Happiness is to everyday humans what dark matter is to physicists. You know it’s out there, you know it’s important, but you can’t put your finger on how to get to it or what it even is.

We tend to perceive happiness as a binary existence—either it’s true or false; it’s either 100% or 0%. Rottentomatoes is great for movie ratings, but 71% isn’t good enough for our happiness.

Well, happiness has a language problem.

If you know Spanish, it’s like the difference between the verbs Estar and Ser. They both mean “to be” but not in the same way. One is a temporary state; the other is an identity. You can be both hungry and tall, but only one changes by the minute.

So, feeling happy and being happy are two colossally different things. One is happiness; the other is Happiness.

Mistaking happiness for Happiness is like trying to get one side of a Rubix cube done but neglecting the rest. It’s not that the one side is worthless, it’s just that there is more to the puzzle.

happiness vs. Happiness

happiness is the big smiles
Happiness is the little things

happiness is your outward mood
Happiness is your silent disposition

happiness is the raise you get
Happiness is the impact you have

happiness is an on/off switch
Happiness is on a dimmer switch

happiness is the found acorn the squirrel eats in the fall
Happiness is the stored acorn the squirrel eats in the winter

happiness is the nice things people say about you to your face
Happiness is the nice things people say about you when you’re not there

happiness is when you get what you expect
Happiness is when you get respect

happiness is what takes your breath away
Happiness is what no one can ever take away from you

happiness is the moment
Happiness is the story

You don’t need to feel happy to be Happy.
You don’t need to be Happy to feel happy.

On Your Raft

Our Happiness percentage is an ever-changing, unique-to-every-individual concoction* of:

  • Our work/career experience
  • What we do/have done for leisure
  • Whom we surround ourselves with
  • What those people think of us
  • What we think other people think of us
  • What we think of us

And let’s say that the overall Happiness percentage mimicked the amount of air in your raft as you were out on the ocean of life. 0% air in your raft, and you sink like a brick. 100% air and your pontoons are filled to the brim.

Happiness is cumulative in the sense that the air we pump into the raft takes up more space as we keep pumping. But it’s not altogether cumulative because we are genetically predisposed to releasing air through a tiny puncture we all have.

The hole in our rafts reflects our constant need to feel challenged, respected, purposeful, and engaged in some manner.

Therefore, there is no specific life occurrence—money in the bank, job title, countries visited, parties attended, starting a family, retiring—that will keep our rafts bloated with bliss. There is no Nirvana of Happiness where we can plant our flag down and state universally, “I’ve made it. I’m finally Happy.”

You don’t reach Happiness, you tend to Happiness.

The good news is that the air won’t seep out quickly. We can go from 85% to 75% and not even notice it that much because our raft is comfortably floating. But eventually, we’ll feel a stir, an itch, or an impulse for a new injection of Happiness, and we’ll have to man the pump again.

The idea is to get to a point in your life where you somewhat understand your total air capacity, where you’re comfortable with your current buoyancy, and where it doesn’t feel so laborious to pump air in when the time does come.

So Happiness isn’t a destination; it’s a pursuit. Not a pursuit of the absence of problems (that’s happiness), but a pursuit of better problems.

What do you think?

Bassam Tarazi is the creator of a motivational framework, Colipera, which utilizes the notion: collective inspiration + personal accountability—together, be better. Bassam is also the author of The Accountability Effect, and has just launched an online course called: Ready. Set. Finish. Bassam conducts goal setting classes, corporate and group Colipera sessions, and one-on-one coaching for those with 9-to-5’s through his “Maximize Your 5-to-9” program. Bassam can also be followed on Twitter.