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If you have to try to be cool, you will never be cool. If you have to try to be happy, then you will never be happy. Maybe the problem these days is people are just trying too hard.
Happiness, like other emotions, is not something you obtain, but rather something you inhabit. When you’re pissed , and do something that you should not, 0you are not self-conscious about your state of anger.
You are not thinking to yourself, “Am I finally angry? Am I doing this right?” No, you’re out for blood. You inhabit and live the anger. You are the anger. And then it’s gone. Just as a confident man doesn’t wonder if he’s confident, a happy man does not wonder if he’s happy. He simply is. What this implies is that happiness is not achieved in itself, but rather it is the side effect of a particular set of ongoing life experiences. This gets mixed up a lot, especially since happiness is marketed so much these days as a goal in and of itself. Buy X and be happy. Learn Y and be happy. But you can’t buy happiness and you can’t achieve happiness. It just is. And it is once you get other parts of your life in order.
The failure to meet our own expectations is not antithetical to happiness, and I’d actually argue that the ability to fail and still appreciate the experience is actually a fundamental building block for happiness.
If you thought you were going to make 100,000 rupees and drive a Porsche immediately out of college, then your standards of success were superficial, you confused your pleasure for happiness, and the painful smack of reality hitting you in the face will be one of the best lessons life ever gives you. The “lower expectations” argument falls victim to the same old mindset: that happiness is derived from without. The joy of life is not having a 100,000 salary. It’s working to reach a 100,000 salary, and then working for a 200,000 salary, and so on.
So, I say raise your expectations. Elongate your process. Create ridiculous standards for yourself and then savor the inevitable failure. Learn from it. Live it.
HAPPINESS IS THE PROCESS OF BECOMING YOUR IDEAL SELF Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer. And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them.
Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them. Why? Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves. The end results don’t define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s the process of overcoming all odds with people you care about.
And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy.
Happiness doesn’t work in the way most people think it does. In fact, it operates in kind of a “backwards” way.