Everyone should have a good life, full of joy and happiness. Being happy is fun. No wonder we try to increase the feeling of happiness—it’s like a drug. We are constantly looking for ways to become happier. We are obsessed with happiness, mindfulness, stoicism, or anything else that results in living the ‘good life’. But there is one problem with the pursuit of happiness—similar to every obsession, being obsessed about happiness causes emotional pain. Happiness is not everything.
When we lack a clear purpose in our life, happiness is a good substitute. But this has one major flaw, happiness is not a goal in itself. It is a byproduct of living. When we pursue our life’s work, we become happy as a result. But what happens when we only pursue happiness as a goal? Will we end relationships that make us angry or unhappy for a moment? Or quit jobs when we become frustrated?
Most things that make us happy, also make us unhappy. Think of relationships—when everything is smooth, and we have no disagreements in our relationship, we’re happy. However, when we strive for happiness—it is easy to get frustrated when we experience a hiccup in our relationships. We become unhappy at the first sight of a setback or obstacle.
The danger is when you start seeing happiness as a goal. Focusing on happiness in relationships will cause us to exaggerate the negative things in our relationships. When we think everything should be fun, perfect, and happy all the time, we freak out when we experience negative emotions. We ask, “why did he say that?” Or “why did she do that?” We start analyzing the bad and forget the good.
We often see happiness as a goal because when we look around us, everything seems perfect and happy. Much has been written about the superficial things people post on their social media pages. It is all a façade. People pretend to be happy because it is easy to fake happiness. We do things that momentarily make us happy, but we all know that it will not last. We think that if we fool others we live a beautiful life, we might believe it ourselves. This strategy harms us more than we realize. Real life is full of setbacks, obstacles, and pain. We have to deal with negativity to live a fulfilling life.
It is perfectly normal to have negative emotions—there is no reason to freak out when you experience ‘bad’ feelings. We are allowed to get pissed off or be narcissistic. It is ok to feel anxious or guilty. We can’t be mindful about everything. We can’t be happy all the time. I’m saying this despite all the research that mindfulness improves your physical and mental health. Paradoxically, it can benefit you in the long-term when you listen to your negative emotions.
For instance, when a colleague tries to play political games with you, what do you do we you find out you’re under attack? Do you practice mindfulness or stoicism while your job and survival is on the line? You can’t fool yourself by saying that you cannot control the other person, or that you shouldn’t let him get to you. Being mindful probably would not help you. What would help you is to call out your colleague and show him you know what he is doing—that you cannot be played with. A little anger scares off most people in these type of situations, which makes them find another victim.
It’s a good thing that people are more mindful of each other; we’ve had enough people killing each other during the past centuries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should be more primal and beat up someone who tries to stab you in the back. However, you shouldn’t brush it away because you are a ‘good person’ or that you ‘don’t care about this kind of stuff’. While positivity and indifference is good for your stress levels—sometimes you need to be angry with people, situations, or even yourself.
Don’t feel ashamed of your negative emotions or bad character traits. Everyone has them. But they might be more beneficial than you think. Even a little bit of narcissism can be good. Narcissistic people often believe that success belongs to them. This sense of entitlement will make you give everything and demand success—that will make you more likely to succeed in getting from life what you want. Very often, we don’t know what we want from life. But it’s more important to answer “What do I want from life?” than “Am I happy?” The solution to the latter questions can be easy. There are millions of ways to fake your happiness: sex, drugs, alcohol, partying, buying stuff. While not everything is necessarily bad for you, it won’t make you happy in the long run.
But if you get from life what you want, you will become happy. You won’t need any tips or tricks to think yourself happy. No articles or books that teach you how to be mindful. You won’t need clothes anymore to feel better about yourself. You simply are happy. To reach this state of mind, we need to ask ourselves “What do I want from life?”
To answer that question, we have to go on a journey—accompanied by our emotions, both positive and negative. We have nothing to lose by showing how we feel, even when we feel bad. In fact, we have more to gain from negativity. For instance, without guilt or angry, we probably wouldn’t push ourselves to grow. Negative emotions help us to know ourselves better and help us find out what we want from life. To discover what makes us happy.
Even though happiness is something good, we should not sacrifice everything just to be ‘happy’. Without all the different emotions, life would be boring. Being a Zen master might be good for your health, but being happy all the time is boring. Using ‘hacks’ or other ways to create artificial happiness is like cheating—it’s the struggle that makes the victory taste extra sweet. After all, it’s the low’s that make the highs worth living for.