“The disturbers of happiness are our desires, our griefs, and our fears.” — Samuel Johnson
It is interesting that Mr. Johnson listed our desires at the head of the string of disturbers of happiness. It is easy to see how grief and fear can disturb one’s inner state of happiness, but desire?
I have come to think of happiness as synonymous with contentment. The states of joy and elation are fleeting; happiness is a deep well of reserves to weather the daily with good spirit. To desire, to long for something, is to disrupt this calm and to color all that we have with the sense that we are missing something. Longing steals the present, throwing us into the search for the distant and perhaps unattainable.
While working to overcome fear and guilt as thieves of happiness, let us not overlook the draining energy of desire. When desire springs up it requires examination and if the object is a valid one, broken down from a powerful emotion to a goal and a plan.
A balance is needed to keep one moving forward without losing sight of the happiness in the moment. To dream, to plan, to work daily on the goals that add to our contentment are necessary to continue to grow. To crave, to covet, to yearn for that which we do not have works in opposition to that goal. A happy inner life is one of moderation and equilibrium. Extreme emotion is to be reserved for the most extreme circumstances, to allow that to bleed into our everyday way of being crowds out the space one has carved for personal peace. Happiness will be disturbed; it is our task to minimize those disruptions and continue to be mindful of all that adds to our wellbeing.