When it comes to modern attitudes regarding happiness and the point of life, there’s a lot of confusion.
People are aiming for the wrong goals, and wondering why they’re feeling miserable and anxious all the time. I put it down to happiness not being the main goal and the whole point, but simply the icing on the cake of a life well-lived.
Before you can really say anything else on the subject of happiness and how to cultivate it, you’ve got to have some kind of functional definition of what happiness actually is. In my opinion, most people’s definition, and certainly the media portrayal, of happiness is completely wrong. There’s a fixation on material and romantic happiness as a cure-all for all of life’s problems, and that couldn’t be more wrong.
The problem with not really understanding happiness is that it leads you to chase the wrong things. You endlessly pursue new romantic conquests or endless material things or status goals, without ever actually chasing the things directly relating to your happiness.
This suits the system that exists because people who’re happy don’t tend to mindlessly consume media and spend all but the scantiest sliver of their pay check on things they don’t need. Happy people align their lifestyle with their goals, and are content that things are moving in the right direction.
Everyone gets regular tastes of happiness, but that’s all it is for most people, brief samples of joy whenever they purchase something new or meet a new partner.
Normal service resumes swiftly, leaving us constantly at a loss as to where effort and thought should be distributed in order to become a happy and positive person.
The Opposite of Happiness isn’t Depression…
One of the many delusions when it comes to happiness is the idea that if you’re not happy, you’re depressed. Happiness and depression are obvious opposites, right? Wrong. The opposite of happiness is boredom. Boredom can lead to depression, but it’s not the same thing. Depression is a response to something in your life going wrong, generally.
What you really want to avoid, if you want to be lastingly happy, is boredom in all its forms. You need to goals, dreams and ambitions, and ideally, be moving towards them steadily. Boredom is what happens when you do what comes easily, happiness is what happens when you know you’re moving in the right direction, and you can feel your effort at least starting to pay off.
A Willingness to Embrace All Emotion
Nowadays, there’s a common idea that any emotion that isn’t happiness and positivity is wrong. Self-help books are an endless source of mind-numbing positivity. But what if that’s just another distraction that takes you further away from your actual goals and reality.
I’ve come to view self-help books, forced positivity and all that sort of thinking as a kind of self-medication. Like painkillers, but for emotions.
The trouble is, again like painkillers, pain is trying to tell us something, and if you’re not aware that your hand is resting on a hot stove, you’re going to leave it there far too long. Then the damage begins to really bed in.
Emotions, both negative and positive, tell us things. While it’s easy to become addicted to the cheap highs of positive emotions, quick dopamine rushes from social media, junk food, whatever, it’s also possible to get addicted to the same short-term effects of negative emotions too.
There is a real obsession with being outraged and self-victimising nowadays. Both are narcissistic, both take you further from your actual goals.
Everyone needs to embrace, utilise and understand their own emotions. Sure, it can take years to understand why certain things make us feel certain ways, but that journey is what life is all about.
It’s about (warning, incoming buzzword) becoming self-actualised. Becoming the person that you want to be. Happiness tends to play a big part in that.
If Your Goals are Wrong, How Can You Expect to Succeed?
Back to your goals. Many people state that their long-term goal is to simply be happy and content. That’s a good long-term goal, no doubt. The problem comes when the long-term goal doesn’t line up with the short-term goals.
Short-term goals really are where we fall down. Instead of working harder on a skill, you need to pursue some element of a longer-term goal, it’s way too easy to strive for the dopamine rush of getting lots of likes on a social media post, or finishing a section of a video game.
We strive after the wrong things, from consuming media to endless shopping to coveting raises and jobs we don’t really want. It’s all a definite step away from the goals you’re actually shooting for.
Once you recognise that your short-term goals are betraying your long-term goals, however, you can start making real changes that’ll begin the process of taking you where you want to be.
What Should Your Goals Be?
It’s simple, your short-term goals should support your long-term goals, and never, ever vice-versa. If you want to eventually become a screenwriter, your short-term goals should focus on learning to write and network.
If you want to be a screenwriter, but instead of working towards, you’re counting on those big screenwriting paychecks to support a lifestyle of endless ‘research’ watching your favourite films, you’re shooting towards disappointment.
It might sound incredibly obvious, but it’s all just about having a functional plan and sticking by it is the key to not just achieving long-term goals, but experiencing the happiness that comes with that kind of consistent, well-thought-out effort and hard work.
Happiness is something That Happens When You’re On the Right Path
People like to pretend that happiness is something you can aim for. Like it’s a goal all on its own. In reality, in order to achieve happiness, you need to achieve some level of meaning and direction in your life, and if you don’t, you risk falling into the traps of endless short-term dopamine-hit happiness or simple boredom.
continue to part 2