It often feels like I can’t switch on my computer without being told that MY life would be better if I had :
1. More stuff
2. More money
3. More ‘success’
4. More ‘status’
5. A life more like theirs.
I see this happening both directly and indirectly, subtlety and bombastically.
I started noticing this phenomenon as the influence of ‘ideal’ placed upon body type – but extrapolated this to not be limited to our body, but rather including everything from home, to transport, to career, to every choice…
I find that so many people of influence use this ‘power’ to convince others that they could find happiness if only they aspired to be more like them, a thoroughly offensive idea…
So as a person of some small amount of influence, I wanted to offer a divergent view.
1. Stuff doesn’t matter. If you believe that ‘stuff’ makes you happy, or more worryingly, makes you better, this makes me sad. Stuff can’t do that – it can provide for a temporary state of blissful ignorance, but this is scant consolation. You may choose to live within the belief that stuff is central to your happiness, and thats cool. But the longer you delay the inevitable conversation that comes with confronting this truth, the harder it will hit you when you have it. Some people delay this conversation until the very end of their lives – for me at least, this is a dreadful moment to be having a conversation with yourself about how you have wasted your life on a commercial lie.
2. Money does matter, to say otherwise is a lie. It the currency of our time and without any of it life can be very hard indeed. But money only matters to the extent that you can eat, be sheltered, be safe and warm. To be below this line is to suffer atrociously. To be on or above it is to experience 99% of the benefits money can bring. The other 1% takes you back to number 1 and we know where that leads…
3. ‘Success’ is an intangible. What is success for you is not success for me. Your definition of success is both unique and fluid – what I mean by that, is that in 10 years from now, it will probably be vastly different. For somebody else to define what success represents as a perennial, indestructible absolute is to buy into the greatest lie of all, which is…
4. Status. To cave to status is to assume that others can decide whether your life is a success, and to define yourself by where groupthink has fit you into their overall ideals.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t strive for more money, stuff or status – that is your choice and I respect that choice.
I Just want to offer forwards the possibility that it may not bring you the expectant and promised benefits.
I frequently see a focus on the above factors to be aligned with dissatisfaction, negative comparison and frustration as opposed to the ‘happiness’ that is listed on the price tag.
On reflection, there are very few things that I have personally found to be of consistent, genuine and lasting value – yet while small in number, these things of value can be acquired in an instant and are universally available if we manage to turn down the noise of popular opinion.
I wanted to share them with you.
1. Health: Not appearance – but vitality, energy and mobility. This is priceless. If your capacity to have it were ever taken away from you, there is no monetary sum you would not exchange for its return.
2. Positive human relationships: Selfless acts, kindness and a desire to make the life of others better. I learned this much later than I wish I had.
3. Engagement in task: Find joy in what you are doing, whatever that is.
This is in stark contradiction to ‘ You must find what you love’. Another (half) lie that leaves people chasing a mystical dragon. I will speak more of this another time.
‘Love what you do’ is a far more fluid and lasting concept. Most importantly, THIS concept is real and can be practised and improved on.
Note: This is a long conversation for another time. Whilst finding ‘what you love’ is a wild goose chase, there is vast importance in not spending a lifetime doing things you abjectly despise.
4. Uniqueness: Protect and admire your individuality with the resolve of a Knights Templar. It is the essence of who you are…your uniqueness cannot be held against anything other than its particularity….
This is just a fraction of what I have to say, but for now, I feel has touched the limit of what is relevant within this group.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I believe I have the answers, because I most certainly don’t – but my contemplation on these matters is deep and constant – my hope is to accelerate your own journey and save you meeting some of the the dead ends that I have.
I like what you list as of value, but take issue with your statement “These things can be acquired in an instant and are universally available.” Without regular exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, health slips away. And the unfortunate truth is even when we do what we can to encourage health, for some with chronic physical issues, it is not universally available. My attitude toward health is to do what is in my control to maintain good health, accept that there are things out of my control and to be extremely thankful for the good health I enjoy.
Human relationships also require a great deal of work to acquire and maintain. And time. Not instantaneous. And often pain and sacrifice.
Again, I think your list of things to value (and those not to value) is excellent, but these things require work and commitment. And are well worth the effort!
Effort is always silently assumed, nothing worth having can be had without effort.
Yet, the moment you start to exercise, eat healthily or engage in health behaviours you are moving in the right direction and will feel the difference – this benefit is taken away by the decision to stop. Thousands of hours of coaching have taught me it is engagement in health, rather than destination that matter. Why discourage people by telling them how far they have to go when we can’t even say with any confidence say how far they have to go, where they should be going or what the limits are?
Provided we are focused on the path the rewards start showing themselves instantly, at the moment of action – some psychologically and some physically. Of course progress is made and changes happen, but the destiny is less important than the journey.
If we choose to define health within our own narrow perspective then it is true that some people will not attain the same health as others (chronic issues). I see the path of health as relative to the individual – can the advanced cancer patient not take great pleasure from health? Can they not find more life? Perhaps they choose not to, and I support this decision. But if they do choose health, I believe they can find benefits that matter to them. Perhaps there are limits, but hope is also a benefit that I would never underestimate.
As far as relationships go. I’m not sure that anybody would ever suggest that they don’t require work and sacrifice, much like health.
Very well said and very true.