If you stop and look around you in your life, you may find that there are people who have been connected to you for a longish period of time. Those “long engagements” create a certain community in your mind, and the quality of those relationships is a big part of your experience of the quality of your life. In the United States at least, there is an enthusiasm for newness: new products, new experiences, and new relationships. We are often looking for the external thing or person or activity that will deliver the happiness we seek. Each time, we leave aside everything tried and true in our lives to rush forward toward what we believe will be different and better.
A frame of mind that privileges novelty over safety can lead to innovation, progress, flexibility, and growth. It is an important part of who we are and what makes us successful. At the same time, we hold the understanding that most of what is of deepest value is built over time, requires a fair amount of effort, and may be less exciting. It is a difficult trick to hold, at the same time, these two different senses of what is important. We are constantly making choices about where to put our energy and attention, and we continually calibrate and recalibrate based on what happens and what we want.
Happiness does not come to us because we chase it down and wrestle it to the ground. It comes because we think about our lives, come to understand the different parts of ourselves and our world, and do our best to be the people we want to be. Fortunately, this process takes a lifetime and we do not become perfect too early. Otherwise, we would lose the pleasure of this kind of growth.
It is within the context of the long engagements of our lives, the relationships that we carry with us, which we inhabit, that we grow, change, stumble, right ourselves, and reflect on our experience. Sometimes we forget the importance of those involvements, but they underlie our experience nonetheless.