Although no one can define happiness, most of us recognize it when we see it in others or feel it in ourselves. Normally, no single thing renders happiness, but I have identified six components that contribute to it. I do not mean to imply that if you attain these things, you will be happy necessarily. Rather, when you satisfy these six conditions, happiness will be within reach. Here is my attempt to describe happiness through six pillars that support it.
Without physical health, we can do little for ourselves or those around us. People who, in the throes of severe illness, physical incapacity, or impending death, look past their personal needs and think of the welfare of others are exceptional. Most of us go about our lives in less heroic ways.
Possessing good health allows us to learn and grow as individuals and to work to make better lives for ourselves and those who accompany us on our journeys. Our bodies are our earthly offices, the locales where the planning and execution of our lives take place. For these reasons, we have high responsibilities to be good stewards of our physical health.
With the exception of the selection of a spouse, we do not choose our families. Fortunately, this seemingly haphazard arrangement is positive for most people. Sure, negative family circumstances can cause trauma and mental anguish, but lots of folks love their families and are able to forgive and forget all the messy things they say to each other, do to one another, and face together as they move along the road of life.
If a family is broken, fixing it may be impossible. In such cases, people find ways to create new families. Some do so by incorporating special people into their lives, others bond with pets that seem almost human, still others turn to artistic and artisanal pursuits that feed them inwardly, and many turn to religion.
We are linked inextricably and inexplicably to a small group of human beings, and the importance of working to make that connection strong cannot be overstated. No matter what its faults, try to love your family. In the cosmic scheme of things, it may mean more to your existence than you think.
We choose our friends, and over time, some of them may become as important to us as our families. Many people die surrounded by strangers, because they have outlived their kith and kin. My heart goes out to those who grow old with no family or friends, for such is a lonely way indeed. Making friends of different ages and from varied walks of life is important. Go after friendship with all the gusto, love, and loyalty you can muster. Doing so will deepen your life experience and put a solid third pillar under your happiness.
Wealth seems like the odd guy out when engaging in a discussion about happiness. One concept of wealth is that its acquisition requires extreme self-centeredness, which is antithetical to genuine happiness. Under that view, happiness may be difficult to attain, but only when wealth passes the levels required to live decently does it become egotistic and potentially imbalanced. We need a certain amount of wealth to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate our families, as well as to commune with friends.
Although a reasonable existence is possible with only health, family, friends, and wealth, great satisfaction comes from engaging in a profession. We want others to value what we do, and little is more devastating than toiling for decades only to discover that a chosen vocation no longer matters. We must strive to develop skills and acquire knowledge that give us self-satisfaction and have marketable value. Developing a profession helps put happiness within reach.
Spirit is the only pillar able to support happiness singlehandedly. Most of us are incapable, however, of making it through life on purely spiritual sustenance. The Old-Testament figure, Job, exemplifies someone who can live on pure spirit. He loses his health, family, friends, and wealth, and he remains faithful to God anyway. Few of us have the faith or fortitude of Job, so I include spirit as one of six pillars that sustain happiness.
By no means must the development of spirit come from a Judeo-Christian point of view. It includes the cultivation of character and faith that grow out of a wide variety of philosophies. One thing is sure, though, without attention to the spiritual side, enduring happiness will not be forthcoming. Spirit is the most important pillar and the only essential one.
Health, family, friends, wealth, profession, and spirit are the six pillars of a happy existence. Achieving a balance among them allows contentedness to flourish. True happiness is a real possibility for all of us, if we work well toward attaining it.
The Six Pillars of Happiness ©, by Douglas R. Eikermann