Two Steps to Happiness

High mountain range

The great test of life is to see if we have the courage to search for truth.
The great task of life is to put ourselves in harmony with it.
The great reward of life is the happiness that follows.

Jackson Pemberton, April 14, 2017

Exploring Happiness

It seems that a majority of the human race is not very happy. That must mean that there is something amiss in the way they think or live or both. It seems clear to me that when we want to succeed at anything that doesn’t require some change in our attitude or lifestyle, we have no trouble searching for and following the truth.

When some device doesn’t work properly we seek to understand why and then to put things aright so it succeeds in fulfilling its mission. This search for truth may be one of the most fundamental activities of human life. When a chair makes a strange sound we want to know why.  When we misplace something we look for it. We do this search for truth automatically a hundred times a day. Most of these are no threat to our values, our attitude or our lifestyle so there is no hesitation, and no resistance wells up inside.

But – if we are not happy with our lives, and we begin to search for answers, we typically find something we really didn’t want to know about. So we are unhappy and then also unhappy about what seems to be the problem. We often choose to remain unhappy because we are naturally lazy about changing anything about ourselves. Or, worse yet, we find someone or something to blame for our own failure. That doesn’t help anything.

So to find happiness, we must take courage and apply determination, and have a willingness to change. Then we will change. Remember that practice works miracles.

The First Step

Having the courage to really look for truth in respect to one’s own lifestyle seems to be our greatest challenge because it requires a determination to risk violating our comfort zone. But it also requires confidence or faith in two things:

  1. That this unusual exertion will be worth the effort – that it will lead to desirable results;
  2. That the fear we feel is just fear of unknown consequences or of failure.

My wife and I have watched about 200 years of child maturation. We have also spent several man-years encouraging adults to stretch themselves in the search for truth. Our experience tells us that only a small portion of mankind has the courage and faith to do that. Most people told us that they have no interest or need – often, I think, in an effort to convince themselves that they didn’t need to make any changes, or, in other words, to protect their status quo.

However, there can be no more urgent or crucial human activity than finding truth. That fact pervades every single task we undertake. If your lawnmower won’t start, or your child comes home from school upset, or your food tastes strange, or your dog is missing, or your creditor calls unexpectedly, and a thousand more examples come easily to mind – in every single instance, our first thought is to search for truth.

Perhaps the root cause of trouble in the world is the fact that we easily turn our minds to the quest for truth in every area of our lives except those that might infringe on our own lifestyle. We have a great struggle entertaining the idea that we might just happen to be wrong about things that are intimately entwined with our personal preferences, our egos, our choices and our opinions. That’s why courage is crucial to the quest for understanding what we are. And that’s why this search is the greatest test of life.

But if finding truth is the first and most crucial first phase of all life’s endeavors, why would it not also be true for “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”

Step Two

Once we have found the truth we have to apply it or that first step was wasted effort. So we are talking about some more effort here and some confidence and faith that we can make the changes the new truth has told us about. There is a way to make this happen and it has to do with faith and with experimentation. Many changes can be made incrementally and those can be worked on a little at a time. Things like controlling one’s temper can hardly be done any other way. The point here is to go to work on it, take the steps you feel sure you can actually do and move along. Give yourself time and patience and forgiveness for relapses.

We are all little children learning to walk in a new world. We should expect to stumble, lose our balance, fall flat on our faces, etc. We can also expect that practice makes perfect, eventually.

So –

When you take something to a handyman for repair, the first thing he does is figure out what the thing is which includes what it is for – its mission. This little study goes so quickly he is hardly aware of it, but it is obviously the most critical decision he makes. He can’t address a repair without first knowing what is wrong, what is keeping it from succeeding in its mission.

The what are you thinking mascot
Should it not be equally true in our quest for happiness? Our first task must be to figure out what we are, and then what our destiny can be. I fear that most people never really think about these questions, or they suppose they are unanswerable and so they seek happiness in all the fun places instead of where they might actually find the answers.

So what do you think you are? and what is your best destiny?

If you are a pumpkin seed then your destiny is to become a pumpkin. If you are a literal child of a God, then your destiny seems unlimited does it not?

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Jackson Pemberton

Jackson graduated with honors in Physics and Mathematics and in the top of his MBA class. He is the die-hard constitutionalist who wrote the bicentennial series “A New Message” for The Freeman magazine in 1976. He is presently writing the book Church and State, A Citizen's Guide and publishing as he writes it on the blog you are now reading.
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