Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Happiness So many of us had parts of our childhood that were difficult and unpleasant. Often the only means that we had to escape was to live in our imaginations, dreaming of the future when life would finally be the way we wanted it to be. Through this, we sought the knowledge that someday we would be in control of our lives, that we could finally be "in charge." Yet we somehow only find more problems once we are older, instead of the promised glory that accompanies "growing up." Why might this be? Why is it that once we overcome the obstacles of adolescence we still need something more to be happy? There are many theories floating around about happiness. Some argue that money or possessions bring joy, and that it is in how you use these gifts that can make a difference. Others argue that popularity or age can make your more or less "qualified" to be happy.

Still others propose that the luck and circumstances in your life determine how cheerful you can be. Any way you look at it, many people think that the degree of happiness an individual feels is established by outside influences.

Other opinions revolve around the idea that happiness is not a physical attribute but instead a state of mind. Setting and achieving goals, for example, or believing in God and an afterlife is enough for certain people. However, these beliefs sometimes encourage us to live in the future too much, and we become oblivious to the pleasures of the moment. This pattern of just waiting for happiness to come to us can actually take away our chances at it, while we spend our lives thinking that we just need that important promotion or perfect relationship to be happy.

One of America's most prominent writers, Henry David Thoreau, is an example of a philosopher who believed in the power of the mind. Quotes such as "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours," and "It is never too late to give up your prejudices" propose that it is one's internal drive, their system of morals, and their optimism that will keep them on the road to happiness and success.

In today's society, it is easy to get caught up in possessions, when as students we are reminded daily that we are at school to learn so that we can go to college, get a good job, and earn a lot of money doing what we want to do. But it is only the latter part of that statement that is true, for no matter where we go or who we socialize with now, it is our striving for our goals and helping others to reach theirs that will lead to a happier individual and a better world respectively. Simply put, the happiest people don't always get the best of everything, they just make the best of everything!