Pursue Harmony, Not Happiness.
Happiness fades because of how we perceive it.
Similar to meditation, happiness is associated with an enlightened state of mind where nothing affects you. Instead, your default setting in life is to irradiate joy.
During our pursuit of happiness, we search for the culprits of our current, undesired life. And try to eliminate them:
- We avoid anything harmful.
- We control our boredom by going out.
- We start feeding our bodies with healthier food.
Eliminating these from your life can look like a trip to the grocery store. Items are negative emotions, the register is happiness, and each item crossed is a step closer to finish. But what happens when you can't tick the entire list?
You could reframe failure as obstacles to sustain happiness for longer. Or see it as a new challenge. Or even remind yourself about your inability to control your life. But here's where the game of life takes a turn.
It goes from fun to an eternal struggle to sustain happiness. We become dependant on the food we eat, the activities we do, and the people we meet. When the thrill of these activities wears off, so does our happiness.
Seneca advised that "although all things in excess bring harm, the greatest danger comes from excessive good fortune: it stirs the brain, invites the mind to entertain idle fancies, and shrouds in thick fog the distinction between falsehood and truth." Excess can indeed lead to an illusion of a never-ending streak, but reminding yourself about the finitude of satisfying moments ruins the pleasure of living them. Instead, acknowledge the existence of these extremes.
No one wants to get nervous during a discovery call, host a disappointing event, or get results at a slower pace than projected. But these are possibilities. You remove the uncertainty of what could happen by acknowledging failure and success as possible scenarios.
In college, I was once the only Economist in a Palliative Care class. Surrounded by psychologists and nurses, I discovered the feelings of regret and desire of those close to death. About 80% of the patients had them. They spent their lives chasing apartments, cars, clothes, and wealth. It was an endless pursuit towards the illusion of happiness.
Close to the finish line, all reflected on their genuine desires—Love, relationships, and passions.
Avoiding long-term suffering creates tension in the present. We diminish its importance, sacrifice it, and regret it on our deathbed. Experiencing negative emotions is essential. Iris Mauss's found that unlike conventional wisdom tells us, an excess of happiness is negative. It exposes us to threats and blinds our perception of what's necessary to achieve it.
Therefore, appreciate adversity. It is in accepting how to deal with stress, sadness, anger, and fear that we reduce their influence on our actions.
Extreme happiness can lead to delusion, and excessive sadness causes depression. Instead, aim for a middle ground. Seek positivity, prefer it, but accept undesired situations. Practicing awareness will lead you to a remarkable finding: The sky never had clouds; it was always blue.