In search of happiness?

During a coaching session, my coachee's request fell like a sentence: I am looking to be happier.

What makes people happy is happiness. But what is happiness? Luck (the good luck charm) or the state of fully satisfied consciousness.

There are countless quotes on happiness:

"Happiness, wrote Roger Martin du Gard, is not a cup of coffee that you get, it is above all an aptitude".

Arthur Schopenhauer defined happiness by its absence, writing that

"the happiest part of our existence is the part where we feel it least."

It would therefore be something we seek but would not be aware of when we have it.

This search for happiness would ultimately take us away from the heart of our life, from its very essence.

For the last thirty years, happiness has been associated with a certain material enjoyment: the individual house, the individual car... One of the classic images is the American house of Victorian architecture with the driveway adorned on each side with a well-mown green lawn in front of which is parked a large and comfortable car. The famous Victoria Lane from Desperate Housewives is an example.

Happiness is also about feeling good, about feeling comfortable in one's body, in one's mind, about having a balanced life. The development of the practice of well-being disciplines such as yoga and its derivatives is a witness to this.

But is the material, physical and mental self-fulfillment enough to be happy?

Certainly, satisfying one's desires and personal satisfaction is a condition of happiness.

However, there are several forms of desires:

- those which are dictated to us more or less consciously by our education, by society, by advertisements, by our mental representations;

- those that emanate from our innermost being.

What are my true desires? Or rather what is my deepest desire? This seems to be the fundamental question to ask ourselves, which can also be formulated as follows:

Is my desire the result of a diktat or does it emanate from my deepest being?

Am I in coherence, aligned with my ultimate purpose, my own identity, my values and my beliefs as represented by Robert Dilts in his pyramid?

This is where the importance of being free, truly free, comes into play. Freedom, more than being able to satisfy those desires, is being able to identify those true desires that are aligned with our deepest and most fundamental self. To open this self to express itself freely without constraint.

To achieve this, we must act against our ego.

Happiness would therefore be to be able to make room for our deepest self, the one that allows us to enter into relationship with otherness, and more broadly with the Nous, that is to say the community that surrounds us.

Coming back to my coachee's request to be happier, the question could be: how can I make more room for myself and thus curb my ego?

So I ask him to specify what it is to be happy for him. What does he need for that?

To be happy for him is to feel good, to experience joy, to be in a feeling of fullness and accomplishment of what he is made for.

So I ask him what he is made for?

He answers that he doesn't know, that he has never really thought about it.

Of course, he is a teacher, but that doesn't mean that he is "made" for it. Before being a teacher, he was something else and will certainly be something else afterwards. This question of "what is he made for?" seems to go beyond the simple professional vocation. What is the meaning of his life? Why is he on Earth? What trace will he leave?

Step by step, we moved from "being happy is feeling good" to this question of the deepest self: Who am I called to be, apart from the injunctions I may have received from my parents, my entourage, society, etc.?

He became aware that, in order to be happier, he had to answer this question, in complete freedom, without being attached to what is superficial and temporal, without letting himself be influenced.

I ask him how this awareness will be useful to him in the future?

He answers that he will take the time to identify the criteria that push him to make this or that choice, to be more attentive to his motivations in order to be able to verify if they are in coherence with what he is fundamentally.

To conclude, I ask him about the needs he would have to ensure that he puts this time of discernment in place and does not get caught up by external diktats.

He quickly identifies the need to have a clear warning signal as soon as he risks straying from his self.

As soon as he notices a rush to make up his mind, to want something at any cost, it's a sign! It is then urgent to choose nothing; it is time to tame this first impulse, especially if it is ardent, and to consider all the options while being attentive to what they generate in oneself: a deep and lasting joy or a short-lived and quickly thirsty desire.

This is how, step by step, he will detach himself from that which distances him from what he was made for, from his first vocation, in short, and his life will take on more meaning.


Discerning in order to make a better choice

Today I had lunch with a friend, a company director, who complained that he had no choice but to accept a price cut imposed by one of his biggest customers. This will force him to outsource part of his business to low-cost countries.

This is completely contrary to his values and to what he wants to build. They want to anchor their company in France and work with suppliers whose social and environmental working conditions they can know precisely.

Who among us, however committed, has not experienced this inconsistency between our most deeply held ideals and our decisions under the pretext that we have no choice?


I reply: "Today you say you have no choice.... And if you had a choice, what would you do?"

Let's go back to the process of making this decision.

A decision involves a choice between at least one option A and one option B, and possibly multiple options.

In my friend's case, he can choose to refuse the price cut or accept it. If he refuses, it will have certain consequences for his business, but what are they? Perhaps it will force him to diversify his clientele, to develop innovative solutions, to find new partnerships...

Do we take the time to make this choice?

Without choice, there is no real free decision because discernment cannot be made.

What does this word mean and why is it so little used in our contemporary vocabulary?

Discern comes from the word crisis: judgment, and from the Latin, discernere: to separate.

Discernment is a process that involves both the analysis of the situation, the formulation of a question or problem that merits a judgement and a decision, the implementation of a process of deliberation on this question and the final decision.

Are we giving ourselves the possibility to choose and therefore to discern?

Do we ask ourselves the question, do I have a choice between building a swimming pool or another alternative such as designing an ecological, aesthetic and recreational garden for my children? Do I have a choice between going to Japan or experiencing a real change of scenery and deep encounters around my home?


We are often very conditioned by our environment, the injunctions disguised in advertisements. We can regain a certain inner freedom by offering ourselves this time of discernment by making a real choice with two positive alternatives that each make us want to go.


The discernment will then consist in rationally analyzing what each choice brings to me personally, to my family, to my environment and where it loosens these same dimensions without prejudging the answer. If a spontaneous attraction directs me towards one or the other, I slow it down and give myself time to consider "coldly" a rational analysis of the various options.


Once the analysis is done, I am interested in the emotions that each option brings me. I imagine myself living this or that option and I pay attention to what it generates in me.

If an option gives me more energy, dynamism and life, then it seems to be more in line with myself and my project.

If, on the contrary, it generates in me a lack of energy, a brake, a lack of life and dynamism, then it seems to be moving away from what I deeply desire.


Fast does not necessarily mean good and efficient. Taking the time to contemplate our reality, to feel what it tells us and to make a real choice by being attentive to our inner moods is a precious tool to decide with true freedom.