Most people make the same huge mistake when it comes to finding happiness. With the best intentions, individuals contribute to their own suffering and create a barrier between themselves and the happiness they seek.
The single biggest problem that people make is confusing happiness with pleasure.
In the American culture of instant gratification, we imagine that temporary pleasure is the thing that creates long-term happiness. While this association between pleasure and happiness is easy to make, it actually prevents a deeper sense of joy and fulfillment.
If you really want to experience lasting happiness, you need to recognize these three truths:
1. Pleasure is not happiness.
All pleasures are fleeting. Sure, everyone enjoys the finer things in life: nice cars, beautiful houses, fine wines, and whatever else monetary success can buy you. The only downside to the pleasure induced by these items is that it never lasts.
Anticipating a reward makes you feel elated and excited, but these feelings aren't sustainable. Soon after drinking that nice wine or buying that new car, it suddenly loses its appeal. Now your BMW is no longer the thrilling drive you desire, and your Le Pin wine doesn't quench your thirst like it used to, so you find yourself looking for upgrades.
Unfortunately, no matter what pleasures you attain, you find yourself further and further from unconditional happiness because pleasure does not equal happiness.
2. All things arise and fall.
From your point of view, all opposites exist: the positives and the negatives, the ups and the downs, and the births and the deaths.
So often we spend our time pretending that only one side of our dualities exist, and then we experience strong negative feelings when the other side enters into our awareness.
If you want to experience a greater sense of happiness, then you need to recognize that these dualities come in pairs.
As high as you get, you will come down. As low as you get, there is a possibility that you can soar in the other direction. One day your body is functioning at a high level; the next day an injury takes that performance away.
Detach yourself from the expectation and sense of ownership over one side of the coin and start expecting and appreciating the entire coin itself.
The ups and the downs are what make life worth living.
3. Everlasting happiness is unrealistic, a positive life is not.
So often we create unrealistic expectations and then get despaired or enraged when life doesn't life up to them.
Stop setting yourself up for failure. You need to realize that being happy every single day is not only unrealistic, it's actually that expectation that leads to suffering.
Things will go wrong--you will experience a death of a loved one, you will experience an injury or medical condition, and you will hear traumatic stories, all of these things are guaranteed while living on this planet.
If all dualities come in pairs, then expecting to have only one side of the coin doesn't make sense.
You have the ability to have a positive and fulfilling life, you just need to go with the flow, accept your limitations, and appreciate each wave as they come.