How can I can become happy? What can I do to be a happier person? The very question — asked by millions of people — is based on a false (and perhaps even arrogant?) premise and is therefore doomed to failure. Before we ask how to become happy, let’s first define what happiness is: Is happiness a commodity, an activity, or is it a state of being? Is it a verb or a noun? Is happiness a result of getting what you want, or is it something else? Because if it is the former (getting your wants or even needs fulfilled) then why are so many prosperous and seemingly (materially) fulfilled people miserable? And conversely, why are so many deprived people happy? That dude Oscar Wilde said it well: “In this world there are only two tragedies: One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.”
John Stuart Mill said: “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.” Is it possible that our self-indulgent culture today has difficulties with finding happiness because we are steeped in the relentless pursuit of personal pleasure and endless cheer? Does this explain the irony that as the self-help industry continues to pour forth books promising to make us happier people, the demand for these books only grows, indicating that they aren’t working? So, let’s rephrase the question: Instead of how can I become happy, perhaps we should be asking how can I become content? What can I do to become a more content person?
Please join Rabbi Jacobson in this double Adar (double dose of happiness) workshop dissecting the anatomy of happiness, and coming away with a surprising conclusion: Happiness is indeed a noun and not a verb, a state of being instead of an action, an attitude and not a commodity. Happiness, therefore, cannot be directly gained or achieved; it is a product and result of doing things that are not focused on the self. Learn some disarmingly simple ways to reframe your mindset and objectives, allowing you to discover happiness in new and unexpected ways.