Do you sometimes struggle to be happy despite knowing that you live a good life?
I get it, we all chase happiness because it makes a difference on the quality of our lives. I’m no different.
But I also believe we should be careful that we don’t mix up happiness and pleasure. Otherwise, you end up on the Hedonic Treadmill: A state of continually chasing pleasure to elevate your happiness levels.
But the problem is that pleasure only gives us a temporary boost in happiness. Drinking alcohol, smoking nicotine, having sex, buying the latest iPhone—it gives us pleasure. But we always go back to our set level of happiness.
I love practical advice that you can immediately apply to your life. And Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, is full of practical wisdom.
When I tell my friends, colleagues, and people I work with that I like reading about Zen Buddhism, they often make remarks like: “When are you going to grow your hair, walk around bare feet, and talk about yoga all day?”
That’s the hipster way of life. Not the Zen way.
What is Zen, actually? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s not a religion, belief, or piece of knowledge.
Just admit it, you’ve thought about it before. Social media is great and all. But you and I both know that it also sucks.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
- It’s late at night, you’re in bed, you dread waking up early tomorrow because you have to go to work, so you grab your smartphone, you open up Instagram (or whatever app you’re addicted to).
- And you start browsing, you go from one picture to the next, you watch some videos, you start feeling bad about your life, because all the other people have fun, and you have to go to work in the morning.
How many times in your life have you experienced hurt, disappointment, anger, or stress, from the difference between your imagination and reality?
We’re very creative creatures. And when we set out to do things, we always expect that everything will turn out exactly the way we want. Does this sound familiar?
- “I’m going to finish my degree. And then all the companies will line up for me. I’ll pick the one with the best compensation. And I’ll be rich.”
- “I really like her. We’ll date for a few months. Move in together. Get married. She’ll want four kids. We settle for two. Get a holiday home at the beach. Boom. Happy life.”
- “My business idea is awesome. I’ll raise some cash. Hire a few people to build the product. We’ll roll it out. The media will write about it. I’ll get on TV. And then I’ll sell the company.”
- “I’ll make a few videos. Put them on YouTube. People will share them. One of my videos will go viral. And I’m in. Show me the money.”
Chances of those scenarios coming true? I don’t know exactly. But I guess it’s somewhere close to ZERO.
Where you are in your life is a result of your habits. Will Durant said it best:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I think that’s also true for the opposite of excellence. It goes like this: Bad habits? Bad life. Good habits? Good life.
I used to be a complainer. I said stuff like:
We live in a uniquely safe, risk-free, and good time.
Mortality rate is at an all-time low. Poverty is decreasing year over year. Diseases are treatable. You get to live longer. And technology makes life easier and safer.
Evolution is a beautiful thing (if you only look at the facts).
However, that’s not the full story. People are still miserable. Suicide rates increase. People have more depressions and burnouts. More and more people are on meds. I’m not going to flush you with all the hard statistics. It’s not pretty.
But there are also soft measures that show the ugly side of today’s world. When you walk around on the streets, go to restaurants, parties, festivals, or take public transportation, you see a bunch of zombies instead of happy individuals who are celebrating life.
One of the main things I’ve learned about life is that before you conquer the external world, you have to master the inner world of your mind.
You might have all kinds of awesome goals, but if you sabotage yourself, you never achieve anything.
Legendary surfer, Laird Hamilton said it best:
“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”
Self-doubt creeps into your system at the weirdest moments. At times you don’t expect it at all. There’s a war going on inside your head. And you’re not even aware of it.