Sunday Snippet: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 - 1762)

“You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself.”

Far too often, we go looking for happiness in all the wrong places. We think that we’ll be happy when we finally land what we perceive to be the dream job and finally put our careers on the right path. We think that we’ll be happy once we hit a certain financial milestone if only we can pull together a few more dollars. We think that we’ll be happy when we fall in love with the man or woman of our dreams and live, as the saying goes, happily ever after.

These are all perfectly valid goals and you surely should not be faulted for wanting to have them in your life. However, they make your happiness contingent on future events and accomplishments. And, if our life experience has taught us anything, we can’t help but to push the goal line just a little further out of reach each time we reach a new goal.

We find ourselves looking for happiness out there, either literally or figuratively, rather than working to uncover the happiness that’s to be discovered in here. Put another way, happiness must start from within before you can express it without and this is the crux of what Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had to say in the quote highlighted above.

To be fair, we find many of these quotes about happiness and life fulfillment coming from people of privilege. By virtue of their social class, they have the privilege of leisure to explore such issues. It has once been said that the pursuit of passion is also elitist in nature, because it paints blue collar workers in a far less desirable light… even if someone can be perfectly happy as a custodian, a plumber, or a short order cook.

As such, the insightful quote from Lady Mary must be placed in a particular context. We must first assume that all of our basic human needs are met. There’s food on the table, a roof over our heads, a sense of safety, and a feeling of connectedness with our loved ones. Once there, though, trying to increase our happiness through external means will be futile if we are not already happy within ourselves.

Does this mean you should always settle and be content with the status quo? Does this mean you shouldn’t bother trying to better yourself and your situation? Absolutely not. It just means that, even if you come up short in your pursuits, you can still get up in the morning and see a smiling face in the mirror. Wake up, sunshine. Today is another day and another opportunity.