Is happiness having what you want or wanting what you have? DISCOVER WHAT HAPPINESS ACTUALLY MEANS TO YOU.
“Happiness is a state of mind, the mind is an organ within the body not outside the body, so happiness must come from within.”
There has been a long impending quest, a quest for the true meaning of happiness. Now we may feel that it is quite subjective and differs from person to person and it definitely is the case but still that does nothing to convince us out of the quest. The quest is in fact deepened by curiosity and ambiguity.
Due to the subjective background of this issue let us narrow down a bit more towards what our quest actually aims at.
Is happiness having what you want or wanting what you have?
So this has two parts to it and let's consider each of it in isolation.
Having what you want? Is that happiness? Maybe! So what all do we desire or want? Take a moment to think.
“It’s quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants and representing the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.”
- EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES
I will be happy when I graduate, we tell ourselves. I’ll be happy when i get this promotion, when this diet pays off, when I have the money that my parents never had.
This is called conditional happiness and it is like the horizon, where you keep walking for miles but never reach it. In fact, you don’t inch any closer.
According to the STOIC philosophy, this conditional happiness is the enemy of happiness.eagerly anticipating some future event, passionately imagining something you desire, looking forward to some happy scenario might seem pleasant and pleasurable , but what you don’t know is that they ruin your chance at happiness here and now.
As humans we have oceans of desires and aspirations which supposedly open the floodgates to happiness for us. An in pursuit of that which we dont have, we lose out on the happiness that what we already have can provide us with. As we endlessly pursue a higher standard of living, we fail to notice the small moments of happiness in the present standard.
“Not that you own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”
Locate that yearning for more, better, someday and see for yourself what it is: the enemy of your contentment. Now make a choice. What do you want? Something better, something more, something someday? Or do you want contentment and satisfaction. Would you rather chase something into an unknown unseen fog with no guarantee of getting any closer or identify what you already possess and realise that it has the same potential to make you happy?
“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”
“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they have.”
-SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 123.3
Imagine A person who thinks money is the key to happiness, runs behind money all day and all night, in a bid to make his family happy by getting them all they want.in this process he forgets to spend time with his wife, laugh and cry with his daughter at her first day in school and is not able to take care of his aging parents.
One day he might earn the money he dreamt of, providing his family all that they ever desired, but is he happy? NO
Because its not only their standards that have upgraded but also the bag of their wishes which is niw a huge sack.
On the other hand, is a person who wants to earn money, but who values his family a lot more. He spends the current moments with happiness instead of putting them on hold for after earning money.
Surely there is no person who can literally afford everything. And money can’t surely buy you love, respect and dignity or any number of things not for sale.
So if even being filthy rich doesn’t get you all that you want, is there a way out?
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER believed “a man’s wealth must be determined by the relation of his desires and expenditures to his income. If he feels rich at $10 and has everything he desires, he really is rich.”
So there you have a choice again, to try to increase your wealth or to take a simpler and more satisfying route of wanting less and being satisfied with what you already have.
So does this discussion end with you accepting whatever you have and mean that you stop in your pursuit of something better?
It is not entirely wrong to have aspirations but to base your happiness on them is. Surely you have to make amends and improve otherwise you will be stuck in glut all your life. So what is the solution to this seemingly confusing take? What decision is the best decision?
This is where the STOICS’ philosophy knocks at your door with a probable solution.
A favorite tool of stoics was Negative Visualization, where they would practice visualizing and feeling the loss of everything that was important to them.
Did it sound weird at first glance?
Why would someone ever want to do that?
But this weird looking technique is the key to not only dream big but to also be happy and content.
Basically, it’s a part of human nature to adapt and become used to everything that we have in our lives. We grow accustomed to the way things are, therefore rarely do we ever contemplate what life would be like if these things were to be removed from our life. Practicing negative visualization takes us out of our human fantasyland and helps us to see that everything in life is transitory. By doing this- we become grateful for the things that we have now.
It also helps us prepare for the worst, to not feel like the end of the world when our high standards and expectations fail, when we don’t achieve what we want.
“The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.”