Let’s assume it’s fair to say that everybody wants to be happy, most of the time.
As a society, I believe we come short in putting enough reflection and importance on key philosophical questions that would help us to achieve this goal.
Through the years, I've absorbed several different ideas that have helped me to find some answers to myself.
Some of them were fundamental to my current understanding:
- Kahneman's peak-end rule: According to him, our memory of the experience (pleasant or unpleasant) does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but the most extreme point and the end of the episode. An example: think about that trip that on average, there were a lot of problems (perrengue chique). Will you remember it, mostly, for the few good moments enjoying a beer on the beach, or for all the hassle of been scammed by the guy who took you there from the airport? Another powerful example: why do we regard poorly relationships that were mainly positive, if they end up on bad terms?
- Harari's intersubjective reality: Humans are the only animals capable to communicate not only about real things but about imagined realities. The common belief in imagined stuff is one of the cornerstones of human society. Sound weird? Take a moment to think if money exists, for real.
Well, they've convinced me that such a thing as "absolute happiness" doesn't exist. I've also got convinced that "absolute love" doesn't exist. But that is a subject for another day.
Happiness is always relative. And that means that the mindset that we choose (or that more often, we got thrown into) will have an enormous impact on how we perceive happiness. Some studies have tried to understand if money buys happiness, and come short to conclude a direct relation, but appointed that your income definitely changed how we envision happiness. To the rich, is mainly an individual construction. To the poor, it’s usually a collective creation.
My personal take is that within my bubble, we're always lead to believe that this “true happiness" always lays in the future, and depends on much more than what we have now.
Building upon that, and accelerated by the pandemic reflections, I became increasingly open to experimenting with new approaches on how to better tackle my life.
It took me a long while, a lot of deconstruction (since I'm mostly an anti-hype guy), and pure will, to start practicing mindfulness meditation.
For a very skeptical guy to accept a practice that has philosophical origins in the Buddhism teachings, the shit has to be pretty real.
Sometimes I’m very dedicated, and some weeks I don't even remember that it exists. But the advantages became clear to me: it makes me feel present, light, and ready; and this feels like a "nirvana", making me very productive in life, and very present with my loved ones.
After a while, I've realized that this state of mind had a positive side effect:
It made my days happier.
Sincerely, I’m not so into the philosophy of it, but the empirical reality is: the days that I’ve managed to be mindful and present, became my best days.
After a while, I've come to realize that I could have a much happier life if, instead of being sad and stressed for the day, supposedly trading it off for a better future, I tried to be a bit happier every day.
That might sound silly, or even obvious after said. But I have been doing the opposite for a while, and I know that many (if not the majority) of my fellow millennials pals are on the same boat.
I'm not saying that we should all give up our busy and stressful lives to become monks (with all the respect to those who make this option but definitely is not to everyone). And I still believe that being financially responsible is advisable. But, here it goes my two pieces of advice:
- Take any chance to be more present and happy about the things that are here and now, especially the simplest things that we take for granted;
- When making big decisions in your life, take the time to reflect if you're making a choice that might take a huge toll in the short term, looking for a bigger reward in the long term. If that's the case, think twice before you choose. Ask if there is anything you can do to bring more balance and mitigate those short-term effects.
I truly believe that our best performance, our best connections, and moments with our loved ones, come to life when we’re happy and focused on the here and now. And basically, I’ve come to believe that one doesn’t find happiness. We build happiness, from the inside out.
Following the premise that everything that is not in the present is relative, I gave up the idea to find the right answer, and instead, focused on what works empirically (kind of an A/B test mentality, one might say).
This is also an amazing medicine for the anxiety pandemic that we live in our generation.
Finally, I recommend one of my favorite movies, which brings a nice super nice message about the secrets of a happy life: About Time. No spoilers here!
See you next time :)