Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Happiness and Purpose - Ask yourself this question

What do you want out of life?

Here's the crazy thing - most people don't know. Or at least, their answers are quite vague; you'll usually hear 'to be happy' or 'to be rich and famous'.

 The reason why both those answers are common: as humans our behaviour gears us to avoid pain, and seek pleasure. We believe happiness to be the most pleasant feeling so this becomes the goal of much of our behaviour. Try this - follow a track of thought by questioning your motives. Lets say you want good grades at school - why? So you can get a job, right? Why do you want a job? So you can earn money, right? And why do you want money? So you can buy stuff right?
And why would you want to buy stuff? You guessed it... to be happy.

As for why people think they want to be rich and famous - well, that's a product of social conditioning, but it's ultimately the same reason. People believe that if you're rich then you can get whatever you want materially. If you're famous, you'll get lots of attention and validation. The reason why you'd want either of those things is because you think they'd make you happy.

I have some bad news for you.

You will eventually begin to realise that when you don't get what you want, you're unhappy. When you get what you don't want, you're unhappy. Even when you get exactly what you want, your happiness is temporary because you quickly want something else.
Please realise that this default paradigm of seeking happiness with everything does not work. The search for happiness will have you like a hamster on a wheel, chasing a piece of cheese - round and round, and never any closer to the prize.

Happiness is not something you can ever expect to last. It is an emotion, and you brain will not allow you to have a single emotion permanently.  If you can break out of this search, then you can finally get down to business and establish what you want to do with your life.

You may be thinking, Max, you can do things which improve your happiness or make you happy more often. It's a little pessimistic to say you'll never be happy.

Obviously, you will have happy moments in your life. But happiness is a feeling and feelings are reactive. You cannot control them. Do as many positive affirmations and read as many books as you want. You can make yourself happy more often, but even then you'll still be frustrated when sadness or anger arises, because your paradigm relies on seeking. No matter how happy you even manage to make yourself, you'll always want more happiness.

I am not being negative here. Emotions are like the weather; they pass over and change by themselves. Lasting happiness is a fantasy. However, you can find a level of deep, lasting peace. This means that whether you are sad, happy, raging or frustrated, you are still at peace in your core, and this makes you a stable and grounded person.

Reassess now what you want out of your time on this planet. Do not make your goal happiness, and do not be fooled that any product, partner or level of fame or popularity will fulfill you.

Make your goal something of mastery and service. Contribute to the growth of humanity. I'm not talking about starting a charity here, although if that's what you want, go for it. You can learn to play the guitar and make your friends and family smile. Make some music with a real message behind it. Be creative - start a business that really helps people, that delivers wisdom or instigates change. Don't be selfish, because the selfish way of life is one that tries to use personal gain to reach happiness - and as we know, that is not a paradigm that works.

Be very clear about what you want, because the clearer you are the more direction and motivation you will have. You can change your mind, but whether you feel happy or sad, accept that emotion. Don't chase happiness. Don't wait for a fulfilling life to come to you - work on it now. Write it down on paper, exactly what you're going to do.

Now, use your time doing it.

To summarise:
-Seeking fulfilment through personal gain doesn't work
- Permanent happiness is a false goal, it's not psychologically possible
- Be satisfied by creating a clear life goal that contributes to humanity, and working on it
- Accept your emotions because they cannot be controlled
-Instead, focus on making your actions courageous and compassionate regardless of how you feel

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