The world used to be chock-full of possibility. The simplest things were objects of wonder. The night sky was a stepping stone to other lives and other worlds. Our minds were open doors into myriad realms of imagination in which anything was conceivable.
These days, the world is still chock-full of possibility–but it’s almost always viewed through a narrower lens. The simplest things are just that–simple–and often overlooked. The night sky signals day and night but it’s otherwise (usually) neglected. Our minds close doors into myriad realms of imagination and much less is conceivable as a result.
The first paragraph most often describes a child’s perspective and the second paragraph an adult’s. We don’t reminisce about the imaginative ability we left behind, because we don’t comprehend the magnitude of our loss. Imagination obviously benefits our professional lives, but what about our everyday ones? After all, it was in our everyday that our imaginative ability took root and shape. It was also in our everyday–in our imaginatively rich moments–that we knew genuine happiness, whether we realize it or not.
What is happiness? My momentarily favored definition is this: Happiness is “characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.” Whether or not you agree depends on your own favored definition(s) of and ideas regarding happiness. My take is that happiness is much more simplistic–and thus endlessly more accessible–than most of us believe. Just as our world became less imaginatively defined over time, so too did happiness become less accessible by way of our subjective, requirement-laden definitions. Simply put, the more we experience, the more we tend to define, redefine, and over-define happiness. By doing these things, we also place it out of our reach.
With this in mind, I’d like you to remember what it was like to create magical forts made of blankets. Remember how it felt to run free as a two-armed airplane about to take flight into the wild blue yonder. Recall the glory of that rock band you created with kitchen wares and utensils, or the success of that party you had with your stuffed animals, dolls, and action figures, or that thrilling/frightening time you waited to battle or to be rescued by aliens wearing your tin-foil hat and light-based weapons. Whether or not you knew it, you were happy in those moments and you can be again if you view happiness–if not your world–in a more childlike way.
I get that some will see impossibility in these ideas. Others will say this is not happiness. Still others will find this or that way to not relate and/or to reject these simplistic concepts. Regardless, I hope you see the interconnection: A child perceives a limitless world and an adult perceives a limited one. We can’t revert to being children and we don’t have to. We can, however, recapture a childlike approach to certain things in our lives and we can do this with happiness as our goal.
Think about these questions for a moment or a few: How do you define happiness? How many prerequisites does your definition include? Is a time period involved? Who or what, besides yourself, has become necessary for your definition to be valid? Now think about these questions: How would a child–or me as a child–define happiness? Would it involve as many prerequisites, as much time, or other people and things?
Surely the attainment of happiness is not as simplistic or straightforward as I’m proposing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. We are the ones who define and inevitably create our happiness. Regardless of how we remember our childhood, we knew happiness as children–if only for the briefest of moments on a warm summer day. More likely we knew happiness in many moments on many days and we just need to remember those moments, the feelings we felt, and the relative simplicity of both. We experienced greater pleasure, contentment, and joy because we were much more open and available to do so.
If you open up to your imaginative self, you may find that your path to happiness is much easier to navigate. You may find that both of your feet are where they are meant to be and that it’s just a matter of getting your head on board. Whatever you find, look beyond the many limitations of definition and into the reality of what you feel. When happiness is defined by pleasure, contentment, and joy, it’s much easier to realize that some part of what we’re feeling here, in this moment, is happiness. Even if you can’t open your mind to recapture the wonder and excitement of a childlike perspective, you can surely remember what it was like to do so and benefit from such remembrance.