“Happiness,” said Gandhi, “is when what you say and what you do are aligned with what you believe in.” To be truly happy we must know our deepest values, discover our life’s purpose, and live accordingly.
We are all imperfectly human and we all fall short of our own ideals, and an important part of finding peace and being happy in this world is to accept those imperfections in ourselves and others.
Like life itself, in spite of imperfection, we are still beautiful and worthy of love and happiness.
When I look back, the times in my own life when I felt most unhappy were not due to the circumstances of life or the actions of others. Though I may have blamed them at the time, my happiness was not caused by bad luck, injustice or the ill will of others in my life.
The greatest unhappiness was when I didn’t act according to my deepest values – when I could have said the right thing but didn’t or when I could have made a big difference but didn’t. These were the times when I failed to achieve my potential – when I failed to seize the day and instead let opportunities slip away.
Now don’t be down on yourself just because you’ve done the same thing; we all have. It’s part of being human. We go about our days semiconscious and distracted by competing priorities. Our personal values compete with those around us, and even in our own minds, consciously and subconsciously, we have opposing motivations.
This happens so often without our awareness that we sometimes don’t realize why we may be feeling unhappy even when – for the moment – things seem to be going well on the surface. But when there is dissonance between what we say and do and what we truly believe in, we cannot shake a gnawing unease.
So it’s helpful to reflect on your greatest values and to discover your calling in life. Once you have this foundation, it can be the measure of your words and actions each day.
I practice meditation through mindful living. At times throughout the day, I pause and reflect on my inner and outer activity, asking “What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What am I doing?”
And I measure the integrity of my activity at the moment by asking, “Am I moving closer or further from my ideals, my calling and my deepest beliefs.”
This serves as a correction when I’ve strayed, and an affirmation when I’m fully aligned.
Your happiness exercise for today: Reflect upon your deepest values and your calling. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “Am I moving closer or further?”
At any time you must make a difficult decision or find yourself where you didn’t expect to be, ask the same question, “Am I moving closer or further?” The solution may be the answer to the question, “What will bring me back into alignment with my true self and my calling?”