If you turn on the news today, or any given day, you are likely to see an endless stream of horrific, mind boggling stories of violence, disasters, corruption, terrorism, etc. In the midst of the anguish, people are in the greatest search for happiness. An industry has emerged to boost happiness. But we are looking to solve the wrong puzzle. Life is not about living in a constant state of pleasantness because without darkness, we wouldn’t be able to recognize light. The key to happiness is value. Think about the happiest people in your life and try to recognize a common trend. Why are they happy? The happiest people in your life are not void of troubles or negative experiences but they find meaning and value in those experiences. The happiest people find meaning in what they do, which makes even unpleasantness bearable.
I once spent my days in a dark room watching shows on Netflix, day in and day out, waiting for the night, for the weekend, for something fantastic to happen. Nothing fantastic happened. I fell into a self-made abyss. There were two crucial things I was doing that were impeding any chance of happiness or fulfillment. First I was living in the future, ignoring myself life in the present. How many people do you know that are in a constant state of living in the near future? In the future we are all magical and fantastic but unless we live presently, building the foundation for that future self, we will get stuck living in the tomorrow. Second, there was no value to my days. I did nothing challenging. I was choosing the path of least resistance and became complacent. But in order to grow we need to feel resistance. We need to be challenged.
It is human nature to desire to be happy but in the instant gratification culture we are in, people are expecting happiness to transpire magically. Meaning is the result of action, which ripples itself into happiness.
People spend too much time pondering the cosmic significance of life when instead they need to put down the Cheetos and start finding what is important to them. Simple enough, right? Then why is it people go their entire lives without feeling that fiery passion for something that gives their life meaning? In the madness and speed of today’s society, people forget what is important to them. People neglect to feed their souls. Think back to when you were a child, spending your time consumed in things you truly enjoyed. It’s time to take a step back to three lifetimes ago you and spend time doing what would make your childhood self, proud.
Consider the last time you were so enthralled in an activity you forgot to eat. Consider the last time you endured something unpleasant but looked back at the experience in pride, even thinking about repeating the experience. Those are the experiences that need to fill our lives with purpose.
The only way to find what is important to you is to try. Life doesn’t come with a manual and navigating through it often comes down to trial and error. The only way we know if we actually like doing something is by actually doing it.
Do not allow complacency to become the reason you didn’t reach your potential or didn’t do the things you really wanted to do in life. Take a risk, try and fail. Try until you uncover the fuel to your fire. Once more, think about the happiest people you know. Chances are they are trying and failing all the time. Failure has a negative connotation to it but it means you actually did something. Deficiencies bring you closer to fulfillment just as much as your talents do.
The most common regret of the elderly are the things they did not do. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent years taking care of dying patients recounted, “When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
People allow their fears, time, or money dictate what they do not do in their lives. It’s easy to find an excuse why we cannot do something and it takes courage to try. Action yields passion. Passion brings meaning. Meaning results in happiness.