If you were to ask people what they wanted out of life, most would probably reply, “All I want is to be happy.” Most people just want to be happy, and they work extremely hard to achieve that goal. They choose different avenues – self-help books, a change of occupation or lifestyle, for example – in an attempt to find that elusive quality of happiness.
However, the experience of many indicates that people do not become happy simply by pursuing happiness.
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw put it this way, “The surest way to be miserable is to have the leisure to wonder whether or not you are happy.”
How King Solomon would have agreed with that observation! He had all the resources that the world could offer and he was determined to get the most out of life, but he only encountered disappointment. The outcome of his search for happiness is recorded in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Finally, after much reflection, he discovered some of the principles that make for a happy life, and I would like to share those observations with you over the next few months.
Solomon’s first piece of advice is simple but profound: Enjoy the present. Because he was always looking for great answers and supreme meaning, Solomon missed out on the blessing and importance of the small actions and events of everyday life. He focussed so much on the destination that he forgot to enjoy the journey. It is an easy mistake to make, but a preoccupation with the future can rob us of present joy and contentment. We can concentrate so much on where we want to be that we fail to enjoy what we have now.
Life is a gift to be enjoyed in the present. Past memories and future goals enrich our lives, but we need to appreciate and enjoy life in the here and now. This is what Solomon discovered. “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toil – this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift – that is why we call it the present. Let us seize each day and make the most of our current opportunities and experiences. Enjoy the present.