Ever since I can remember, I was told what I “should” be doing with my life. I should do well in school so that I can get a good job that pays the bills for a house and car. I should also focus on being in a relationship and raising a family.
These are all other people’s takes on what should make me happy.
I’m a bit confused when people suggest these things, as I’m not even sure what’ll make me happy in the long run, because I’m uncertain about this “me.” Who is this “me” that I’m supposed to be moving towards contentment? How is it that “I” will become happy and fulfilled?
We’re complex organisms
We must first begin to understand what we are. We, as humans, are highly complex organisms that exist in an intricate web we call life. This network consists of happenings that are interdependent across space and time. That means I’m a culmination of every experience I’ve had before this moment in time.
Within each consecutive moment, I change a little bit. I’m not the person who rolled out of bed this morning. This change means that the person I am now is trying to set goals and make plans for a future self that this current self doesn’t know. It’s challenging to hit a target that’s changing in such a way as to render it difficult, at best, to recognize later.
Looking at happiness as a target implies that we know what it consists of in the first place. It’s been shown, in the field of psychology, that a reduction of pain is a more significant provider of happiness than an increased amount of pleasure. It follows that if we can reduce our pain, our experience of this thing called life will be improved.
The changing web of life
We’re all in this continually changing web of life, searching for a holy grail. This search can be made similar to what happens in science: science hypothesizes, carries out experiments, collects data, analyzes it and concludes. These same steps are the ones we should be following in our own lives. We must experiment until we find out what drives—and ultimately thrills—us.
The mind is like a muddy river, and if we sit in quiet contemplation, the mental silt will settle to the bottom.
We can choose to experiment blindly, or we can use methods such as meditation to help us in our search. The mind is like a muddy river, and if we sit in quiet contemplation, the mental silt will settle to the bottom. When the water’s clear, we’ll be able to see through distractions and gain insight into the true nature of reality and existence. The powerful ideas we come upon can help each of us find our real purpose.
All our experiences before this moment in time have made us unique pieces within this puzzle of life. If we keep experimenting, each of us will find a place to plug in our piece, and it’ll fit into a spot that no one else’s can or will.
The journey of finding what we’ve been cut out to do is the true essence of what it means to be human, keeping in mind that this journey is always going on in the present moment. If we aren’t truly present, we can’t truly experience the journey. The present is the only moment in which we can truly experience and experiment.
We can’t take anything with us when we die. We can focus our entire lives on the acquisition of material wealth, but we’ll have to leave it all behind, so it’s essential that we don’t get caught up in this superficial rat race. As the saying goes, “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”
The interdependence of all things
When we settle into a systematic view of reality, recognizing the interdependence of all things, we realize that we, as individuals, need not strive. Things are as they are, and we’ve become who it is we were meant to be because of our place in ‘the system. The purpose of life is to discover what it is we’ve been developed to do.
There should be no forcing. If we’ve had all the experience we need to become a hard worker, then we will be. If we lack a devoted work ethic, this has been instilled in us by others. When we connect with our inner selves, we’ll realize that there’s something worth working towards, and therefore, we’ll feel inexplicably compelled towards this way of life.
Our outlook on reality is created by all our experiences across time, and it includes the influence others have had on our lives. We’ve been ‘taught’ what’s expected of us by others.
What others think will make us happy actually never will. We’re complex and interrelated beings, and to find happiness, we must come into the present moment and let go of any ideas we’ve held onto because of what we’ve been told.
As Lao Tzu is commonly believed to have said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
It’s only when we align with our inner selves that we’ll become able to find our real purpose and place in life.