The subject of happiness often splits the opinion of many people. Is it something we chase and obtain by achieving our goals and dreams or is it our birth right…there irrespective of what we do?

In western culture we tend to adopt a ‘build and maintain’ view of the world. That is, if we want something (like money, good career, quality of life etc…) we have to go out and build it from scratch then maintain and develop it through time. In essence it’s a fundamental driving force of the capitalist world view.

This way of looking at things doesn’t just apply to the outside, it also leaks into our internal world. From a young age we start buying into the illusion that happiness is something we have to build and maintain and, if we stop, we lose it and start to become unhappy.

It makes sense that we start thinking in this way…It is, after all, the strategy most western cultures instil and continually re-affirm through schooling and work life. It fits the capitalist model and provides the fuel to drive it on towards continual development. It’s a model and world view that certainly works and provides a lot of people with a high quality of life and lots of further opportunity to improve it.

When it comes to happiness, however, there is a major downfall of this world view. As soon as you stop building, maintaining and achieving you stop feeling happy. That your internal sense of happiness is linked so heavily to what you do on the outside that if things suddenly go pear shaped you lose the ability to be happy.

You buy into the illusion that happiness is something you have to build from scratch and then maintain through time. That it’s not there to begin with, irrespective of what’s going on in your life.

Stop for a minute and think about this for it’s one of the most important distinctions you can make.

Cast your mind back to when you were really young, as early as you can think…Perhaps about 5 or 6 years old.

Now, at that age, did you have to build and maintain your level of happiness? Did you have to continually affirm and re-affirm it to yourself every day in order to not lose it? Or were you so in the moment that you were happy just being, exploring, allowing yourself to go from moment to moment and interact with the world.

Sure there would have been times when you were knocked out of this but afterwards you fell right back into that blissful place of just being in the world…

You didn’t need self help books, years of therapy or personal development seminars to build and maintain these feelings, they were just there as your natural default state. Then, through years of schooling and influence from parents and peers you started to buy into the concept that, if you don’t achieve certain things then you lose that feeling of happiness that is, actually, your natural default state.

In most westernised societies there is something called ‘gross national product’. The term used to describe the value of all products and services produced in a year within that country.

In Bhutan (a small state located at the western side of the Himalayas) they use a different gauge for success. The use the term ‘Gross National Happiness’. A pre-dominantly Buddhist culture, Bhutan place equal importance on general happiness and well being as they do on building wealth and material success. They believe the two compliment each other and you do not necessarily need material success to be happy.

This ability to be able to find a sense of joy and happiness irrespective of what’s occurring on the outside is a tremendously attractive quality. You can tell when you are with someone who possesses this quality as they just seem to have a balance about them. They appear more grounded and content without the need to constantly change and control the world around them.

Of course this is, in my opinion, a bit of a utopian vision. Despite what the Buddhist monk may tell you, I’m sure we all at some level crave success on the outside. It’s a natural and evolutionary impulse to want to develop and improve.

However just because you want to achieve material success on the outside doesn’t mean you can’t be happy without it. One of the tricks is to realise that material success is an extra to happiness rather than a pre-requisite.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Burns is known as 'The People's Coach' and is an NLP Trainer, Coach & Hypnotherapist. Following the end of his 9 and 1/2 relationship he decided to specialize in helping people let go of social anxiety disorder and become more confident and skilled in all aspects of socializing. You can find Steven's latest work at The Guide to Social Confidence