Stop worrying about how to find happiness. Try this instead.
Today is my birthday.
I was born 29 years ago in a chaotic but also vibrant city called Athens.
Like most people, I don’t really remember much of my early childhood.
Whenever I ask my mother about the first years of my life, she usually gives me vague answers like “You were a sweet kid but also very difficult to tame.”
I guess Athens’ eclectic combination of chaos and vibrancy affected my personality.
Athens by night. Vibrant and chaotic.
While growing up I realized that this personality of mine started to irritate people. People usually like calm characters so I guess my attempt to balance between two extremes didn’t really help them like me.
I also remember that I got into fights quite often. Usually verbal fights but sometimes also physical ones. I guess it wasn’t easy for me to accept that I can irritate people.
This is when I also found out that as a man I need to defend myself. I need to be proud and not let others disrespect me. At least that’s what they told me to do.
Later on, I decided to stop fighting. I stopped because I realized that yeah sometimes it feels nice because you satisfy your animalistic impulses but I also waste too much time with these fights without any tangible benefits.
When I stopped fighting, I started getting bored. I had to focus on my studies, I had to find a job, I had to blend in. At least that’s what they told me to do.
Blending in isn’t the easiest thing to do you know. It takes time, effort, setbacks and also compromises. I got confused and I wanted answers.
So I started asking simple questions. How do you become charismatic? How do you find your passion? How do you find a job you like? How do you earn more money? At least that’s what they told me to ask.
These questions led me to more difficult questions. What is the purpose of all this? What is the meaning of life? Why am I not happy? I want to be happy.
I asked many people. I asked my parents, I asked my friends, I asked my colleagues, I asked my professors, I asked my bosses. They all gave me vague answers like my mother did when I asked her about my early childhood.
One day I was reading an article on leadership and the writer said at some point that leaders know how to ask the right questions.
This confused me a bit and got me thinking. I guess that I am getting vague answers because I am not asking the right questions.
So I decided that it is time to start asking the right questions. That, however, wasn’t something they told me to do. That was something I decided to do by myself.
And so I did. I asked the right questions.
These questions, however, weren’t directed towards others. These questions were directed towards me. Because when I realized what the right questions are, I knew that only I could answer them. Others would keep giving me vague answers.
From Vagueness to Reality
When you usually ask, “What is the purpose of life,” most people give you the same answer: “To be happy.”
What a vague answer, I think every time I hear those words.
But I seriously cannot blame the ones who give it.
It’s actually quite a good answer if you think about the definition of happiness, as Wikipedia describes it:
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Who wouldn’t want to experience such a mental state?
Who wouldn’t want to make the pursuit of this mental state his life purpose?
The problem, however, is that this mental state is so vaguely defined that even the idea of pursuing it becomes difficult.
In our pursuit of happiness what most of us fail to understand is that our mind is an analytical tool that requires well-defined concepts and well-specified goals in order to function properly.
Abstract Expressionism. Beautiful but confusing.
Abstractions and vagueness confuse it. They reduce its processing power. They put it into sleep mode.
So here is an idea.
Instead of pursuing abstract terms, why don’t you give your mind something tangible to work with?
Can’t think of anything? Well, let me help you a bit.
Let me help you by giving you a better answer to the “What is the purpose of life” question.
The purpose of life isn’t to pursue happiness. The purpose of life is to live.
Not really huh?
Don’t worry. Just stick with me for a bit and the fireworks will come later.
Now I want you to concretize this idea in your mind.
The purpose of life is to live.
Because once you stop pursuing vague concepts and actually focus on life itself, then is when you can actually decide to make the idea of living more enjoyable.
Now I want you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
What do you see?
Do you see a person living an interesting life? Do you see a person that finds it difficult to get bored? Do you see a person feeling at ease with his surroundings?
If your answer to any of those questions was meh or no, pay close attention to what I am about to say.
I have faced these questions many times in the past and just like you most of the time the answer was meh or no.
However, after careful consideration of my life experiences thus far, I came to the conclusion that things are way simpler than we think.
What we strive for throughout our life is to justify our existence.
And since our minds haven’t evolved in a way that allows us to answer the infamous “Why do we exist” question, our only purpose is to make this existence as enjoyable as it is humanly possible.
Now listen up.
Enjoyable is nothing complicated. Enjoyable is finding a way to experience more positive emotions and also manage to control the negative ones.
Understanding the last sentence is a very critical moment for your life and future development.
Let me repeat it so you can process it better:
Enjoyable is finding a way to experience more positive emotions and also manage to control the negative ones.
This sentence suggests that you have established your purpose concretely and you just need to find a way to reach that purpose.
For most people, this is an overwhelming process that causes frustration, confusion, and anxiety.
But not for you.
Not for you because I will make the pursuit of this purpose short and straightforward.
I won’t just give you direction. I will also give you choice. More specifically I will give you two choices.
How tohow to find happiness
Choice #1 –Live in a capitalistic society and make money
Whether you like it or not, we live in capitalistic societies and the major moving force behind these societies is money.
So your first choice is a no-brainer – make money.
And when I say make money, I am not talking about finding a mediocre 9-5 job that can pay your bills, your rent, your Saturday night drinks and your 401(k).
Neither am I talking about earning millions and living a lavish/provocative/Dan Bilzerian lifestyle.
What I am mostly referring to, is finding a way to earn enough money so you can experience a lifestyle that satisfies two major needs: The need for value and the need for freedom.
The need for value
I don’t really think that I need to elaborate on why the need for value is paramount in order to experience an abundance of positive emotions during your life.
The main purpose of our blog is to make you a man of value. All areas we cover are aimed towards this direction and keep reading our articles is the best thing you can do.
The problem with value is that it needs to be projected both internally and externally.
Character development, social skills, leadership skills, emotional and social intelligence are all great ways to manifest your value internally.
The problem is that the majority of the population and by that, I mean at least 90% of the people you are going to meet in your life, will rarely focus solely on those areas.
Yes, you might be able to effectively project high-value personality traits, but if you are 28 and you still live in your parents’ basement, no one will really appreciate these traits.
If you are a delusional optimist, you can think that you will find this 10% that will respect you only for your internal value.
If you are a realistic idealist, you understand that in capitalistic societies value needs to be projected also externally.
Now, I don’t want you to get confused here. Under no circumstances am I suggesting that you need to be a show-off.
What I am saying is that you need to have the ability to invest some money in the way you sell yourself to the rest of the world.
Own a nice apartment
Own a nice car
Own nice clothes
Take care of your grooming and style
Be able to dine in an expensive restaurant
Be able to enter high-end clubs
Be able to buy gifts for others
Be able to enjoy a nice holiday experience
All of the above are “luxuries” don’t make you a poser but at the same time elevate your external value. They make your life easier, more comfortable and at the same time communicate an image of financial abundance, which 90% of the people will definitely admire.
The need for freedom
You know that feeling when you are at the office and you have finished all your tasks for the day but you can’t go home because everybody is going to give you “the look”?
You know that feeling when you are out with your friends and you want to buy them drinks but you are afraid that if you do so, you are not going to have enough money left for the rest of the month?
You know that feeling when your car’s gas tank is empty and instead of filling it up you pay just $10 so it can get you through the next days?
Well, that’s far from what freedom feels like.
When you decide to live in capitalistic societies, the idea of freedom is closely associated with how much you depend on others and also with how much money you make.
Focusing on jobs and activities that can only help you make ends meet and pay your main expenses is a concept that will unquestionably lead you towards a scarcity mentality and positive emotions have no place there.
Being free suggests that you are the master of yourself and your choices.
Nobody says that you need to become a consumerism junkie, but being able to afford some things or activities that can boost positive emotions, is definitely a good way to experience freedom in a capitalistic world.
How to make more money
Now, advice is good and all but wanting to make money and eventually getting there is a long way to go.
Although I have a good understanding of financial concepts, unfortunately, I am not a financial guru to give you advice on how to make good money.
Just like most of you, I did my studies and after that, I worked for a huge institution in London for a couple of years. This achievement, although it was what most people would describe as a success, it made me realize that it will not help me progress fast in terms of both personal and financial growth.
I started digging around and I found out that the best way to make money is to create your own business. That’s when I decided to pursue an entrepreneurship career by starting my own blog and getting involved in some other entrepreneurial activities.
My journey so far has been difficult and demanding but I can assure you that there is no chance I would go back to my previous life.
The stakes are high and different challenges arise every day but all the ideas that I evangelize through this blog have made this journey way more manageable.
Despite all the difficulties, I can assure you that when Nassim Taleb was lecturing, “Difficulty is what wakes up the genius,” he knew exactly what he was talking about.
There is a genius inside every single one of us. It takes time, effort and devotion to your goals to wake him up, but eventually he will.
And when he will, there is probably nothing that can stop him.
Now, before I move on to your next choice, I want to give you some external sources to read in order to understand the concept of money better and help you take some actionable steps towards this direction if you decide to do so.
We will definitely add some more financial wisdom in the blog as we grow but for now, these people are a great destination:
Choice #2 – Embrace Spiritual Enlightenment
A definition of spiritual enlightenment is hard to pin down. This is, in part, because “spiritual enlightenment” has been used in so many ways to describe so many things, similar to the way in which “love” is used to describe everything from a preference for ice cream to a merging with everything. And it is also because spiritual enlightenment is such a rich and complex experience that is innately hard to define.
But my purpose here is not to make things more complex than they already are.
So, let’s simplify spiritual enlightenment by giving you the quick and dirty definition for it:
There is no you. There is just reality.
No matter how thought-provoking and difficult to digest this idea is, it holds the truth to a lifestyle defined by an abundance of positive emotions.
Spiritually enlightened people have disengaged themselves from earthly problems and have managed to transcend the limits of their reality. Ego is not present in what they experience. Ego is just a byproduct of the reality they have created.
The catch is that this mental state is extremely difficult to achieve. It takes years of spiritual practice in order to accept and eventually escape reality as we experience it.
And the most difficult part of all?
You cannot achieve it while living in a capitalistic society.
Capitalistic societies are by default materialistic and ego-driven, thus making spiritual enlightenment a delusion.
Spiritual enlightenment requires a lack of distractions and absolute focus on one and only thing: Destruction of ego.
You, wanting to achieve something like that while earning money and trying to project value, is like being on a raft in the middle of the ocean and trying to paddle to the coast with your bare hands.
All that said, if you consider spiritual enlightenment as your life’s purpose I would strongly recommend finding alternative societies to practice it.
Some examples include:
Now, because spiritual enlightenment is a huge topic to cover, I will try and devote a whole post on it in the future.
For now, you can check out this great video by Leo from www.actualized.org. It is almost 1 hour long, but it is definitely worth watching.
I guess that both choices were far from what you were expecting, right?
Mostly when people try to give you direction, they try to communicate it through the prism of a “politically correct” framework that usually fails to grab the actual needs of the individual.
I am not here to give you “politically correct” answers. I am here because I understand your needs and I want to help you create a reality that will match those needs.
The choices suggested above are real and specific. They are things you can work on than just keep experiencing a dull and mundane reality that embraces vagueness and abstraction.
Both choices have their pros and cons, but they are both choices that will give your life a tangible purpose.
If you want my opinion, however, no matter how much money you make, no matter how much you will enjoy the luxuries of a capitalistic lifestyle, eventually you will embrace spiritual enlightenment.
Because our minds, those wonderful instruments that desperately try to balance between logic and emotion will always keep prompting us to expand the limits of our reality. And this, for now, only spiritual enlightenment can offer.
Then why don’t you do it now, you may very interestingly ask?
Well, I thought about it many times and I decided that I want to experience choice#1 first and see where it will lead me.
I guess I still have a huge ego.
I know that at some point I will decide to dedicate my life to areas outside my ego. Areas like spiritual enlightenment, or helping those in need, or even creating my own family.
What I know though, is that until then I have a long way to go.
This, however, is my choice.
Your choice is definitely up to you.
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Stop worrying about how to find happiness. Try this instead.