Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Pursuit


         Just a brief disclaimer. I obviously know very little about happiness at this point in my life. But I wanted to give it a try. Apologies, in advance, for the cockiness. 


         Part one. There exist two kinds of people on this planet: those who think in terms of the present, and those who think in terms of the future. You need to be neither of those people. There are inherent flaws with both of those mentalities. Those who concern themselves with only the present are often associated with words like spontaneous and reckless. Humans have evolved into a hyper-intelligent species because of our ability to plan and solve problems; don’t suppress brain function out of principle. On the other end of the spectrum, individuals who are dominated by dreams for the future are often emotionally disabled and prone to stress.  
         Generally speaking, try not to stubbornly associate yourself with any sort of exclusive mantra that confines you to a single kind of lifestyle. I went through a brief period of my life when I openly classified myself as a rationalist. I would treat decisions with a cold and critical sternness, weighing the pros and cons extensively, and making success an utmost priority. In practice, however, I was just kind of annoying and difficult to deal with. I became bored with dwelling on each and every choice.
In reality, people are complex and dynamic, constantly evolving, and labels only act to inhibit change.  If there is ever a point in your life when you can describe yourself in one word, then you need to start over.
            Part two. Happiness is perhaps the most subjective concept that humans struggle with. Happiness in rural China is not the same as happiness in the suburbs of Baltimore. Resist the urge to compare. You and your neighbor are not the same person, and you and your neighbor do not have the same perspective on what happy means. My proof for this is in the following clichéd ultimatum: would you rather be rich doing something you hate, or be broke doing something you love? People tend to swing both ways on this question; some believe money will grant them happiness, and others do not. I could easily argue that wealth has the potential to invoke some flavor of happiness in humans—not everyone, for sure, but a hefty portion. And conversely, for many people, money isn’t necessary in the equation. You must discover what makes you happy, and then pursue that, whatever it may be.
            Part three. Excitement is an emotion that we have full control over. In other words, it can be fabricated at will. I drive to school on Wednesdays, pumping my fist to electronic dance music, because I know that the cafeteria is serving French Fries. If you allow yourself to get excited about things most would consider “insignificant”, then you are allowing yourself to subsequently achieve happiness from those things. I was once told that in times when I am struggling to muster the energy I need to persist, I should look to the future to an event when I know I will be happy, and utilize that projected energy. It’s one part mental trick and one part logical concept. Throughout elementary school, my parents forced me to play baseball in a rec. league. I dreaded every single Saturday morning of springtime in those years. What got me through it? My parents would promise to buy me a new Transformers action figure after every game. After a while, I started liking Saturday morning. I knew that once I got through the bad, the good was right on the other side.
            Part four: Human relationships can be some of the most generous sources of happiness as long as you have the right ones. I know that some of my friends might not be great people, but I’m not going to pretend to have some sort of moral obligation to not associate with those people. The truth is, I have fun with them, and that’s what matters more than anything else to me, because I’ve made fun a priority for my own personal happiness. If, instead, being ethical was one of my priorities for happiness, I would have friends in accordance with that principle. I suppose what I’m getting at is to, at a minimum, have a decent explanation for your relationships. If I ask you, “Why are you friends with that person?” and your answer is, “I don’t know,” then get rid of that friend.
            Part five. Nostalgia is the manifestation of old remnants of happiness. When you get nostalgic, your brain is simply reminding you that you were happy back then. My policy is to live with the intent of creating memories. I never want there to be a month of my life that I have forgotten because nothing exciting happened. Try new things, take new risks, whatever is necessary to make sure that by the end you’ll have a story to tell.