How to Achieve Real Success: Happiness
I've learned a lot about what it takes to be happy—primarily by learning about what doesn't make me happy.
I bought a gaming computer awhile back, and it was a real prize. I loved gaming, looking at the beautiful graphics on the 1080p monitor, and having unstoppable speed. I'm talking overclocking. But anyway, that's a story for another time. With that computer I realized something very fundamental about the human experience. I realized that nothing could ever satisfy me.
When one searches for gratification in material excess, they either dissociate from the truth or begin to realize that they are simply trying to fill a hole. That hole being the place where there should be family, friends, community, and genuine, open and honest connections. By acquiring the computer I had dreamed about for years, I learned that stuff would not make me happy. I had really wanted a nice gaming computer pretty much my whole life; I'd go to an electronics store and just drool at the beauty of these technological miracles we call personal computers.
Some people aren't as fortunate as I've been. It can take years to realize that happiness can't be found in material goods and more stuff. But that's because we're constantly told that things will make us happy. We're shown advertisements day after day about how a given product will allow us to find 'the one,' and that we'll have so many friends because we bought some alcohol. I'm sure you can think of countless other examples. But the basic point of this is that materialism cannot satisfy; only real connection to the self and to others brings any kind of long-lasting satiation.
My brother Alan - who was seven years younger than me - died from leukemia when he was 52. He never knew a day's good health - I wish I could have given him some of my good health. But he was always so cheerful and sweet.— Brian Blessed
I used to think that achieving goals would make me happy. This was in my mind for so long that I didn't quite catch on for a while. It took me some time to realize that I would surpass a goal and be almost entirely oblivious to the slight sense of satisfaction. I thought that when I graduated I would be so happy and finally I'd have freedom and so on, but I was deluding myself, dissociating from reality. Another example is from my biking career. I call it a career but really it's just me doing a bunch of tricks on a bike and having fun. Anyways, I remember seeing a friend of mine do a really long wheelie, I was just blown away, my envy was through the roof. I wanted so badly to be able to catwalk like that, and so I set myself a goal. Now here I am, a couple years after surpassing that goal, and I still think about the fact that I met the goal, and life still continued as normal. You know, I met the goal, but that doesn't mean I was suddenly happy and my life was going to be great from then on. This applies more broadly to life in ways that are more significant. Take for example a woman who desperately wants to have children and get married, she wholeheartedly believes that this will bring her happiness and long lasting satisfaction. While I think that's a noble and reasonable goal, it's somewhat irrational to fervently believe that you will find happiness upon achieving such a goal. As an example look around at all the obese, miserable, single moms. I mean, I hate to be so bland, but that's the truth, is that many people think marriage and kids will make them happy, then bam, twenty years of their life is gone.
Gone, that's what goals don't take into account. That they'll be long gone, and that meeting a goal is just a single moment, a fraction of a minute, maybe a week or so or a couple of years, but eventually the dopamine hit of achieving success fades, and you need another goal. Goals become this kind of drug that people hold onto for meaning in an otherwise nihilistic existence. When you're not connected to yourself and to others, you begin to imagine that the achievement of goals will make you happy, when they simply will not. I'm not denying that goals are good, and that having a goal orientation, a get-things-done mindset is absolutely beneficial to one's self and to society. However, when we live our lives constantly looking ahead to the next moment, we program our minds to never be fully in the moment. The sad thing about this is that now is the only time that really exists. Now is the only moment you can or ever will experience. So my point with this somewhat hazy argument is that looking ahead to the future is not always the best habit, it's good to spend most of your time in the moment. Finish your work instead of thinking about relaxing. Enjoy relaxing instead of thinking about work. You don't want to feel cheated when you reach that fateful day and you are lying on your deathbed, reminiscing about your past and wondering why you had not slowed down to enjoy the small moments in life.
I've come to realize that only connection can make someone truly happy. This of course is assuming nothing of the subject. We could be focusing on a starving child in sub-saharan Africa, if he has connections with the other children around him, he may be in pain, but he knows that he is not alone in that pain. It may seem somewhat absurd, but the truth is that you may be in a horrible situation, but if you are with people who can empathize with what you are going through then it's going to be a hell of a lot easier to maintain a sense of happiness.
People say that they want to get married and have kids, but do they mean they want to have a spouse and have some children in their custody? No, what they mean is that they want connection. They want to create connection, a nuclear family, a tight bond between themselves, their spouse, and children. Because any shmuck can get married, but the happiness is not a guaranteed part of marriage, and I'm sure many of my readers know that all too well. In fact, marriage can easily decrease happiness and that's because a lack of connection in the face of an opportunity for connection is far worse than just being alone.
Connection in life becomes happiness itself, but connection can apply to various aspects of existence. To connect to other people you have to have empathy, compassion, kindness, and an awareness of the condition of the other. To connect to music you have to slow down, focus, and allow yourself to feel the sound of it. To connect to animals you have to be gentle, kind, and understanding. Connection to the self is also a very important part of maintaining any kind of real happiness. You must be aware of what's going on in your mind. What are you feeling when you go to sleep, what do you think of upon waking up, do you remember your dreams, are you in touch with yourself, or are you just on an emotional autopilot mode? The truth is that it may seem easier to stick with materialism and goals, but true happiness, I believe, can only be achieved through a real sense of connection to others and to the sensation of being. Thanks for reading!
The School of Life on Happiness | 1 minute
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.— Jim Rohn