All happiness is self-made. So is all unhappiness.

When we choose to be happy what we chose is not so much to permanently experience the pleasant sensation – what we chose is the path of action that improves us, inspires us, allows us to have new and novel and even challenging experiences and which ultimately lead us to the feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, companionship. It is these secondary emotions and sensations that bring us happiness.
Purchasing a new, bigger, brighter TV makes us happy but not because we’ve placed a newer set of electronic components in a new box as the living room centerpiece. The reason a new TV brings us happiness is because the anticipation of the new movies, TV shows we’ll watch. The excitement brought on by envisioning our friends experiencing that motion picture with us – the companionship, the dialogues that inevitably follow and the friendly boystering about characters or what each person liked and disliked about the movie – scenes that stood out and that we could relate to and even just being around people.

Unfortunately if none of those secondary activities and situations happen then the new TV will be just a short lived blip on the happiness scale and very quickly will be normalized.

In a way it’s the same with experiences – just because someone played sports in high school but hasn’t accomplished much since then wouldn’t make them happy. The accomplishment must be an ongoing undertaking, the learning, failing, getting up and trying again. It’s sometimes unpleasant, painful and requires effort – and it’s the only way to build durable happiness and fulfillment. There is no shortcut – the self-development work must be done. The good news is that the time will pass anyway and there’s no reason to not do it. There are many reasons to try and improve one’s situation in life, relationships, learn a new skill.

This however requires honesty – do we really want that TV and then putting in the effort of getting people together to entertain or do we really not want that – do we really want to run away and end up traveling the world under the guise of vagabonding? That is the catch in this undertaking. If we’re not honest about our needs and desires and what we ultimately want and need to keep experiencing to be happy then we end up simply exhausted from keeping ourselves busy with activities and undertakings that ultimately don’t bring us any happiness. We’ve visited half a dozen countries, climbed Machu Picchu and danced to EDM in Ibiza – but all we did besides acquiring some bragging stories is ran away from who we are, seeking solace in the distraction and stimulation of a new external environment. There are people who are genuinely passionate about art, traveling or technology – but overall each individual specialized in what they find exciting, what they are interested in – not because of some external reason like peer recognition or higher salary or celebrity status.

When the motivation is all internal it is only then can we experience the situation or activity or topic as an outcome of genuine curiosity. It is this innate curiosity that compels us to stretch our muscles and reach higher, go faster, experience more of life. Curiosity because we believe there is more to discover about the world – about others in it, and indirectly about ourselves. If one believes that the truest way to learn about ourselves is by noticing how we relate and interact with the world around us then it is that curiosity that will drive our behaviors. And often this same curiosity will lead us astray – in pursuit of something we ultimately discover we’re not interested in, not value or find downright unpleasant to the point that we can’t justify pursuing it anymore. And yet we’re happy – precisely because we’re free to drop this thing we couldn’t care less about and instead turn our attention forward to something that we find more exciting, that brings us further and that ultimately makes us happier. And everyone want to be happy in their own special way. Curiosity is the path we must walk to get there.