Finding happiness is like finding our favorite food Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Do you know what you want? Are you confident? Self-assured? Unwavering in your choice?

The answer is clear. Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

We are all incredibly decisive people, just not all the time. If someone asks you to name your favorite dessert, you can name it without hesitation. If anyone asks for your shoe size, you answer in seconds. Asked to share your dream vacation, you can paint a magnificent vista with words.

We can set firm opinions based on facts and personal viewpoints. We've tasted our favorite dessert. We've seen pictures of our ultimate vacation destination. We know what shoe sizes make our feet hurt.

When it comes to tangibles such as food, shoes, or destinations, it's easy to pin down answers. Decisiveness, however, is more difficult when we talk about ideas that can't be easily put into words. Unfortunately, those are precisely the views where we need to establish more firmly.

If I ask you to describe your dream vacation, I'll get an answer. Would the same be true if I asked you to define happiness? What if I asked about your goals after graduation or your goals after retirement?

Those concepts aren't tangible. Unlike food, shoes, or destinations, happiness and life goals are difficult to put into words. But, which is more important, a delicious, juicy cheeseburger cooked exactly the way you want or a life you look forward to every day?

You know your favorite food because you've compared it against many others. You know your shoe size because your feet have been measured. You know your dream destination because you've heard about it from people who have been there or it's so exotic you can imagine yourself being the only person you know who has ever made the trip.

But how can you expect to be happy if you don't know what brings you joy?

When we daydream about vacation, we picture ourselves on the beach or at Disney World or at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Do we daydream about happiness? When we daydream about things we enjoy, do we connect those thoughts with the idea that they could create a foundation of lifelong contentment?

How do we elevate our minds to think beyond the moments that make us happy and start thinking about the attitudes?

Doing so is achievable. Don't think solely about the now. A lush lasagna loaded with many cheeses is incredible in the moment, but once it's eaten, it's gone. The ability to enjoy that lasagna's gooey texture when you are old is only possible when you don't limit your diet.

The same is true for your dream vacation. Once you take it, it's gone, except for the memories (and the Instagram photos and the tweets and Facebook posts). Instead, spend as much time thinking about why you're looking forward to the vacation.

Do you enjoy spending time with family? Does the idea of lying in a hammock and watching clouds appeal to you? Those are all things you can do close to home. Activities that make you happy don't have to be saved for special occasions.

When we can define our dreams in broader terms, we can find more joy in every passing moment. When you can do that, each second of the journey brings more joy -- just be sure to wear sensible shoes.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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