How to be… Happy?? on this Journey

Reflections from Dr. Howell

Sometimes when folks ask me about spirituality, I sense they are hoping that, if they can just add spirituality to everything else they’re trying, they can be happy. Mind you, I don’t want anybody to be unhappy, or to dump the pursuit of happiness. But striving to be happy might be lunging in the wrong, if common direction.

Happiness is… about me, and how I feel, and how I feel now. Spirituality asks about meaning and purpose, which is larger than me, not hemmed in by how I feel. Happiness depends on so many uncontrollable circumstances. Meaning and purpose, being spiritual, is a constant, able to cope with tough circumstances. You can have meaning and purpose even if you’re unhappy, depressed, sick, stressed, battling health issues, or painful losses.

{And, spoiler alert on things to come… A healthy spirituality might birth in you something even better than happiness… like Joy.}

Maybe, instead of asking How can I be happy? or Why am I not happy? we might ask Why am I here? Asking this simple question is actually more important the figuring out the answer! If you wonder Why am I here? or Why is there a world at all? you are being spiritual. You’re proving you’re more highly evolved that the squirrel I see out my window, darting about for food.

To ask Why am I here? or Why is there a world at all? implies you just may be part of something larger than you. And you might actually have some part to play, however small but yet important, in how this world turns out, or at least how your corner of this world unfolds.

Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and survivor of the Holocaust, wrote a great, simple book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he says it’s all about reframing things. You can certainly ask, as our culture suggests you should, What do I want from life? It’s a recipe for some happiness, and much frustration. Instead, you can ask What does life want from me? What is the world asking of me? In other words, what’s the connection between Why am I here? and Why is the world here?

We are here (you might believe or at least hope if you’re reading this) to exist for the good of the world. It’s not just the cookie for my taking. I’m here to give, to matter. I call this a calling. I have a calling, and so do you. What is it, though? This, my friend, asking and trying to sort through decent answers, is being spiritual, not just beaming or doing churchy things.

TRY THIS: repeat to yourself I am here for a reason, for a purpose. I matter. I will make a difference, no matter how small.