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Why Non-Attachment Is the Key to True Happiness
This morning my flight was delayed, which caused me to miss my connecting flight and arrive at my destination at 6pm instead of 2pm as planned. There was another guy with the same route and the same thing happened to him. But the way we both reacted to it was very different. I calmly accepted that there was nothing I could do about it and stayed relaxed. The other guy started screaming at the airline employee and remained mad for hours. I know this because he’s sitting close to me and he has been calling several people telling them how incompetent the airline is.
We both missed our flights. We’ll both arrive at our destination four hours late. But his reaction was to get angry, stay angry, and call everyone he knows to tell them how angry he is.
I’m not going to tell you that I was excited when I received the news about the delay. I wanted to arrive at 2pm, but I’m equally happy arriving at 6pm. It’s absolutely possible to have desires without being attached to them, meaning that wanting things to work out a certain way is OK, but life rarely goes according to plan. If you’re only happy when things turn out exactly the way you expect them to you’ll be unhappy most of the time.
The other guy spent the last four hours stressed out and passing that stress on to everyone in his life. I, on the other hand, spent the last four hours reading a great book, listening to my favorite music, calling some friends and sharing my story with you.
It’s very easy to be “happy” when everything works out the way you want it to, but true happiness comes from within and isn’t tied to the outcome of any situation. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that you should stop trying and settle for whatever you can get. I’m saying that no matter how hard you work, some projects will be less than perfect and some deadlines will be missed. Maybe your spouse has a little quirk you don’t like, but are you going to focus on that or on everything else that made you fall in love with that person in the first place? There’s something he or she doesn’t like about you, too.
Can you be happy when things work out and when they don’t? I hope so, because if I learned anything in my life it’s that you can’t ever be truly happy if your happiness is tied to “ifs” or “whens” (as in “I’ll be happy WHEN I get a raise” or “I’ll be happy IF my flight leaves on time”).
Life is impermanent. Sometimes things are great and sometimes they aren’t. But when happiness comes from within, it’s not affected by external factors. This doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to get sad or angry; it means that when this happens and you realize that the situation is out of your control, you can use self-awareness to observe these feelings and let them go after you understand that they’re not helping you in any way. This is not an easy process, but anyone can get there with practice.
Best of luck on your quest for true, lasting happiness!
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