Dr. Robert Kornfeld

Happiness. What is it? Why is it so elusive? Is it a thing that we must search for and then once found, hold onto? Is it an experience? Is it a state of being? Is it something we must “deserve”? Why do so many of us feel unhappy, unfulfilled, empty? Do we even know what happiness is? How much “work” is involved in achieving it? These are questions that centuries worth of philosophers and theologians have tried to address.

Merriam-Webster defines happiness as 1) a state of well-being or contentment or 2) A pleasurable or satisfying experience. If you look at both of these definitions, by their very construct, they both are fleeting. After all, a “state” of well-being or contentment is just that, a state. Not permanent. Just what exists now. Likewise, an experience can bring happiness, but an experience has a beginning and an end. Is happiness, therefore, fleeting?  Something we can only feel when our expectations are fulfilled? Something we feel in a moment of being touched deeply? Is happiness like an orgasm? Wonderous in the moment but gone too soon?

It is interesting to ponder what makes you happy. Most people can write a list of things that make them happy or a list of things that would make them happy if it were part of their experience. Yet few people are genuinely happy. Few people experience happiness on a daily basis. Since we have been taught that happiness is something to strive for, we believe that thought. If we are in love, we are happy. If we are healthy, we are happy. If we have a lot of money, we are happy. If we have good friends, we are happy. If the weather is nice, we are happy. If we are doing something we love, we are happy. We have been taught by society that there is a list of requirements to be sought after in the “pursuit of happiness”. In my mind, the pursuit of happiness implies that we are running from unhappiness. If we are not pursuing happiness, are we accepting unhappiness? Is unhappiness the default human experience?

With all of our intellectual and technological advances, one thing is for certain. We do not have a “formula” for happiness. In fact, the majority of people admit that they are either not happy or wish that they were happier. And why is that? Precisely because we have been taught to pursue happiness, our experience of happiness lies outside of ourselves, in some mysterious combination of love, sex and money and/or some combination of exhilarating experiences. If this is true, no wonder most people are exhausted by the pursuit of happiness. It’s like a snowflake. Beautiful to behold, but gone if you try to hold onto it.

So where do we find happiness? I do not believe the old cliché that “happiness lies within”. Looking inside will not reveal happiness because happiness must first be recognized and understood. If you do not know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it?

After growing up in an unemotional home with two narcissistic, distant parents, I had no self-esteem. I thought myself unlovable. I had no direction, no drive. I abused my body and was mostly depressed, anxious and lonely. I had happy moments, but overall was very unhappy with myself and my life experience. At my lowest point, when I felt like I had nowhere to turn and suicide had crossed my mind, out of sheer desperation I implemented a number of changes in my life. I decided to tell myself everything I wished I had heard growing up. I repeated it numerous times to myself every day without fail. Eventually, I reprogrammed my subconscious mind with consistent positive affirmations. Completely reprogrammed it. I changed my diet (cut out all refined carbohydrates and ate organic vegan food), my lifestyle (I began regular exercise, meditation and yoga), my outlook (I asked myself in every situation, what was positive here that I can focus on). Every time I had a negative thought, I replaced it with a positive one. At a certain point, replacing negative thoughts became automatic. It wasn’t as much work. All the changes became my new habits. I’m living proof that this can be done. I am a very happy, contented man thanks to my awareness that my life could (and should) be better. To accomplish this, you need to know 2 things: a) you have to know what happiness is and b) you have to know how to create it. When you understand that this means you have work to do, you can completely change your life and become a happy person. Here is my definition of happiness: the consistent awareness that you are capable of creating change, open enough to direct it where you wish and powerful enough to implement it.  

This definition does NOT mean that you will always be in a state of bliss. That, in my mind, is completely unrealistic. What it does mean is that “things” will never create any kind of lasting happiness, whether it be money, material goods, success at what you do for work, relationships, sex, health, etc. All of those can be (and often are) fleeting. However, awareness is permanent. Once you open yourself up to the reality that you are more powerful than you could ever imagine, that you are NOT a victim of your circumstances, you are halfway there. Happiness manifests from the ability to recognize what is not working for you, creating a plan to change it, being committed enough to be consistent with the plan and ultimately creating a more satisfying reality by implementing the changes into your life. This approach to living empowers you to create happiness on your own. This can apply to your self-esteem, profession, income, relationships, health, social life, etc. Every aspect of your life is malleable. Nothing is etched in stone. You can take the wheel of the ship you are on and steer it where you wish to go.

I strongly believe that in order to experience happiness, you must be willing to shed all of your limiting beliefs about yourself. You must be courageous enough to be honest with yourself, vulnerable enough to risk failing, and committed enough to stay the course until you have created the change you desire. Is this easy? Not at all. But how badly do you want to be happy? Think of it. We may not be in control of every circumstance in our lives. But we are certainly in control of how we handle them. If you could change everything in your life, with the wave of a wand, that you weren’t happy with, could you imagine being happy? Happier? That wand is your will. Tap into it and watch what happens.

Dr. Robert Kornfeld is a life coach and holistic podiatrist based in NYC and Long Island. He is the Founder of Change Your Story Coaching (www.changeyourstorycoaching.com). He is a Certified Life Coach and assists people on their journey to making their dream life happen. Sign up for his email list and get all of his timely and informative articles in your inbox. Are you ready to change your story? Change your life? Contact him today. For coaching, he can be contacted at [email protected]. He also practices functional medicine for chronic foot and ankle pain at The Chronic Foot Pain Center in NYC and Port Washington, L.I. (www.drrobertkornfeld.com). He has been a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine for 40 years. For foot and ankle medical problems, he can be contacted at [email protected].