We know that happiness is a scalar variable, it can be isolated, it can be measured, and it can be increased. We know that sustainable happiness (which is a state of being, no matter the situation), what the Greek called eudaimonia, is what humans seek, not hedonism, which is often what we get from the materials we possess. We know from decades of research into what makes people happy that because of the twin devils of social comparison (otherwise called envy) and habituation (which you can call boredom) a new car, or a new boob won’t make you any happier after period of time, unless somehow you convince yourself that other people are less happy than you i.e. it is not sustainable.
The philosophy confirms the theology, the theology confirms the anthropology and the anthropology confirms the psychology.
We know intuitively that many of our leaders acquired and acquired and acquired – power, wealth, sex – and died unhappily, between two prostitutes who didn’t care less, or after being arrested for theft in foreign airports. We see them wealthy but still stealing, powerful but still unsatisfied, humiliating themselves by a constant state of hustle, and their poor copies, doing everything for one more slice of fame, one more blog headline, one more public accolade.
Something tells us that cannot be the way to happiness. And that thing is right.
What leads to happiness at the core of it can be linked to two things: loving, strong, committed relationships, and the ability to give of ourselves to those around us, to those who need us and to strangers. We know from one of the longest studies of human beings, the almost 80-year Harvard Grant Study that the one thing that makes people happy and healthy is love.
But we see our friend, our ‘mentor’, our ‘role model’, our political leaders, our parents, we see them reach for other things but what truly matters, and we kill that inner voice that tells us what is proper, what is beautiful, and what is true.
Or is it poverty that you pay your gateman as little as $60?
And so we have the nation that we have today: that is both poor and unhappy, even though we know that money doesn’t lead to happiness. Even though we know that if people find happiness, whatever their situation, through meaning and relationships and reframing, then they can face adversity with dignity, then they can transcend difficulty, then they can find joy that helps them grow, even build wealth, and build a more inclusive, equitable society.
Today is the International Day for Happiness, and my team at Joy, Inc. and I think you should know – many Africans should know – these facts for yourself, you should know that the pursuit of pleasure and money will not help you find joy, or peace, or calm.
You should know and then you should begin this journey.
You can get books that can help you on this journey via ourjoystore.com, you can join The Joy Masterclass – we hold one every month in Nigeria (we are on a break now, and resume in May) and you can register via email@example.com, or you can just watch any of the free videos that I have on my personal YouTube playlist here or the free reading material on the website here.
And then you can share this with your friends, and let’s see if, person by person, we can truly transform many of our communities, across the continent, into wholesome, loving, nurturing, safe spaces.
Happy Happiness Day, fellow travellers. And may your journeys lead you to joy, every day.