The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depend upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily.”
Christopher Reeve was born into a wealthy family in New York. Reeve split his young adult life between Ivy League schools in the United States and sipping wine and riding horses around Europe. In 1978, Reeve hit his big break and scored the role of Superman in a big-budget Hollywood movie. He earned millions and became one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.
Reeve made a fortune. He spent that fortune on nice houses, nice cars, luxurious parties and his passion for riding horses.Then in 1995, Reeve fell off a horse and cracked two vertebrae in his spine. He would never walk or breathe on his own again.
He became an advocate for the disabled and spent the rest of his life fundraising for spinal cord research. He was the first celebrity supporter of stem cell research. Reeve later claimed that his accident helped him “appreciate life more.” It wasn’t a joke. He noted that there were “able-bodied people more paralyzed than I am,” and once remarked, “I can laugh. I can love. I am a very lucky guy.”
Happiness, like every other emotion, isn’t something you obtain, but rather something you inhabit. When you’re really angry, you are not self-conscious about your state of anger. You are not thinking to yourself, “Am I finally angry? Am I doing this right?” No, you’re just angry. You inhabit and live the anger. You are the anger. And then it’s gone.
Just as a confident man doesn’t wonder if he’s confident, a happy man does not wonder if he’s happy. He simply is.
What this implies is that happiness is not achieved, but rather it is the side effect of a particular set of ongoing life experiences. So often we get this wrong, especially since happiness is marketed as a goal in and of itself. Buy X and be happy. Learn Y and be happy. But you can’t buy happiness and you can’t achieve happiness. It just is. And it is once you get other parts of your life in order.
Research shows that people who focus their energy on materialistic and superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, less healthy, and less happy in the long run.
One vital aspect of attaining a measure of happiness is to have a sense of a purpose in life. For most of us, it is something that is constantly evolving as we move through life. This is my latest iteration:
To live mindfully and passionately in the present moment, to discover my surroundings, discover myself, to follow my heart and to love freely, to become the greatest version of myself, to be a lifelong learner, to seek adventure and growth, and to spread kindness and peace along the way.
I ask myself these questions to discover my purpose: What do you love? What are you good at? What are your greatest passions? What makes you truly feel alive? Make certain to follow your heart (do all those things that make you feel happy, that lift your spirits, that give you butterflies, that make you feel light) and evolve spiritually — become more enlightened.