A Chinese Proverb says: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”
The contemporary idea of happiness is closely linked to material prosperity, luxury, wealth, mass consumption, and even waste. One of the most significant features of our time is to profusely and enthusiastically proclaim waste as a sign of good fortune.
On an individual level, it is increasingly difficult to face difficulties. We are not aware of the programming we are widely subjected to. Still, we feel that life is increasingly oppressive, more chaotic, and more unbearable precisely when material conditions have been optimized. Perhaps because the emotions obtained in the market of the soul lack economic value. The precious experiences are achieved from the heart.
For many, happiness is equivalent to having the ideal economic situation that allows them to enjoy comfort, all kinds of leisure, and access to a specific luxury. If you ask around, you will find that most people are convinced that having more money would make them happier. We assume that there is a connection between the monetary value of what we own and the feeling of feeling good. It is the “work-spend cycle.” In other words, you work more to buy more and have more money to spend. Is this how we find bliss?
Forbes magazine published an academic comparison of happiness between executives of high-level companies and people from the Masai tribe of Kenya. The result indicated no significant differences between those who earned a hundred million dollars a year and those who barely made a hundred dollars a year.
Aren’t we kidding ourselves? Does happiness appear with a salary of many zeros, or does it come from loving and feeling loved, dedicating yourself to what you are passionate about, being at peace with yourself, and giving your life meaning? Are the rich happier?
It is undeniable that enjoying a healthy economy helps to improve well-being; For our survival, we need such elementary things as food, shelter, and rest. However, in developed countries, the relationship between wealth and feelings of well-being is surprisingly weak. Once we manage to meet our needs with some relief, more and more money does not increase our happiness at all. People who go to work in tracksuits and take the bus are as happy on average as those who wear suits and drive their own Mercedes.
Symbols can be very misleading: they tend to be distracting.
I differentiate three types of happiness:
1. Happiness based on having positive emotions.
It is related to what we feel: pleasure, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, and security… It is about an existence in which you get involved — frequently and consistently — in doing things that give you pleasure: Eating your favorite dish, playing tennis, going shopping, having a few beers with friends, or watching series on Netflix. Your focus is on living a good life and enjoying the maximum moments (even if fleeting) that give you positive and pleasant feelings. This hedonic happiness depends entirely on the optimal external conditions to enjoy it: a good house, a good vacation, a good family, good wine, a good car, etc. If these elements fail, your happiness plummets.
The problem here is that sensory gratification is always temporary. Emotions — also positive — last for a short time; they vanish, and new stimuli must be sought to achieve this elusive satisfaction of the senses that produces a high. Getting stuck in the wheel is easy. Focusing on filling the dissatisfaction and trying to fill the gaps is a race with no end. Regardless of how much you achieve, it is doomed to failure because nothing is permanent. It is one of the traps of the Matrix to convince us that happiness is found in having everything under control, experiencing pleasure without pain, and having all areas satisfied.
2. Happiness based on commitment.
It is conducive to experiencing a state of flow. A committed life is one in which you are living in a way in which you can cultivate your virtues and strengths instead of simply surviving. You go beyond struggling to achieve goals that do not fulfill you or trying to meet other people’s expectations, for example. It requires knowing your strengths and putting them into action in your personal and professional life. That is, live aligned and active to have a deeper and fuller life. This would be the happiness of a good life. Of course, it requires effort, perseverance, knowledge, and the desire to improve and learn. Becoming a master in your field is not required. It is all about living committed to improving and developing yourself to lead an authentic, exciting, and whole life.
3. Happiness based on a meaningful life.
It comes from first exploring your strengths, developing them, and ultimately putting them at the service of something bigger than yourself.
Have you ever asked yourself how to aspire to a meaningful life? It all begins by reflecting on your strengths, virtues, and strong points. What are you good at? What are your natural talents? What are the virtues that you have deliberately cultivated?
Now ask yourself this: Can you think of a cause bigger than yourself that is worth serving? How can you contribute to the world? What have you developed that can be useful to others? Ironically, when you put this cause at the top of your priority list, even above your egoic happiness, you can enjoy real joy. This kind does not fade at the first setback, the type that no one can take away from you, the one that has its roots in your vital purpose, the one that makes life worth living.
I have observed that anything we do can facilitate one kind of happiness but tends to inhibit the other. I can buy a fabulous villa that provides me with great immediate well-being, but I incur a debt that prevents me from leaving a job that stresses and bores me until I retire. Supposedly looking for a pleasant life, I chain myself for life to obligations from which I will never be able to free myself or devote myself to something I am passionate about. I will lack the time or energy to be able to dedicate it to anything other than earning money. Hedonic short-term choices almost always interfere with true fulfillment.
I am not a supporter of advocating poverty, nor do I support the belief that money is immoral. However, when material triumph becomes an obsession, it inevitably leads to obfuscation. It can even convince us that we are safe from all vulnerability, tied to self-sufficiency and superiority, losing deeply human qualities, already deranged without direction.
There comes a time when we feel that the competition we had bet on ceases to have value, and the longed-for and idealized victory loses importance as a goal. The compelling need to achieve ambitious goals diminishes, and we care more about the direction of our steps, the intention of discovering the kind of life we genuinely intend to lead, and how we can contribute.
Author: Mónica Esgueva
Source: Be Yourself