Only you can decide what makes you happy!
We bumped into a young friend at a coffee shop yesterday. She is a qualified architect but is taking a gap year in her academics.
She asked us: “Is it okay to not feel like doing anything in Life? I mean, is it seriously okay? I feel everyone around me is chasing their tail and here I am…completely clueless about my future and blundering along…I am still unsure if I want to study further or if I want to practice or be a writer or just travel the world. Everyone is forcing me to decide and go do ‘something’. But I don’t want to commit to doing something that my heart isn’t agreeing to.”
Vaani, in turn, asked her this question: “What makes you happy?”
And the young lady replied: “I am still figuring out what makes me happy. But I am sure none of the things my family or friends want me to do, like do a desk job to earn an income and gain experience, or a do a Masters Program so that the tag of a graduate can be acquired, will make me happy.”
The lady, in our opinion, has her priorities clearly in place.
Even as she is figuring out what will quench her soul, what will make her intrinsically happy, she’s sure about what she does not want to do. And there’s no confusion in her mind there. Now, that’s a wonderful state to be in.
You see, the whole world is running amuck – everyone is trying to become something, become someone else that they really are not. Worse, almost everyone else seems to have an opinion about what you must do and how you must live your Life. Sometimes, this cacophony can be deafening. If you capitulate and sign up for what the world wants you to do, at the cost of your own inner peace and joy, then don’t complain about your Life being listless and meaningless. Because that’s really what Life will be when you live it for someone else’s sake! But, if you want your Life to be exciting, if you want to wake up each morning loving the opportunity to go do what you love doing, then you have to pause and reflect.
Ask yourself important, fundamental, questions: 1. What makes me happy? 2. What makes me feel grateful for this gift called Life? 3. Doing what makes me lose myself completely so that I forget all my worries and even lose track of time? 4. What do I want to keep doing again and again and again – all my Life?
Well, you know what you answered for those four questions. Now, just go do it. Simple. And if figuring this out takes a year or two, or even more, well, so be it.
Life is a precious, one-time, limited-period offer. The most intelligent way to live it is to only do what makes you happy. And no one but you can make that choice – only you can decide what makes you happy. When you do live a Life, doing what you love, everything you need arrives in your Life – at its own time and pace. If there ever is a secret to living a Life of happiness and contentment – this, absolutely, is it!
In this Vlog, I talk about why I do what I do, why I share learnings from Life daily through my Blogposts, Podcasts and Vlogs!
View time: 2:28 minutes
Today’s Podcast invites us to pause and reflect. Do we really need external gratification? How about doing whatever we love doing for our own inner joy?
Listen time: 6:32 minutes
My conversation with poet and writer Arundhathi Subramaniam for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“I am experiencing complete freedom”
“Happiness”, says Arundhathi Subramaniam, “is an understanding. It is being in a state of wonder at one level and being deeply who you are at another level.”
This understanding for Arundhathi has come about through an on-going, evolutionary journey. As a child she was wonder-struck when she first came into contact with poetry through one of T.S.Eliot’s poems, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prukfrock”. “There was music, there was dance and there was a sense of total amazement that the words in the poem invoked in me. When I relate back to that encounter I can only describe it as happiness,” she recalls. She says, years later, when as an adult she sought to find out the meaning of Life, she found more meaning in that feeling of being wonder-struck by poetry, in the happiness of that memory, than in anything else. “I believe we become unhappy the moment that sense of wonder is replaced by cleverness, by worldly desire and logic.” I ask her how she stays clear of such ‘real world’ demands. Her reply: “After my Master’s degree I was almost tempted to pursue a doctorate program. But my inner voice spoke up. It reminded me that poetry is primary to my Life. So, within 45 days of being a college lecturer, I quit. My decision has meant less stability, lesser money, but it has meant more happiness being a poet.”
But does following your bliss make Life less challenging? Surely, there’s no such guarantee clarifies Arundhathi. She recounts how, in 1997, she “tumbled into a dark space where no language, no poetry, no love, nothing, could enter.” That phase led her onward to be a seeker. “I discovered that any authentic spiritual journey involves knowing that you will sometimes be on terra firma, with free-flowing traffic, or you will encounter potholes. Happiness, I have realized, is the ability to be deeply present in both realities and know that you have been given the shock absorbers to deal with any upheavals,” she explains.
Arundhathi says that in her world, a sense of cluelessness while dealing with the pulls and pressures of everyday living, and the joy of expressing through words and silence, through her poetry, co-exist. “I have learnt to enjoy the ride for the way it is. So I am experiencing complete freedom – in a heightened, alive, state.”
That’s a truly unputdownable state. It is a.k.a happiness!
Do what you love for your sake, it seriously doesn’t matter if others value what you are doing or not!
Last evening we were at a book launch event. The event had three parts – a formal part with speeches, a music concert by a young band and cocktails/dinner. Once the formal part was over, the master of ceremonies invited everyone to stay on for a musical treat. The refreshments, we understood, would be served after the concert.
The band was introduced: Baradwaj Raman on the Veena, Sabi on the Blues Guitar and Vetri on a unique Peruvian percussion instrument called Cajon (pronounced kahon). The trio were awesome. They fused classical Carnatic compositions on the Veena with blues rhythm on the guitar and the Cajon’s Afro-Peruvian beats. Unfortunately, someone seems to have whispered that the bar was open and slowly, over one song, many members of the audience slinked away to an adjoining hall. We were just a few left in the audience now. And one of the organizers gestured to the band to wind up after playing one last number. But the band pressed on. They enjoyed the process thoroughly – of playing together, being immersed in their music, even as some of us – the few who were still in the audience – soaked in some fantastic renditions of great classical compositions! Baradwaj (he’s the grandson of Veena legend S.Balachander) is an upcoming artist, just as Sabi (he’s the official blues guitarist for composer G.V.Prakash) and Vetri (he’s a disciple of Drums Shivamani) are. But by no means was their performance amateurish. So, those in the audience who preferred Johnnie Walker over the concert did so because of their lack of courtesy to the performing artists than anything else.
Even so, the bigger, spiritual, learning for me, came from the reaction of the three members of the band. They were unmindful of who left or who stayed, they played for the joy of music, for their inner joy and for the joy of their being who they are.
This is a great spiritual quality. If you examine your Life objectively, you will realize that most of the time, a lot of what you do is dictated by what you think others (will) think about you. While social niceties are important, you don’t need to strive to be gratified by fulfilling them alone. In fact, nothing other than your inner joy can truly gratify you. So, when something like what happened yesterday happens, well, you just carry on, you just go on playing. Simply, you can’t control the maturity levels of the people around you. You can’t demand they do what you believe they must do. All you can and must do, in any situation or context in Life, is do what you have to do while choosing to be unruffled and unfrustrated by what’s going on.