In Spanish, there are two different words that I think are often misused: “contento” and “feliz”. In this post, I’d like to set a difference between them. The problem is that in English the translation is the same: “happy”. I will try to differentiate them using the verbs “feel” and “be”.
Let’s start with the easy one. “To feel happy” or “estar contento” is something temporal. It’s an emotion. It has to do with the satisfaction of some needs: you ate a very tasty dish, you met someone, you’re going out with your friends, you were accepted at Harvard,… I’m not going to say all of this is unnecessary, but I do think it is different from “being happy” or “ser feliz”.
This second pair of words is a mindset. It is a way to understand life that arrives when you find a purpose. When you get there, you find some peace within you, you feel thankful for breathing, you celebrate and love life, you don’t let yourself feel angry or worried about things that don’t deserve it.
In my opinion, people know what it’s like to feel happy, but they rarely experiment true and deep happiness. The reason for that is that you need to experiment, discover, let yourself free from social chains, reflect, and get to know you as a human being. You need to find what is it that fuels your soul, and makes you wake every morning with the determination to enjoy one day more. That doesn’t mean carpe diem. That means learning about your purpose and going towards it: volunteering, being an artist, starting-up a business, saving lives… (little tip: purposes usually have a social component, meaning that they try to impact on others to create a better world).
This approach I have is based on a subjacent theory. In my opinion, there’s no point in sacrificing years and decades of your life for anything. Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean you don’t have to fight, work and strive for improvement. This simply means that these efforts cannot be understood as a sacrifice. On the contrary, they should be what give you a meaningful life. The reason why you matter.
In a way, objectives or challenges need to be set so that we move forward, but they cannot be the reason why we keep on fighting. The reason has to be our everyday work. Otherwise, we can suffer from big deceptions, depression, feel empty, …
All in all: explore and discover yourself to find your purpose. Go for it and enjoy your way. This is the secret to happiness.