In my opinion, the answer to this question is one word: hindsight! : ) Although sometimes I get inklings that these are the moments to remember (helped along by country songs like "You're Gonna Miss This"), most of my thoughts lingering upon "the best thing that has ever happened" to me are all about memories.
For someone like me, the feeling of anticipation about something or other (like a big family trip, for example) can lead to a greater knowledge of something that could be "the best thing," but then I run into the philosophical problem of simply calling that time be "the best thing" because that is what I expected or desired. Another problem is the pessimism that comes along with thinking that "the best thing" has already happened. *sigh*
Therefore, after mentioning two philosophical problems in regards to such deep thought, it occurs to me to simply LIVE life and enjoy EVERY moment. Don't limit yourself to one "best" one! : )
Interesting question. I think it would be mostly in hindsight. Looking back, you would be able to see if something was the best thing.
As for the here and now part, the happiness/joy, etc. seems to be about right. We can never know the final outcome of an action. Also, saying something is "the best" does limit you. If something is the best, then that's it. It can not get any better.
I think that when the best thing ever happens to you, you are overcome with complete happiness and fulfillment. You don't have any room in your heart for anger or bad feelings toward anyone else; all that melts away because your heart is filled with happiness. I also believe that when this happens, you know it and you never forget it.
This is such an interesting question, but the answer is that you will not know the best thing that happened to you until you are nearing the end of your life. Perhaps I am an optimist, but even when great things happen, there is always the possibility that even greater things will happen. You might find that the person you love is the best thing, admission to a college is the best thing, or getting a job you love is the best thing. I sometimes hear people say that losing a job was the best thing that ever happened because it led to an even better job. Some of us think the best thing that ever happened to us was having our children. What you are asking is how to evaluate a life, something we cannot do without looking back on our lives. You might find it valuable to talk to family members or friends who are aging. Ask their opinions about the best things that happened to them.
The following is a statement by Buddha which I consider profound and well worth considering in connection with this question.
People naturally fear misfortune and long for good fortune; but if the distinction is carefully studied, misfortune often turns out to be good fortune and good fortune to be misfortune. Buddha
One of the worst things that ever happens to you in life might turn out in hindsight to have been one of the best. I lost a job in San Francisco a long time ago and ended up moving to Los Angeles looking for work. I liked Southern California so much better that I rarely even returned to San Francisco and will probably never see that cold, expensive city again. I lost the San Francisco job when my wife was expecting our first child and Christmas was just a few weeks away. Misfortune often turns out to be good fortune and good fortune to be misfortune. I was in the residential real estate business in Southern California when we had an enormous earthquake. I lost all the money I had coming from escrow and dropped out of real estate because the earthquake ruined business in the whole area. That was perhaps the worst and best thing that ever happened to me--at least so far!
When I was about to graduate among 450 senior students in my class, I couldn't help but smile so much until my cheeks started to hurt. All I could do was just think of this moment that I spent 12 years of my life preparing for this moment just so I can move onto bigger and better things. However, thinking about it, this is just going to be one of many things that I know will happen to me. This is quite an interesting question, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
You wouldn't know it for many years when you realize a small event has led to your success or well-being. It reminds me of getting married when someone looks back on their marriage and thinks how great their life is after they found that one special person.
I believe that the best thing never actually happens to anybody. Things that happen are good, at the most, better; the superlative belongs to the realm of the unobtainable. A thing may be called the best only when the prospect of anything better than that is no longer there. As long as we live, the prospect of the 'better' is always there, or else the burden of living would have been unbearable. The best can only happen in some life beyond, in our dreams or fantasies. The 'best' is the most perfect; our lived existence is far from perfect.
For me deciding on the best thing that happened to me is like deciding which of my two eyes is more valuable.
To me, my life in its totality has been valuable to me, including all its joys and disappointments. The anxiety in waiting, and the satisfaction of getting what you waited for are are complimentary. One cannot exist without the other.
Just as I can not decide which of the ingredient in a delicious dish is most tasty, I cannot decide which is the best thing that has ever happened to me.