(Listen to this on my podcast, EnlightenMental, here)
Who are you in a race with?
In our daily lives we are bombarded with images of people with things and experiences- lives- that we would want to have and emulate. That’s marketing for you.
Buy this watch, and you’ll be cool, and everyone will like you, and you’ll be happy.
Go on this holiday, and you’ll be happy.
Eat this burger, and you’ll be happy.
You need these shoes to be happy.
Buy me, do this, have that, and you’ll FINALLY be happy.
After a while, if you take note, you start to notice the pattern in the narrative.
Somewhere along the line we were sold the notion that external things can make us happy.
Humans do everything, ultimately for a feeling, that feeling being satisfaction, or more accurately, happiness.
However, as a character from a certain family movie quoted,
“Happiness isn’t something you put inside you, it’s already there”
Where? You ask. I don’t feel it!
The expression “the pursuit of happiness” exposes the very nature of this concept called happiness.
The irony of the pursuit of happiness is that happiness in itself is never enough, nor are the things that promise to provide it. Happiness is a thing with a time limit. It is hungry, it is voracious in its appetite, and it is never satisfied. There isn’t a way to be “permanently happy”.
In truth, what we seek, is an end to our pursuits. A final, permanent, deeper satisfaction. A feeling of settled-ness (otherwise known as “peace”) and contentment.
We erroneously believe that this can be found in the temporal, fleeting feeling of happiness.
That thing we seek is actually a thing called joy.
I don’t mean joy as in mirth, or extreme happiness. I mean joy, as in
The thing that transcends circumstance and confers peace and wellbeing (often, even) in spite of circumstances.
How does this tie in to our topic today?
With the delusion that external things can give us joy, we often hold it as an end goal, but due to our desire to possess it NOW and feel that peace and satisfaction NOW, we bind this pursuit to a time-limit, and an unreasonable one at that- ASAP, which often translates to “the the moment after this one!”
We place pressure on ourselves, believing that achieving things in order to gain acknowledgement which may result in monetary compensation which we can use to obtain the things that have promised us joy, will make everything all-right.
We observe others already achieving these things, or making that money, or going on those holidays or buying those things, and consider them better than or ahead of ourselves.
All because we have, in error, placed the burden of joy on things that can never provide it.
And so we suffer. More than we need to. More than we should ever have done, had we only realised that joy is within.
Happiness is a feeling generated by circumstances, events, external things.
Conversely, joy abounds regardless of these.
So I ask again: who are you in a race against?
Are you in a race against others to be the first to achieve acknowledgement, money, things…
Or are you in a race against yourself to achieve peace and contentment?
Answer this for me, and we’ll continue our discussion next week, with part two- the pursuit of joy.
2 thoughts on “1 vs 1: the pursuit of joy (pt 1)”
Great topic! Life, Joy and the pursuit of both, should not be seen as a race, in my opinion (totally agree with you). It’s not a race with others and certainly not oneself. You touched on a major point in your article, which is the thought that external items bring joy. We all know material items and ‘the joy they bring’ are fleeting, yet we keep striving for more items. I think this is because our surroundings have conditioned us to look externally, to find joy, like you identified, when it’s really ‘within us’ we should be looking.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to have things, we just have to understand that our joy doesn’t reside within those items. Items compliment us not define us and should not be looked at for our joy.
Having said all that, I don’t think we’ll all find joy the same way though. Religion might deliver ‘joy’ for some, helping the less fortunate may do it for others, but it won’t be the same ‘source of joy’ for all of us.
Precisely. Thanks for your comment, Sola.