My New Found Way to Navigate to Happiness
Happiness is something we are all trying to navigate towards. But what if happiness is not a destination we can plan for. Find out how I pursue happiness.
Whilst in the pandemic, happiness has been at the forefront of my mind. Unfortunately, I over-analyse everything and can not take a simple answer for even the smallest questions.
Over the past year, I have been trying to change my approach. It is hard living life in this way because you can never accept the simplicity of anything. You are constantly under strain trying to understand things that people have not even thought about.
So, to save me the stress, I have started trying to live life more simply. The pandemic has allowed me to simplify some of the things I have been overcomplicating in life.
One of those things was my pursuit of happiness. Now before you say it, yes, happiness is a difficult thing to understand. There would be no need for philosophers to write tonnes of books and hold debates if it was not.
However, I was trying to apply so many principles at once and began to confuse myself. I started to question every move I made and thought about the long-term repercussions of everything.
I am not saying that we should not put goals in place to achieve our happiness. But sometimes, the standards we hold ourselves to can be blockers to our happiness.
On this platform, I read tonnes of self-help articles all the time. And they all talk about principles and habits we can put in place to become better and happier humans. Unfortunately, overcrowding your life with these can lead to utter failure.
Recently, I read an article about someone who was on the verge of becoming anorexic due to the amount of self-help content they read. And this is just one example from many where adding too much to one’s life can lead to a worsening in the quality of it.
My pursuit of happiness was a bit like that. I kept adding these principles to lead to a happier life, only to be overcrowded. But after much thought, I have boiled down a simplified starting point to navigating my way to happiness.
What Disgust Is and Why It Is Important
After reading the happiness hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, my eyes were opened. All of our emotions play a role in our lives, but this primary one could be the most vital when it comes to navigation.
According to the Paul Ekman Group:
“Disgust is a feeling of aversion towards something offensive.”
As one of the seven universal emotions, we have all experienced it at some point in our lives. Maybe we ate something bitter, or someone smelt funny on the train. We have all experienced it and try to avoid it as much as possible.
However, there is a unique link between the emotion of disgust and our understanding of morality. In the book, Jonathan Haidt addresses how avoiding the emotion of disgust is to be closer to holiness.
We find that many of the mainstream religions regard cleanliness as holy. Not to mention that all religions teach we have to live a certain way to not sin against ourselves or God. In other words, to not cause God to be disgusted with us.
Disgust ensures we avoid anything that could cause us harm or discomfort. However, in some circumstances, it can also lead to feelings of righteousness and upright behaviour.
All of these things are important because they keep us safe. They can also make us feel good about ourselves. Knowing that you are not the one smelling funny on the train makes you feel better than the person who is. You may even double-check just to ensure it is not you so you can rest assure you are good.
So how can this emotion lead us to a happier life?
Happier Living Through Knowing What Disgust You
In the great words of Immanuel Kant:
“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.”
A huge part of becoming happy is believing we are deserving of it. Whenever I am unproductive throughout the day, I feel bad for entertaining myself for the rest of it. I feel down and unaccomplished.
These feelings are natural and are part of what makes us pursue great things in life. We do not just want to be happy for the sake of it. We want to feel as though our happiness is deserved.
That is why morality is so vital. If we do not believe we are good agents in society, we feel worse about ourselves. And here is where disgust can come in.
It is often those things that disgust us that can lead us to act in a better way. When we are disgusted by things, our instinct is to avoid them by moving away.
Whatever those things may be, they can give us a good indication of what a moral and good life may mean for us. Regardless of what others think, the things you find disgusting should be avoided and will push you in a positive direction.
Carl Jung stated:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Not to change these powerful words, but disgust can be substituted for irritates. It is often the things we find most disgusting in society and people that bring us to a greater understanding of who we want to be. And it is through this knowledge we can make better decisions for our happiness.
You May Not Need a Destination for Happiness
As I think about it more and more, a destination mindset for happiness is becoming less desirable. I like thinking about goals and setting myself targets because I always know the next step.
However, defining the endpoint for happiness is tricky. By believing there is an end we must meet, we turn life into a set of goals and targets we must reach. Unfortunately, this puts pressure on us to perform for an end that does not guarantee us happiness.
Maybe all we need is a path away from suffering. We may not know the end, and there may be times where the path seems confusing. Nevertheless, we can trust that path is leading us away from the things that make us unworthy of our happiness.
Therefore, happiness is no longer a goal for me. It is now a path that disgust is helping me navigate. In travelling this path, I hope to achieve my worthiness of happiness to achieve a better state of it for myself.
I am a Visionary and Writer who seeks to enrich society by challenging how we do business today to lead to a world of better leaders and opportunities tomorrow.