The Daily Stoic for February 17th. “The enemy of happiness”.
“It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.24.17
Recently, one of my best friends from Cartagena, my home town, had his first baby. I was so glad and happy for him. For years, I had wondered if he would manage to get into a relationship ever.
When we were at college, I once asked him about girls. His answer was:
Oh, I have no time for dating a girl right now. When I finish college…
I was struggling those days with accepting myself, so I thought it was normal. Then, when we finished college, the question appeared again, and this time his answer started to look like a pattern:
Oh, I am so busy right now looking for a job. As soon as I get a job…
Actually, some time later he got a job, but it was not steady enough. Later, he told me he wanted to become a cop, his true dream, so he was waiting for that. Then he finally became a cop at the age of 30, but still didn’t have a steady financial situation… He’s had his first son at 40.
In my view, he was postpoing his happiness indefinitely. That is just a small example, but we all fall into that trap, specially when we are young.
That also brings to mind how I was feeling when I worked at a cubicle. It was the exact same feeling.
I was yearning for a future situation in which I would be free from the chains of the corporate world, and happy.
Psychologists call that “conditional happiness”, an artifact of our minds in which we postpone our happiness to a future situation or event that never arrives.
That Grass Is Greener
Since our childhood, as part of our education, we are taught tons and tons of rules.
Some of them are explicit “you shouldn’t do this”, “you should behave like that”, while some of them are implicit “you can’t do this”, “you should only do this”, “others may think of this like that”.
By the time we become adults, the latter have shaped our character, and how we see ourselves and the world around us.
The problem is that many of those implicit rules destroy our ability to believe in ourselves -that kind of dress doesn’t suit you well-, or that we can be anything -you can’t play piano- or achieve anything -that business won’t work-.
As a result, apart from a bunch of fears, we introduce this “The grass is greener” concept in our minds.
If only I could do that…
I wish I was like him…
That’s unfortunately out of my reach…
The Enemy Of Happiness
All this yearning, this future expectations of a better life, the constraints that have been imposed upon us since we are children, are the enemies of our happiness.
We need to actively pursue it with our actions and decisions. If you are happy, congratulations! If not, do something. Act, don’t yearn. Nobody else can change your situation but you.
In fact, happiness is not a static state, it’s a way of living, and involves a constant search.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The enemy of happiness”, warns us about the risk of yearning indefinitely for a future situation in which we will be happy. I cannot agree more.
Happiness is something that we need to actively fight for every day. Our decisions and actions are important in this process.
Don’t settle. Act now and change your world. Be the person that you want to be. Today.