You know the moment.
You’re on the way home from work. Exhausted. Numb. But grateful the day’s ended. And while you’re stuck in traffic and your eyes drift slowly to the person in the car beside you...or on the sidewalk...or in the bus in front...and you can feel your breath catch in your throat.
There’s something about them.
The way they’re smiling, laughing...the way they seem to be...happy. They seem to effortlessly give off the impression that they have it “together”. And you watch them and wince painfully because somewhere deep within you, you feel a tingling of recognition that you too could be feeling like that. If only….
We suck at life.
There I said it. Even the ones amongst us who are killin’ it or slayin’ it or whatever else is used these days to describe being all up in the “success zone”. The fact is, we live in a society that has become so goal driven and success oriented, that we’ve literally forgotten how to live. How to enjoy life. And the loss of this single skill is causing us all the heartache in the world.
Enjoying life is a skill we've lost, and it's causing us all the heartache in the world. @IdeasWithRaisa
Our smarter self (conscious mind) thinks we’re doing a pretty good job of living as we pack our bags to the countryside with friends and family on the weekends, or when we hook up with our buddies for drinks after work.
But if you look at this scientifically, this is just self-medicating behaviour. To drown out the numbness we feel on an everyday level. To give us a periodic “high” to jar us out of the boredom we feel with our day-today lives.
You: “But Raisa, I can’t just drop everything and do what I want all the time...I have bills to pay...you jerk.”
I get it.
But have you ever stopped in the middle of licking your own wounds to think...how the f*ck did that (whoever) in the car beside me manage to do it? What were they doing different? Clearly they were coming back from work too.
And immediately you’re flooded with answers along the lines of:
"They probably love what they do for their job."
"They drive a fancier car."
"They probably have tons of friends who they’re conference calling right now on their d*mn bluetooth."
"They probably work for themselves so they don’t have a sh*tty boss like I do, so naturally it’s easier to be happier than me."
And so on…
And even despite getting these “answers” we don’t seem to feel anymore happier than we were before. In fact we start to feel resentful.
Stupid happy people.
Truth is, they’re not happy for any of those reasons...and you already know that.
The real problem is that we think happiness is supposed to come easy.
Happiness is child’s play. Right?
It’s playing. It’s fun. It’s laughter.
The uncomfortable truth? Happiness is work. It’s work just like your job, your family, and your relationships. You let it slip, it falls behind. And well day-to-day happiness? We’ve let it fall waaayy behind. And then we b*tch about it.
The uncomfortable truth? Happiness is work. @IdeasWithRaisa
How did we let this happen? The simple reason is that we’re not used to thinking that happiness requires work. And the older we get, the more we think it's not as important as getting paid, taking care of the family, furthering our career etc.
Finally, we fall into the terrible assumption that causes nearly all of our angst: we start to believe that we're supposed to get happiness from our work, from our children, from our relationships.
We all do this. We’re all guilty. We’re all wrong.
The problem: believing that we're supposed to get happiness from our work, from our children, from our relationships @IdeasWithRaisa
Someday, someone, somehow, something...and then I’ll be happy.
That’s where the woo-woo advice has led us so far. So let’s flip the script and look to science and see if it can’t offer us a better understanding on how to be happy.
If we look at the origins of the word happiness, we'll see that it is actually more closely related to the words “happen-stance” or “haphazard” where the root “hap” has to do with something being accidentally fortunate rather than a result of purposeful action. So by this definition, keeping a goal to be happy is quite meaningless.
Now if we’re going to be really proficient in understanding what happiness is, we’re not going to stop here. We’re going to look at the philosophy behind this.
The philosophy of “the pursuit of happiness” came from English philosophy (specifically Locke and Hutcheson), and the notion that people have a measurable happiness that is engendered by good governance and in leading virtuous lives. This English philosophy (while it's very well rounded and defined), has its roots in Greek Philosophy where the whole concept of happiness originated and where we ought to look if we really want to get to the heart of the matter.
The Greeks asked, “How ought one to live to achieve a good life?”
And as a result, the ancient Greeks spend a lot of time trying to define the answer to this question: “What is a good life?”
Aristotle often used the word ‘Eudaimonia’ as the word for the state or result of a “good life.” If we translate this roughly, Eudaimonia means “Well-Spirited.”
But I want to be clear about something.
When we translate from one language to another, we lose some of the meaning. Because of this, we have to make a distinction between between the Judeo/Christian use of the word ‘spirit,’ (which is something to do with a soul or ghosts), and the Greek’s understanding of the word spirit, which is the “essence” of something.
To the Greeks, an “Essence” is that which defines a thing.
For example, the characteristics that define a book like its shape, page texture, cover, pictures, a combination of these things or something else entirely like the pull of its story would be its essence.
Like all things, humans share a quality or qualities which define them as human. This is our essence: the thing or things, that when combined, make us human and not something else. The Greeks named this human essence, ‘daimon,’ or, in English, ‘spirit.’
So to be “Well-Spirited,” mean't to have those qualities which define us as human, be at their best so we can live a good life and by extension be happy.
And this “happiness” that the Greeks were referring to is a notion of general well being and not how you feel in any one instant that it has come to mean today.
So there you have it. 2400 years later, 1000’s of studies conducted, and countless lives numbed to the routine of life. And yet, the answer was there all along. Happiness is the result that comes from continually working towards bettering our lives a little everyday.
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