The path to happiness is upside down

There’s this concept called “have-do-be” that my friend Simon Bell told me about a few years ago. Effectively it goes like this:

If I have this, then I can do that then I can be happy.

It’s the commonly believed path to happiness. We’re sold through marketing, advertising and ultimately social proof that our path to being fulfilled is through the acquisition of stuff.

If I have a degree, then I can do a better job then I can be successful.

If I have money, then I do good stuff that will make me be happy.

If I have happiness, then I can do more stuff then I can be effective.

But we all know that having a degree doesn’t guarantee success or deny it. We all know that happiness is a subjective state of mind and not just a bank balance. And surprisingly (but not really), you don’t even need to be happy to be effective.

The mainstream thinking is that from buying a coffee to eternal enlightenment, it all apparently starts with the acquisition of something in order to do something thus resulting in a state of ‘being’. It also creates the belief that without these things, you’ll never ‘be’ who you want to be.

It’s destined to click for the masses because it revolves around chasing a never-ending shopping list you’ll never fulfil and for marketers, governments, businesses and even people, it’s a perfect storm. Unfulfilled people are more motivated to spend money, resources and energy chasing the elusive happiness/success/wealth/acceptance/whatever path.

So let me pitch it as be-do-have. Be this way, meaning you’ll do with authenticity and thus have these.

The last couple of weeks has been a personal challenge for me. Here I am faced with my own lessons and opinions with circumstances that are putting them to the test.

I’m surrounded by amazing and successful friends all in their own right. I live in an amazing place with a great housemate, I’m feeling increasingly confident and fulfilled from my musical pursuits and I’ve recently started seeing a girl who quite simply, rocks my world. For the first time in a long long time, I feel genuinely fulfilled. And my visa is running out which makes me sad.

It made me think – are these things that I’ve accumulated through performance and think I need to be happy, or have I earned them because I am genuinely being happy and authentic to start with?

Being happy doesn’t mean you don’t have things in your life. In fact, you’re likely to have the same amount of stuff in your life, but they’re there because you want them to be and not because you need them to be.

I didn’t have anything when I got to SF. I made the friendships which resulted in the apartment and opportunities finding me, I practiced my music every day which resulted in people liking it and in turn it (amongst other things I hope!) won the heart of a girl. I often laugh at how little effort I thought I expended for the huge reward I received. Turns out it was the same effort but it came from a place of authenticity (which is easy) versus a place of strategic design (which is hard).

I came to San Francisco with one goal in my mind. To just ‘be’ happy. Not to buy stuff, not to ‘get’ things or to ‘tick a bucket list’ but to just feel happy. So I made the conscious decisions to do things that made me feel happy, to speak happily about life and to make an effort to find the positive in situations. It wasn’t easy and it’s been really testing me the last couple of weeks with various visa and income responsibilities.

But the minute I let these ‘needs’ dictate my state of being, things start to unravel. My mood changes, I feel pessimism knocking on the window and as a result ‘unhappiness’ starts to shine through the cracks.

It’s really bloody hard some days to not know where the day will take you all the while trying to trust in the bigger picture. But if you can just focus on doing happy things for you and for others, finding the positives when shit hits the fan and knowing you were 100% you today, then that’s all you can ever do.

If I can do it, you can too. 🙂

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