to do that stressing over the complicated things we want, but don't have.


I know things are stressful for all of us, me included, and I know that things could be better. However, I can say that I am becoming more and more content knowing that things could be a whole lot worse, but I'm fortunate enough for that not to be the case. That makes me happy, (yup, I said it)!

Think about it...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Gray Zone

I haven't perfected this as a concept yet, but I wanted to blog about it anyway. There is a certain danger about being stuck in a "gray zone." While neutrality is safe and comfortable, it really isn't a positive thing. I tend to view life as an uphill battle, so if you're not moving forward, instead of staying in the same spot, in actuality, you're slowly drifting backwards. I'm quickly learning that the source of many problems in life is the gray zone.

What is the gray zone? It's the middle ground between what you want and don't want (basically the habitat of whatever you're settling for). It's the midpoint between your best and your worst (far enough past your worst to prevent guilt, close enough to your best to feel satisfied). The gray zone is that place in your relationship where you set up camp far away enough from the black (where you're cold and lonely), and close enough to the white (where everything is warm and perfect). It's the place in your career where you are a little bored with your current job, but too comfortable to dive into your ambitions and become your own boss. It can even be present in your friendships (talking bad about a friend behind his or her back versus not doing it at all). The list goes on for days, but at what point do we swim out of the gray?

Hate is a strong word, but it doesn't begin to express my feelings for this gray zone. I think people (including myself) use the gray zone as shield. It's a security blanket because everyone knows they are safe here, and they have the freedom to run out in either direction. Go 100% of the way, or 0% of the way, because anywhere else in the middle is a waste of everyone's time. Love me or hate me, but don't mix the two. Be loyal or be a flake, but don't be a face-saver. Why wake up and go to work everyday and not give it your all? Why go to class and not give the instructor your undivided attention? Why go to your church/temple/mosque/synagogue if you aren't going to leave as a better person or believe in divine power with unwavering faith?

Success has a keen sense of smell, and mediocrity is...well, malodorous. With this being said, get out of the gray zone by pushing yourself past your usual limits. When you convince yourself to settle for anything, you always end up getting less than what you deserve. I say this because when you settle, you not only lower your standards for that particular goal, you lower your expectations for life in general. Think about it...