Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do you have to achieve and succeed to be happy?

Thich Nhat Hanh answers a question about the desire for success:

My desire for achievement has led to much suffering. No matter what I do, it never feels like it's enough. How can I make peace with myself? 

"The quality of your action depends on the quality of your being. Suppose you’re eager to offer happiness, to make someone happy. That’s a good thing to do. But if you’re not happy, then you can’t do that. In order to make another person happy, you have to be happy yourself. So there’s a link between doing and being. If you don’t succeed in being, you can’t succeed in doing. If you don’t feel that you’re on the right path, happiness isn’t possible. This is true for everyone; if you don’t know where you’re going, you suffer. It’s very important to realize your path and see your true way.


"Happiness means feeling you are on the right path every moment. You don’t need to arrive at the end of the path in order to be happy. The right path refers to the very concrete ways you live your life in every moment. In Buddhism, we speak of the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. It’s possible for us to live the Noble Eightfold Path every moment of our daily lives. That not only makes us happy, it makes people around us happy. If you practice the path, you become very pleasant, very fresh, and very compassionate.


"Look at the tree in the front yard. The tree doesn’t seem to be doing anything. It stands there, vigorous, fresh, and beautiful, and everyone profits from it. That’s the miracle of being. If a tree were less than a tree, all of us would be in trouble. But if a tree is just a real tree, then there’s hope and joy. That’s why if you can be yourself, that is already action. Action is based on nonaction; action is being."



From “Answers from the Heart” ©2009 by Thich Nhat Hanh
(Photograph by Bonnie MacEwan-Zieman, 2009)

22 comments:

  1. So wise. Life opens up when one lives in the now.

    much love

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  2. I have been faced with that very thing this past year. I have been striving to achieve a level of success in the galleries, get recognized and bought by collectors, going to the big shows with little success. This has been my focus for about 5 years and this year I gave it up. It was not making me happy. Now, I am leaving it in the hands of others. Now maybe I'll enjoy doing the cast glass again.

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  3. Ellen: It is a fine line isn't it? We want to succeed - we need to earn a living . . . I guess the thing to watch for, is when our 'doing' begins to interfere with our 'being' - as you say.

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  4. I wanted to take issue with the first paragraph until I saw that it appeared to be modified by the second. The "right path" and "where I'm going" are sometimes revealed only by taking the next step.

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  5. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!!!!!!

    I couldn't agree w/ you more. Trying to get my teenage and college students (especially the girls) to understand this is incredibly challenging. The girls are "all about their feelings," walking where ever their emotions tell them to walk.

    The boys, on the other hand, follow their egos... which is a whole different animal.

    Happiness comes from within. Happy in will bring happy out.

    Gr8 post!

    Dayne

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  6. I love my life and I am happy a blast! And I am grateful everyday.

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  7. An interesting post, Bonnie. I think a lot depends upon how one is reared. My father's mantra was "Good, better, best, may you never rest til your good is better and your betterbest!" and I for many years found it difficult to ever be thoroughly happy and at ease as I was always striving for better. I think I have largelyconquered that now, but it still comes back sometimes and I have to have a serious talk with myself.

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  8. Weaver: Isn't that the truth - our rearing and our culture put such an emphasis on achievement and success - and while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that - can we not be happy as we pursue our goals? Goals, achievement, success are all ways that we seek meaning in our lives. What T.N.H. is saying is it is possible to be content and happy on the road to our goals, if we are walking 'the eight-fold path'.

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  9. Yes, I have said this many times - the way I keep raising the stakes --- "Oh, I just want to get my novel finished..." "Oh I just want to get it published" -"Oh, I just want ..." and on and on and on it goes. Sometimes, I have to just stop and take a deep breath and APPRECIATE what I have accomplished and my good health and the good things that are happening for me and mine at this very moment.

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  10. Wonderful post, Bonnie. I've never heard of this man before, but will look him up. This is probably the hardest thing for me, to be in the moment instead of in the result. Working this job has been a lesson about it for me. I must be there. In the moment. Or I get lost. I guess I'm on the right path here, wherever that is. All roads lead to the horizon, after all, and whatever that holds. xoxox

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  11. Such true and wise words! I love his writings. Blessings!!

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  12. bonnie, this is so wonderful to read and see this morning....thank you for this offering this day!

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  13. beautiful post that speaks to each of us in so many ways - unfortunately our society does not endorse this perspective i think and so it goes...great post -

    and thanks for coming by my places - i always look forward to your visits! have a great remainder of the day1

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  14. I haven't read Thich Naht Hahn for many years but I still regard him as one of my favourite buddhist writers - always beautiful in its simplicity.

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  15. Sometimes, if you look too content and happy at your job the boss dumps extra work on you. Beware. I guess a little play acting always helps. I love the notion of the eight fold path. It really puts your attitude in a productive happy place. You have such good advice here, Bonnie. Thank you (the blog you did on the nasal swabs is working wonders)!

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  16. This is just what I needed to read today. It's something that is so easily forgotten. "Chop wood - carry water"! Be mindful of the small and the rest will follow. I will order this book to read and for my library - thanks for a great post, Bonnie.

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  17. I once was obsessed with achievements and success, but that only led to ulcers. Looking at the big picture, it is the small things that make me happy. If my children are happy that seems to be enough for me!

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  18. what a cool post...i really enjoyed his book Being Peace...

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  19. I really needed to hear this today. Don't you love how this beautiful monk can say things in such simple and yet profound ways. He always makes me feel loved.

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  20. Hi Bonnie,
    . How true it is, when we are happy, we bring happiness to others. What a joyous feeling!

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  21. This simple thought jumped off the page at me. " Happiness means feeling you are on the right path every moment. You don’t need to arrive at the end of the path in order to be happy."

    Our society tends to be so achievement-oriented and encourages aiming for the end goal. This puts it all into a much better perspective. Thanks for this post, Bonnie. You are always such a worthwhile read!

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  22. I loved the whole last paragraph. Action is being. Lovely.

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