A good friend of mine recently heard about my book, and said, “Congratulations on the book Tom, but do we really need to fight to be happy?”
My answer to this is a definite and emphatic “Yes”. As I say at the beginning of my book, “Some people are born happy; others have to fight for it.”
It’s true: people are born with different, congenital happiness levels. Those who are born with a low happiness level need to learn how to fight to achieve happiness. That was one of the inspirations for my book.
I believe that life is conflict. We have little control over external events, they are always changing, and hence we cannot rely on them to be happy. Happiness — true happiness — can only be developed from the inside. For many of us, including me, it is not something that came naturally, but something I had to develop — something I had to fight for.
My book talks about the ways to overcome the things that bring us down. Nearly every chapter is devoted to one of them. Obsessing with the past, overthinking, anxiety, pride, jealousy — these are the things that we have to fight against, and win against, if we want to achieve contentment and joy. And these are all internal things.
In my experience, sitting around and meditating would help calm me down, but it didn’t help me fix any of the above challenges. These had to be tackled head-on, with strategies. Let me use the Past as an example. I had, for all of my life, divided my life into Past and Future. Never did I think about the Present. In my view, my Present was just the result of my Past. And hence I was never escaping all of the mistakes I had made, and all of the bad experiences I’d had. I was reliving them, day after day.
I took a hard line at fighting this obsession with the past. I told myself that the Present was the time I should be living in, that the errors of my past were not the errors I was going to make today, that the bad experiences I’d had were OVER. I had great help in this from Eckhard Tolle’s book The Power of Now, which begins with the amazing line, “I have little use for the past, and rarely think about it.” When I read this line, it was a revelation, an epiphany.
I started to distance myself from my Past by simply fighting the urge to think about it. This also means sacrificing some nice memories. But these memories are not lost forever. As I say in Winning the Fight to be Happy, “Save reflection for the wisdom of old age.” It also means, saving reflection for when you have reached the stage of being a much more positive person.
Winning the fight to achieve happiness involves many of the same things involved in a physical “fight”. Being in the right frame of mind is one of them. Being physically healthy is another. Knowing that there will be a few things you don’t expect, accepting that you’re not perfect ; being able to fend off an obsession with the past, being able to refocus your perspective from negative to positive — there are all elements as well.
It may seem ironic that the path to peace and happiness involves fighting, but that’s simply the reality that we call life. For me, there was no other way to become happy, to develop happiness, than by fighting for it. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that the path to peace is not always peaceful. Marcus Aurelius stated that “Our life is warfare”. And I’ll close with a line from another Roman, Vegetius Renatus, who said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”