Until my early 30s, I’d gone my entire life until that point without truly knowing how to be happy. I’d struggled through all those years on a roller coaster of highs and lows, but never felt a settled overall sense of peace and joy that is the foundation of a happy life. You could say that when it came to how to be a truly happy person, I was totally lost. So were many of my friends.
It was around that time that I uncovered what I believe is the reason for that entire struggle; authentic, sustainable happiness is a skill that I simply never learned. It’s an actual skill — just like playing an instrument or learning to write — made up of many layers, facets and habits that we can learn how to do.
Happiness is, quite possibly, the most important skill we need to learn in order to live the light-filled, successful, joyful life we all desire. It’s not just a feeling or state of being, it’s also something we do and must consciously participate in creating. As Aristotle said, “Happiness is a state of activity.”
Once I realized this and committed myself to learning, studying, and practicing the essential building blocks that make up a foundation for lasting happiness, my life improved drastically. It was like my world went from being lit by a flickering 40-watt bulb to a 100-watt bulb. I created such a change in my everyday life that it’s now my passion to coach people on how to become skilled at being happy.
In looking back, I felt as though I’d gone through my entire education growing up learning what society considers our most important life skills (and non-essential skills — anyone remember the mock weddings in home ec class?), without ever learning the most essential skills for living a successful, joyful life. Why on earth are we not teaching the basics of happiness and emotional health to our kids in school?
I believe we’ve been doing a great disservice to generation after generation, and to the world, by failing to make this a priority. Without change, without a shift to teach young people fundamentals like mindfulness, compassion, self-love, service, gratitude, the power of positive thinking, we will continue to produce millions and millions of people who struggle and claw their way through life emotionally.
Think about this: How might the world shift in profound ways if all kids studied these basics of happiness for even one semester in school?
We’re sending young adults out into the wilderness of life with no field guide for creating happiness. Our system has it completely backwards. There is so much emphasis on teaching kids how to be successful, implying that success will lead to a happy life, when the actual key to success is happiness itself.
Vicki Savini is a teacher in New York who is fast becoming known for her efforts to create change in this area. “We live in a high-paced society where everyone is doing this thing we call life. We simply can’t expect our children to be happy, believe in themselves, speak their truth and be empathetic to others unless we teach them mindfulness — how to be a human being instead of a human doing.”
Savini includes mindfulness, simple meditation, and self-esteem lessons along with the traditional math, reading and other subjects she teaches in her classroom. Her upcoming book, Ignite the Light — Empowering Children and Adults to Be Their Absolute Best, she discusses how children are deprived of lessons of self-love and inner peace. She wrote her book to serve as a practical, step-by-step manual for change in this area and hopes it will inspire parents and teachers to shift focus.
Let’s look at it this way. If playing the violin was an absolutely mandatory skill to learn in order to thrive in life, wouldn’t you be kind of pissed off if you’d graduated high school without learning how? If you didn’t discover this fact about the violin until you were, say, in your 30s or 40s, wouldn’t you run out and pick up a violin and sign up for lessons ASAP? Teach your kids?
It’s time we begin to look at happiness in this way, and make it a higher priority, in our lives, educational system, and in our world. It really is urgent. Our very best lives, and the best lives of our kids depend on it.