Happiness is overrated. Too often is it confused with fulfillment in life. I believe that fulfillment is not being radiantly joyful all the time; it is being content with the here and now. Happiness is just the sparkly ball society dangles just out of our reach; it’s just five pounds or a new ipod away. Like cats, we swing and jump just to hold on to the string of happiness for a few seconds. Yet happiness is such an erratic and fleeting emotion. It’s unsustainable, no matter how great things are going.
In a world obsessed with the unattainable search for constant happiness, other emotions are overlooked. When I am sad, I am more expressive and thoughtful. With anger comes energy and empowerment. I learn best from embarrassment and am motivated by pride. Even fear can be enlightening because it returns us to a primal state, free of the distractions of personality and opinion.
I believe that fulfillment in life is being able to recognize and enjoy the distinct importance every emotion has in our lives. To pay attention to emotions is the most important kind of soul-searching. Our feelings can tell us a great deal about ourselves if we do not disregard them as unpleasant and therefore insignificant.
Humans are equipped with a gamut of emotions to help us experience the world. Just like you can never step twice into the same river, you can never have two experiences exactly the same. It may be the same place but you may have changed. Most teenagers dread going to high school every day yet most adults look forward to class reunions. Emotions are vital to our perception because they allow every person to experience something in a different way. These differences, however minor make the world interesting and diverse.
By regarding happiness as the only important emotion, we are closing our eyes to more profound emotions. Self discovery and fulfillment is about more then vibrant joy because that is only a small fraction of the emotions we can feel. Besides, life will never be happy all the time, so we might as well experience every other emotion to its fullest.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.