Gratitude, The Happiness Handle and The Paradox of Pleasure
I’m fairly sure that in the history of the English language, no one has ever before written this sentence:
Happiness is like a hagfish.
The hagfish is some kind of prehistoric looking fishy, eely kind of thingy that has developed a unique defense mechanism: whenever anything grabs or bites down on a hagfish, it releases massive amounts of slime from every pore in its body. In the wild that serves to clog the gills of predators who quickly lose interest in lunch.
For humans, grabbing a hagfish is much like trying to grab a handful of snot. And the harder you grasp, the snottier it gets.
Ironically, happiness works in much the same way.
The more you grab and grasp and lunge at happiness, the more difficult it is to obtain. The harder you pursue it, the farther away it becomes.
Philosophers have a name for this. It’s called the Paradox of Pleasure.
The moment you ask whether you’re happy or not is the moment you cease to be.
For the last 30 years or so, the whole world has sang along with Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” the feel good song of the century.
But telling yourself to be happy is like Snooki telling herself to be tall.
There are lots of things you can do to make yourself happier (not worrying is a good start), but trying to be happy isn’t one of them.
And too often our desperate pursuit of happiness becomes a pursuit of fun or a pursuit of pleasure which aren’t really the same thing as happiness. Hence the paradox.
Happiness is a side effect and you can no more grab a handful of it than you can grab a handful of air, water or hagfish.
But unlike air, water and the prehistoric hagfish, happiness has a handle that you CAN grab onto. It’s called gratitude.
The surest path to happiness is spending more time being grateful for what’s right in your life and less time worrying about what’s wrong.
Life is a true miracle, but we’re only here for the blink of an eye. And the best way, probably the only way, to find true happiness in this brief shining moment is to appreciate it.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes on gratitude:
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” ― Oprah Winfrey
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24
“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
“All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it’s truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.” ― Dennis Prager
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
“One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful..we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine..”
― Joel Osteen
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – Brian Tracy
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth
“What I’ve learned is there’s a scientifically proven phenomenon that’s attached to gratitude, and that if you consciously take note of what is good in your life, quantifiable benefits happen.” – Deborah Norville
“God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.” – Evelyn Underhill
“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ― Harry A. Ironside
“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” ― Marcus Aurelius
“Gratitude paints little smiley faces on everything it touches.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ― Epicurus
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ― Eckhart Tolle
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love-then make that day count!” ― Steve Maraboli
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” ― Anthony Robbins
“Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation.” ― John Ortberg
“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” ― Steve Maraboli
“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich
“Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. There is an inverse relationship between expectations and gratitude: The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” ― Dennis Prager
Terry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing. You can connect with Terry on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.