(Excerpted from The Secret of Letting Go, Llewellyn Publications: 570 words)
Have you ever noticed just how unhappy you can get over the fact you are not happy? Unexamined, this behavior seems to make sense. But a closer look at it will reveal that being unhappy over being unhappy is like throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out. You get lots of fire and smoke — even a strange excitement — but in the end all you are left with is ashes. This is why you must understand this next amazing fact.
You can make yourself miserable but you can’t make yourself happy.
This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as we begin to learn that we have been unconscious conspirators in our own unhappy lives. Even if it wasn’t being pointed out, most of us can admit that at times we do make ourselves miserable. But there is nothing good about feeling bad. There is never a justification for tolerating self-misery because what is self-induced can be self-reduced and ultimately eliminated if you are willing to understand the underlying causes. This is why we must look at why it is impossible to make ourselves happy if we ever want to come upon authentic happiness.
Outside of drugs and alcohol, which are obviously not the way to happiness, whenever you want to make yourself happy, you must put forth an effort of some kind. Effort implies the application of force in a specific direction. We can see that this is good and necessary in following preconceived plans for construction projects, business concerns or cooking, for example. You can also make an effort to imagine or visualize new shapes and ideas to help in the creative process. But when it comes to being happy, any effort is the wrong one. Let’s see if this is true. If it is, then we are on the verge of an even higher discovery: Real happiness is effortless. Let’s find out more about this new possibility.
As we described, where there is an effort, there is, whether known or not, always a plan. All plans by definition are to build something; in this instance your plans are to build happiness. With this preconceived plan, this picture of happiness firmly fixed in your mind, you meet each of life’s events looking for your picture instead of experiencing what life has brought to you. This painful and stress-producing process of comparison goes on unknowingly and it ruins everything it touches. Life becomes a series of disappointments instead of a series of happy adventures. Please ponder this next point. You could never be unhappy with anything you found in this life if you didn’t already have it fixed in your mind what you were looking for.
Hopefully, we can learn from this that our ideas about happiness are more often than not the very root of our unhappiness. The point here is that happiness cannot be made. It is not the result of anything. Happiness comes to those who understand that you can’t seek it any more than you seek the air you breathe. It is a part of life to be found within living. The excitement of anticipation is not happiness, any more than smelling freshly-baked bread nourishes a hungry body. All pursuit of happiness is based upon the false assumption that happiness can be possessed. It cannot. Happiness is the natural expression of a stress-free life, just as sunlight naturally warms the earth after dark clouds disappear.