“…to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves is just the same as to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes.” – Saint Nektarios of Aegina
I love this quote. This Greek saint born in the mid 1800’s was trying to tell us what social scientists are currently trying to prove with a lot of research: don’t believe that your happiness is contingent on what’s happening outside of you. Life is unpredictable but when we remember that happiness resides within us we are less vulnerable to external turmoil. It’s not that we’re immune to the influences of the world around us – after all, it’s unreasonable to think that when our spouse comes home in a bad mood or when we see something horrible on the news it has absolutely no effect on us. The point is that we have so much choice in how we react to it. We don’t have to be pulled into a place of irritability or malaise with our spouse. We can choose to respond in a way that will maintain our general happiness – maybe acknowledge that it was a tough day for them and they might need extra support, or a great distraction, or time to get over it. We might use the horrible news story to feel inspired to make change, or feel better about our own lives in comparison. If we base our happiness on the external world we are vulnerable to devastation by whatever uncontrollable instability comes our way. Next time you feel like your tower of happiness is really shaken up, take a moment to consider how to re-situate it inside of yourself.