Reframing the Quest for Happiness
Nowadays we hear a lot about what it takes to be happy. Tons of books, TED talks, podcasts, documentaries, Instagram accounts, and blogs 😉 telling us how to be happy.
On one hand, I support anything that encourages people to go inward and work on themselves. Most of us can agree this is a good thing.
However, I think most of the advice still comes up short. While I certainly don't have all the answers, I do believe most of these teachings don't go as foundational as we need to go if we want true inner fulfillment. They operate on a more superficial plane, which might marginally increase our happiness here and there, but still limit it as a whole.
It all comes down to whether you want your happiness to be conditional, or unconditional.
The leading present day narrative around personal happiness is still conditional to outside forces. This is a problem. People are being taught to spend their lives going after the things they most desire at all costs, so that _________. So that what? So that they can attain something. So that that something makes them feel a certain way. So that feeling a certain way gives them an inner sense of well-being.
But taking this route, the inner sense of well-being never lasts. It's as fleeting as a gust of wind.
The approach I'm learning, and the one I suggest you explore, is a more foundational, root approach which leads to unconditional fulfillment.
If you've been a reader of this blog, you may remember a post called "Hawaii or Ecstasy?" where I talk about how happiness is an internal state, so it shouldn't matter where you are, what you're doing, or who you're with.
Who cares about the outside? It's about what happens on the inside, right?
It's about how the outside affects the inside - that's what matters.
We ought to stop trying to get every moment that passes by us to make us feel better. Instead, why not feel better first... ya know, clean ourselves up inside, and then interact with the world in a positive way?
All of this "success" advice teaches us how to mold the world around us - that is, our outer circumstances - so that they'll more often than not make us happy rather than unhappy. Rarely are we taught how to start by being happy before interacting with the world. It's always the opposite - interact with the world so that you can be happy.
There are far too many factors out of our control, so even when we dream, and realize our dreams, we're still making our happiness dependent on the external world, if in fact we expect those dreams to fulfill us.
Instead of "I hate my job, I need to find another one," we should be asking "What part of me inside doesn't like this job, and how do I fix that before I take my same self to another job where I can be dissatisfied?"
Instead of "I'm unhappy in this relationship," we should be asking "What part of me feels unhappy and how can I let that go before I decide to ruin a good thing just to feel better right now?"
The truth is, we take ourselves wherever we go. No new job or relationship or person or place or anything is going to make you happy. Please understand this. Please let this sink in.
The newness of something might make you forget about why you used to be unhappy, but trust me, that will wear off in a matter of time, and you'll be back to where you were before, perhaps even worse off because you realize the new thing didn't work.
I've been there. I know you have to. I'm not judging. I'm just saying wake up.
Live with substance!