At a very young age, my life became not my own.
It was my choice, though I was unaware of it at the time. I allowed myself to be swept away in what someone else thought I should be, all the while allowing that person to dehumanize me. I spent years attempting to become what he wanted, failing time and time again. I also spent years waiting. What I realize now is that I was waiting for my life to begin, and your life can only truly begin when you know how to pursue happiness.
After college I spent the brunt of my time working at jobs I had no interest in and to which I was overqualified. My self-esteem was non-existent and I waited around for him to pursue his life while I consistently made excuses for why I couldn’t pursue my own. I’d say that the job market was bad. I’d say to myself that even though I wasn’t happy, I would be even more unhappy without him. In reality, however, I didn’t think I was good enough anything or anyone and I was scared of failure, so I didn’t try; if you don’t try something, you can’t fail, right?
What many of us forget as we get swept up in the motions of life is that we have control over our lives. Our actions, or in action, are the ways we have control; we may not control everything, but we have the power to act instead of idly making excuses for why we haven’t reached our goals. We must make things happen. No one else will or can do it for us. People always say that things will work themselves out, but the truth is that we must act to ensure they work out; things don’t happen when you do nothing.
Perhaps the most important lesson everyone should learn is this: You shouldn’t let the things you cannot control bother you; you should, however, be bothered by the things you can control and don’t. If you can control something and don’t it is because you made the choice, consciously or unconsciously, not to act. I cannot control the violence of war. I cannot control the devastation of world disasters. I cannot control the evil in the world. And I could not control the fact that the person I was with made me unhappy, no matter how many excuses I made. These are things that we shouldn’t harp on because doing so negatively impacts our lives and prevents us from acting in ways that we can; there is simply no action that I could take to change any of these things. I could, however, control the fact that I didn’t have a job I wanted, but I didn’t. I could control the fact that I was with someone who didn’t make me happy, but I didn’t. I could control my happiness, but I didn’t. These are things I could control, but I didn’t.
The truth is, as Aristotle said, each and every one of us is pursuing the same thing: happiness, i.e. the final good. Every single action we take, no matter how small, is a means to finding our ultimate happiness, which is the end goal of life. In order to be happy, however, we must take action to make it happen. This is why people act to attain money, power, love, etc. People don’t pursuit these things simply to attain them; they pursue them because they believe these things will make them happy.
In order to pursue happiness:
You must act to rid your life of negativity.
Friends, lovers, and even family members who continually make you feel lesser are not people that will help you achieve happiness. Know that you will not always get along with everyone in your life, so I don’t mean to stop talking to a parent over something unimportant. I’m talking about people who genuinely cut you down, over and over again. If your job makes you unhappy, you should act to fix the problem: Seek a new job and quit your old one, ask for a new position, switch careers, etc.; consistently complaining about how much your job sucks helps no one, and especially not you.
You must act to pursue what you believe will make you happy.
If you are being pushed by others to become a stock broker but you believe that your true happiness lies in teaching or journalism or geology, do it. Don’t like where you live? Move. You have the power to control these things. Life isn’t solely about money and material things, though America’s consumerism would have you believe otherwise; life is about being happy both in your environment and day to day activities.
You must accept and expect failure.
If you never fail, you’re probably not doing something right. Not failing indicates that you already have everything in life that makes you happy, and no one was born with everything in life that makes them happy. A life without taking chances is a life of living in your comfort zone. To pursue happiness, you must reach for things you want, and some of those things will be out of your reach. Your choice to reach is in your control and seeking those desired goals is your action towards happiness. Those things that you fail at are those things you cannot control; you can, however, work to change your circumstances in an effort to achieve those failed goals in the future.
About the Author: Amber Paley is a writer bringing to us why acting is so important in our pursuit of happiness. Amber spends much of her professional life writing about how people can act when a loved one is enduring nursing home abuse.