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Seneca On “True Happiness”

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“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” — Seneca

Ancient Greek Philosopher, Seneca, shares his take on “true happiness.”  Let’s take what he says and break the important pieces apart to better understand what he is sharing with us:

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future…”

We have to live in the current moment.  In the current moment is where you find joy and happiness.  You need to look for the little things in the current moment that bring you joy.  If you are waiting in traffic, why not enjoy the song on the radio, or take a moment to be thankful that you have a car to drive rather than having to walk?  When was the last time you really stopped to smell the roses?  Or simply looked out your back yard and was grateful for what you see?  Find happiness in the current moment and appreciate all that you have.  When you are anxious, hoping for what is to come, you miss the current moment and the ability to be happy.  Sure, thinking about something fun coming up can be fun, but it also causes some stress and pulls you away from present moment happiness and joy.  Don’t depend on the future for your happiness.  Find it in the current moment.

“…rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.”

It has been said that you can be rich by having more than you need or needing less than you have.  I think the easiest part of the statement is to need less than you have.  And that is what Seneca is saying here.  He is saying to be satisfied with what you currently have and make that all that you need.  More than likely, what you have is all that you truly need.  It is when we confuse “wanting” something with “needing” something that the stress begins.  Seneca is saying that if you can view what you have as being more than enough, then you will have no stressful desires for more.  You won’t need anything else and won’t be burdened by unnecessary desires.

“The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach.”

If you want to find true happiness, you have to look inward.  When we look inside ourselves we can see all the blessings we have and what to truly be thankful for.  All the joy and happiness you need is within yourself, if you choose to let it out.  You needn’t look externally for joy.  You must look inside for joy.  You ever notice how two people can experience the same thing and one have a positive reaction to it and one have a negative?  That is because we see what we want to see.  We can make any situation a positive if our view of life is positive.  And the best way to find that is to look inside first.  If you always see things as negative, then look inside yourself first.  Know that everything you need to change your perspective is inside you, within your reach, waiting to be taken.  Take it now!!!

“A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

Seneca is saying that the man who can find happiness and joy with what he has will be satisfied with what he has, regardless of what it is.  He will not wish for the things he doesn’t have because he would be too busy being satisfied with the things he does have.  If we can be truly thankful for our blessings and what we own, then there will be no overwhelming desire for more.

Final Thoughts:

I really love this quote from Seneca because, though it sounds complex, it’s really very simple.  Find happiness and joy in the things you have and be satisfied with them.  Know that you already have more than you need, you just need to find an appreciation for it.  If you can be satisfied with what you have, you will not be distracted by unhealthy desires for more.  I am not saying that wanting more things is a bad thing.  What I am saying is that we should be happy with what we have, but always striving for self-improvement and growth.  If we continue to strive to be better than we were yesterday, we will naturally have everything we need and will understand that we have enough.  We can strive for more things but not be burdened by a desire that causes us to lose focus of the current moment.

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