Happiness is wildly overrated. Here’s something much deeper
Beit the bricklayer in his humble hut or the multi-millionaire in his plush penthouse, every one of us Homo Sapiens craves happiness.
But none of us know what this ever-elusive thing is. While one says it’s his loving family, the second claims it’s blitzing in a supercar, and the third swears by his cocaine haze.
The fourth tells you to renounce everything, grow a beard, and recede into the Himalayas.
But before even desiring to be happy, it’s worth asking ourselves, “Why should we even want to be happy?”,
“Why does happiness have to be the #1 goal of our lives?”
While there isn’t a crystal-clear reason, I can expound on a host of reasons why it should not be.
Happiness Is Boring
The utopian notion of “Happily ever after” doesn’t exist. Even if it did, you’d get bored with it.
Thanks to our hedonistic adaptations, we get used to anything and everything — the drug-like high of a new relationship, job promotion, or lottery win doesn’t take long to fade.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I will do, have, or become X and then I’ll be happy”.
In a heartbeat, it will become the new “normal” and the question, “What next?” will pop into your mind.
As creatures of change, stagnation means death to us humans.
It Has Become a Justificatory Mechanism
When your innermost beliefs, values, or thoughts differ from your actions, you develop cognitive dissonance.
It’s the mental strife you face when lighting a cigarette while staring at the pack’s warning or hogging a big mac while tugging your shirt over that bulging paunch.
The right (and hard) way to dispel this dissonance is by modifying your actions — crushing that cigarette under your boot and making yourself some Greek salad.
But the word “happiness” has become a cheap cop-out mechanism for this.
Why continue puffing smoke like a chimney, hogging pizzas by the dozen, or piling up debt to impress your neighbors?
Because “Life’s too short to sacrifice the things that make you happy” — and this justifies even the most preposterous of things.
There’s Something Deeper than Happiness
In our universe that’s governed by the law of causality, every cause has an effect and vice versa.
After a gazillion causes ending with you defeating a whopping 200 million sperms, you come into existence.
As you plow through life, you brush paths with tens of thousands of humans, touch the souls of thousands, and define the trajectory of a handful. Mating with another human, you even create life.
Like the butterfly effect, every life you brush touches thousands of other lives. Every one of those souls affects a few thousand lives again. And so on.
By the time you die, your actions would have panned out into a gazillion effects — denting the universe in ways small or big.
So there’s literally astronomic significance in the life of every human being.
This means immense responsibility and accountability — to yourself and the universe.
It means fulfilling your purpose.
The Guiding Light to Reach Your Purpose
If your purpose is the destination, meaning is the guiding light — as long as you pursue what you genuinely find meaning in, you’ll fulfill your purpose.
It’s a shift from thinking “How does this make me feel?” to “Why do I want to do this?”.
This removes the cop-out element. No sane man can find meaning in choking his lungs with smoke, blocking his arteries with pizzas, or destroying his financial future to impress people he hates.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Be it the entrepreneur slogging 16 hours a day on his childhood dream project or the corporate tycoon that left everything to improve the lives of starving kids in Africa, it’s meaning that’s driving them.
Purpose or happiness, I can’t tell you what’s right. It’s for you to decide. The heartening part is, in most cases, they aren’t mutually exclusive.
Even if you choose to continue chasing happiness, don’t use it as a cop-out mechanism — always remember to solve cognitive dissonance the hard way.
The right way.
If you choose purpose, welcome to the ultra-minor tribe. Let the question, “Why am I doing this?” guide every action.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”