As I sit here looking at the blinking cursor on this blank word document, struggling to think of the right way to start this article, my mind is coming up with every possible excuse to procrastinate writing this piece.
I want you to remember this. We will come back to it in the end.
Happiness is Overrated
Let’s just put it out there - happiness is overrated. Happiness is nothing more than an emotional state of being. It doesn’t last forever. It comes and goes. Just like every other emotional state, including anger, sorrow, grief, fear, etc. Sure. It’s an emotional state that feels better than others. But at the end of the day, it’s just a chemical reaction in your body making you feel what you’re feeling.
Different people look for happiness in different things. Some look for it in the money they make - “I’ll be happy when I make a million”. Some look for it in materialistic possessions - “I’ll be happy when I have that car”. Some look for it in other people - “I’ll be happy when I have that person in my life”. Some look for it in fame, status, power, spirituality, religion, and whatnot.
But the truth is, you’ll never achieve life-long happiness. Arthur Schopenhauer, who’s known as the philosopher of pessimism, explained it better than I could ever do - the very fact that you’re chasing happiness implies that you’re unhappy, to begin with. So, the more you chase happiness, the more you end up being unhappy.
And between the desire for happiness and its absence is suffering. And as Buddha said, that’s what life is. Life is suffering.
So, what now? Are we just supposed to give up everything and accept that we are here to suffer?
Uhh… yes and no.
Aim for Fulfilment
At some point, you have to understand and embrace the fact that life is suffering, and you’ll only ever feel moments and glimpses of happiness, not eternal happiness. But that doesn’t mean you give up everything, go to the mountains in Kathmandu, and meditate for the rest of your life. Though you can do it if that’s what you’re really into.
There’s something better to aim for than happiness - fulfilment. Fulfilment comes from doing things that might not be the most pleasurable or feel-good experiences at the moment, but something that you know you should do. Fulfilment comes from choosing your own suffering and overcoming it (to some extent).
Have you ever sat down to meditate, and halfway through, you’re just dying to open your eyes and get up? But you don’t. Instead, you endure that suffering. And when you finally get done with it, you feel this sense of fulfilment and satisfaction.
However, the key to fulfilment is to choose your own suffering. Doing a job that you hate is still suffering, but it’s something you didn’t choose. Therefore, when you come back from work in the evening, you probably won’t feel the same fulfilment we’re talking about here. Or you might. Who knows.
The point is, you have to do things that are difficult but not undesirable, like working out, following a strict diet, waking up early in the morning every day, etc.
At the start of this article, I talked about how I'm procrastinating writing what you’re reading right now. For me, writing is that suffering that I chose that I know I should be doing. But as any creative professional will tell you, it's hard. But I endured that suffering. I sat through an entire hour or two, and as I'm finishing writing this piece off, I feel a sense of fulfilment. A sense of fulfilment that you get after overcoming a difficult task.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy or wanting pleasure. The last thing you would wanna do is take life too seriously. It's okay to screw around every now and then. But remember that long-lasting fulfilment in life will only come from doing difficult things over and over again.