Apart from our obvious desire to survive, my experience and personal knowledge tells me that ‘Happiness’ is the number one goal for people around the world. Whether it be happiness in our job, living in a happy household or just generally wanting all areas of life to fill us with this magical feeling.
If that is the case, then why would I share the two simple paths to unhappiness? Well, sometimes it’s good to see that the steps we are taking to get a certain result just might result in us getting the opposite.
I’m going to explore these two paths in a bit of detail, then summarise what you can take from all of this. Hopefully, you’ll see that the common mindset (the second path) will ultimately lead to unfulfillment and certainly nothing close to happy.
This post idea comes from a quote of one of my favourite authors: Eckhart Tolle. In one section of his book, A New Earth, he says, in no exact words: There are 2 paths to Unhappiness, not getting what you want, and getting what you want. I think looking into this in more detail is quite interesting, and I’ve come to believe the saying is very true and links closely to a lot of other messages I’ve been sharing here.
Not Getting What You Want
I would say out of the two points, most people will read this as the obvious way to be unhappy. After all, not getting what we want can create emotions such as:
- …and many more
Let’s really think about this for a second. If a child wants a games console for Christmas and they don’t get it, why do they automatically feel negative emotions? Let’s face it, no child just ‘accepts’ that they didn’t receive the present; they think they must have done something wrong and are being punished in some way.
Their hope had disappeared, their excitement didn’t match the outcome.
In reality, not getting what you want should make absolutely no difference to your internal state and create no negative emotions inside of you. The reason we feel negative emotions is because we are hoping for something and emotionally dependant on getting that outcome. The key here isn’t to stop wanting things and going for them, but it’s to realise the world is abundant, just accept whatever may be and don’t rely on your wants to improve your internal state or level of happiness.
Getting What You Want
This is the one that would surprise most people and although I ‘understood’ it straight away, it’s a idea I had to delve into a little deeper to fully grasp. “So you’re telling me that even if I get everything I want I’m not going to be happy? Then what is the point of wanting things, having goals?” Before I address that specifically, let’s look at the example used for the last path and see how it applies here.
The little child who wants his games console walks downstairs on Christmas day in total excitement. There’s a large present under the tree, just the right size and shape to be a new Xbox. He hurriedly opens the packaging and sure enough…it’s exactly what he was hoping for, he’s ecstatic.
How long does the feeling last? A few days? A week? A month? I’m sure the happiness the actual console brought is sharply fleeting; only enhanced when he gets new games or plays with a friend he wants to challenge.
“OK, so maybe the happiness dies off after a while, but where does the unhappiness come in?”
I give you the Xbox. I give you the beautiful wife / husband. I give you the mansion in Florida and the keys to a red, two-seater Ferrari. Heck, I’ll even throw $1million in your bank account just to keep you happy. But will it? Will it really make you happy? Do you know what will set in as soon as I give you everything you want?
- Lack of Goals
- Lack of Focus
- Fleeting happiness
These negative feelings and emotions are what will start to turn that instant happiness (although I see it as a ‘band-aid’ style happiness) into gradual negativity and depression. Yes, even your red two-seater Ferrari will get boring after a while.
“It took me 5 brand new cars to realise they weren’t making me happy, as soon as I parked them for the first time I thought ‘what now?’”
– Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records & Phat Farm Clothing)
“Then Why Want Anything?”
I did say I would answer this question as I wouldn’t want to leave this post on a negative tone. To put it simply, the whole point in having goals is to enjoy the process and the end result. Why do anything else with your life than the things you enjoy? Wanting something often implies that we are lacking in areas of our lives and need to feel fulfilled.
If you want to achieve something for yourself then make sure you enjoy the process. One of my main goals for this year is to bulk up and gain weight. That isn’t to get girls or get approval of others; I simply want to be in better shape. I’m also going to enjoy the journey from seeing my body transform and grow along the way. If it happened instantly I would miss the process and all the core fundamentals that come with it such as patience, dedication and action.
Happiness is right here, right now. There is no other time for you to be happy apart from in this very moment, which is the only place anything can occur. Getting what you want doesn’t make you unhappy as long as you aren’t going for things in the hope that they will improve who you are and raise your own value in the eyes of others. Our put simply: getting what you want won’t make you unhappy, as long as you don’t need the ‘want’ to make you happy. Do the things you enjoy, life is too short not to.
by Glen Allsopp