The amount of time we spend seeking happiness in the future is mind boggling. We spend exorbitant volumes of time doing things that will supposedly make us happy at some future date.
- We educate ourselves to attain a better career.
- We work long hours to have more money.
- We exercise our minds and bodies for greater strength and intelligence.
We improve for the sake of improving that somewhere, at some distant point down the beaten road we’ll find happiness.
All the while we’re chasing happiness, we don’t realize the fatal, vicious circle we place ourselves in. We’ve habituated ourselves into placing our happiness in the future. We’ve conditioned ourselves into allowing happiness after some level of achievement, that never comes.
We fail to realize a fatal flaw in our logic: what matters most is how you feel. Now.
We don’t completely neglect this simple fact though. We know what is most important is our feelings. Yet we often get so caught up in improving our lives, attaining goals and climbing mountains, that we forget we can be happy now. Not tomorrow. Not after we’ve completed everything on our to-do lists. Not after we’ve achieved all of our life-long dreams. Not after we’ve cleaned the house, organized the garage and clipped our toenails. Right now.
The only problem with this is the inner mechanics of our mind goes completely against contentment. Our mind is constantly telling us two things at once. Have you ever noticed that the same voice in your mind that told you to do something, is the same voice that later reprimands you for doing it?
Your mind naturally judges and compares everything. The ability of our mind to compare and contrast is essential to our success, but it has one fundamental flaw. It’s intrinsically conflicted. It’s constantly at odds with itself. How can we possibly expect to be happy if we’re in a perpetual battle for our minds?
The answer is, we can’t.
What’s worse, true happiness and contentment runs contrary to our biological wiring. We are wired to be distressed. Our mind identifies with our body and says, “oh no, you can’t be happy, you have to think about survival.” The mind fears that if we get too content, we’ll get become lazy and careless. We’re rewarded with a short burst of happiness when we achieve a goal, or find some type of security. In essence, the mind is not concerned with happiness. The mind is not interested in contentment. The mind is interested in its persistence. The mind is interested in staying alive and keeping itself going.
All this seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? I agree.
So what’s the solution?
We have to learn how to be happy in the present. We have to learn how to be impeccable with our word; to go with ourselves, not against.
Most importantly, we need to learn how to stop thinking all the time. We have to learn how to… shut up.
Jonathan is the author of the blog Illuminated Mind. He writes about finding Authenticity, Clarity and Balance in all aspects of living. His articles include Living Freestyle; Life Without a Template and The Cult of Productivity. You can subscribe to his blog here.
Image by ePi Longo.