What causes ‘the storms’ (problems) in our lives that make us unhappy and restless and upset?
The main culprit is the view that happiness is conditional on something outside yourself.
E.g. on getting that job or earning that money or finding that particular partner, and all at the expense of so many other things.
In the extreme this way of making happiness conditional on one or two particular experiences we don’t have … is called depression.
I’m not saying that what happens in our lives ‘don’t matter’.
Or that it only matters how we think about it.
Of course not. Neither of these vulgar assertions are true.
But suppose I make it conditional for my overall happiness that I find a certain … job.
I make it my key priority to find that job.
I want it really bad.
I look for it 24/7.
I write applications until I go to sleep, etc., etc.
If I do that, I make it more difficult for myself to be happy.
I do. Pure and simple.
By making this kind of prioritization about what is allowed the most to make me happy, I inevitably take my attention away from some other ways to feel happy. I pay these other data less attention.
I have made this mistake a LOT.
Often when I was totally fixed on getting closer to nailing a certain job, ‘so I could be happy’, then I would think less of, say:
– appreciating my girlfriend
– daily good experiences, like taking a walk through the park or going to the movies
Instead I would push that little action away from the day’s agenda, because, ya know, it’s not of ‘critical importance’ … it can always wait until tomorrow!
Things like that.
Don’t be like I have been for year and years in this situation.
Pushing away the enjoyment of now, because I had not achieved a future goal.
Don’t. Just don’t.
It is stupid. It sucks.
Don’t make future goals more important than they actually are.
Don’t let the future take your present hostage.
Sure you have to think about the future and important goals and all that, and sometimes at the expense of happiness in the present.
But when does the balance tip? When is it too much?
When have you become a hostage of the future?
I was pretty close again today.
I had botched a lot of planning and hadn’t really gotten anywhere with looking for a job or, in case of my little company, more new small jobs.
I was thinking all kinds of silly thoughts about not really being cut out for fatherhood. And not at all looking forward to all the uncertainty.
And so I had to go cross-country to give a live-talk, by the way. Booked months ago. About the Incas.
Or the Last Inca Princess to be exact – that’t the title. Something Char and I had developed since our trip to Peru this summer.
I had done the talk itself, though, and rehearsed it and loved it.
History’s stories. People long forgotten whose stories I tried to tell anew. Distant mirrors.
I didn’t enjoy it one bit until I stepped unto the floor, and then I gradually loosened up and forgot that the future had taken me hostage.
That I could not really relax or loosen up until I had fixed a job, or jobs. And fixed being a good father and having a son I could care for an not too many problems.
As if …
And a million other things.
But I forgot I was a hostage.
Not so much because the talk itself went well and I enjoyed the story, telling it.
But because I could see and hear and feel that my audience really enjoyed receiving it.
It’s so different from place to place. From day to day.
But this audience really enjoyed it. And they said as much. And they asked a lot of questions.
A big group of pensioners whom I had taken into a story that made them think and feel and be in another time and place, and something they would remember.
What’s so bad about that?
It only went on for 2 hours or so.
As I went back to the City, the future began to encroach on me again. Remind me, I was its hostage.
But for some hours I escaped. Unwittingly. It was the sheer presence of the moment that took my by surprise and drew me in.
Maybe I should work more on things that give other people joy here and now.