December 4, 2011 § 6 Comments
We have all heard the complaints that our stressful and complicated world has made it difficult for us to live joyful, meaningful lives. And there is no doubt—the stress and complexity is real.
But some of these problems and complications are real, some are anticipated, and some are seemingly fabricated by our own fears or the self-interests of people in the media and organizations. The media has effectively convinced us that we are one step away from calamity, either individually or as a nation. Similarly, organizations spend their time, mostly through advertising, convincing us there is something wrong with us, that we are inadequate in some way, and that they can sell us something to fix that “problem.” Sometimes, those with a vested interest invent the problems and complications. Neither the people in the media nor in organizations are bad people for doing this—they are just doing what the culture said would make them happy: Sell more, get richer, and find happiness. Few have taken the time to realize it does not quite work that way or even consider that what they are doing is not nice.
Regardless of the reasons why it happens, when you are constantly told you are inadequate and always a step away from the horrors of serial killers, terrorists, carcinogens, economic calamity, and seeming destruction on so many fronts, it is difficult to find peace of mind. What we don’t realize is that the problems media and organizations show us, whether real or imagined, have us looking largely outside of ourselves, where things are often uncontrollable. It leaves us worried and yearning for things having little impact on our happiness. It has us thinking in ways that actually serve as an impediment to happiness. Indeed, the daily barrage from media and organizations could drive the kindest, gentlest soul into a panic of despair.
If we commit to being happy, we need to think differently, recognizing that path to joy and meaning is found by changing the way we think about how we live. It is not about focusing on, or even isolating ourselves from what is outside of us. If we want to embark on living joyfully and meaningfully, we must make real changes by changing our mindsets. We must ask hard questions about who we are, what we need, and how we live. We must challenge what we have long assumed to be true, and find out what actually is true. We must stop focusing on the distractions, and instead choose the more joyful center of our attention. We must ignore the peripheral issues in our lives and society and instead dive deeply into recognizing and living those ways that bring a happy, meaningful life.
We need to focus on what I call the essence of living. What is the essence of living?
- It’s about living the core of who we are. Who are we, really? Who is the core person inside? What are the core gifts and talents we have that bring us happiness? When your day to day being is focused in this way, you will be happy. But in any given day, the television, our friends and family, and society at large try to define the core for us. This leaves always feeling empty.
- It’s about living a life of love. Not mushy love, not idealistic cinematic love, but rather the love that brings with it caring, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and the other great virtues.
- It’s about sharing the essence of who we are with others, giving them the wonders of who we are as often as we can.
- It’s about helping others to live their essence, live a life of love, and share their essence as well.
When we live our essence, we recognize that dealing with the complexities and stressors of our world could never allow us to get the happiness and meaning we crave—we could never find fulfillment by getting rid of external problems. We also will not find fulfillment by buying things the media wrongly tells us will bring joy. The reality is that a happy life is not a math equation; we cannot create joy and fulfillment simply by subtracting all of the complexity and stress from our lives. We cannot be happier if we simply rid ourselves of the “wrong” people in our lives, the “wrong” job, and the “wrong” things that seem to plague us. Similarly, we cannot create happiness by adding more work, getting more toys, or winning the most (real or imagined) competitions. We cannot thrive if we are living a math equation.
This blog is about understanding and changing the thinking that leads us in the wrong direction. It is about understanding the pitfalls that take us from the joy and meaning that is our birthright. It is not about judging these things as good or bad and right or wrong, but about recognizing that we think and behave in ways that do not achieve happiness and meaning for both ourselves and others. More critically, the focus is on the kind of thinking and living that fosters a society of goodness and community; about living lives of joy and meaning that will bring the kind of world we would love to leave our children. It is about remembering who we really are, understanding our core, and sharing that with others joyfully and generously.
I have walked and continue to walk this road toward happiness and meaning. It has left me certain that we are not destined to be unhappy, despite the complexities and stressors all about us. There have been problems throughout history and some people have still found ways to be happy. Our era is no worse than others, and in so many ways, much better. What’s “out there” is not the issue—the issue is learning how to transcend it and instead focus on what is within and among us.
I hope you will read The Essence of Living and consider my thoughts. Join me in exploring thinking and behaving that is life-affirming and joyous, in embracing wonder and awe, in committing to being part of a community that believes life can be more joyous and meaningful.