When you define #goals, you put happiness on hold.
This is Archie*. No, he’s not in slow mo. He chose to go down this slide approximately 47 times before getting bored. His slow decline allows him to take everything in. The ravens cackling, the warmth of the Australian sun on his dark hair, the sound of his mother’s endearing laughter.
When was the last time you revelled in a moment? When was the last time you enjoyed normality? When was the last time you felt happiness?
When we grow up, we become infatuated with the future. A future that is dictated by personal goals. Goals that society promises will bring us happiness. I want to be beautiful. I want to be an accomplished business owner. I want to meet the person of my dreams.
Happiness can be instant
We define goals we think should define us. Living in an age of instant gratification, when we are unable to achieve these goals immediately, we feel bad. We feel like we’ve failed. We become so fixated on the promise of happiness, we forget to enjoy the present. Goals are not instant sources of gratification. Taking pleasure from normality is.
My friend Keith* asked me of my aspirations. He asked me how I knew becoming an entrepreneur would make me happy. I couldn’t answer him. In that moment, I decided to stop working all hours, chasing an idea I hoped would bring me joy. I decided to let life happen.
“The purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Archie has nailed it. He is staying firmly in the flow. He doesn’t think about the future. Archie might dream of becoming an archeologist, a rockstar, a chicken farmer. It’s likely he’ll change his mind as many times as he takes the slide. He’s a child. A child that has no sense of expectation.
I’m not saying we should lack direction. It’s good to have focus. But relying on expectations is harmful because of the empathy gap. How can we know how we will feel if we haven’t felt it before? If we use our imagination of the best case scenario as an anchor, we can only go down. The danger of disappointment is likely.
Why consistency harms us
When we have an idea of where we should go, we develop tunnel vision. As humans, we crave consistency. We shut out what we consider to be unimportant if we’re fearful it will threaten our consistent plan. But what if you miss a detail that might derail your plan? What if this detail could throw you off-course into something beautiful and unexpected?
Today, Keith and I decided to take a hike. It rained. And this is Manchester. So it rained hard.
We changed course. We enjoyed the residual scents of a pub fireplace. We beamed over the intricacies of crystalised rock in the Museum. We laughed over our inability to remember lyrics to 90s garage music.
Don’t meticulously plan your next steps. When you do this, you miss out on the world around you. Live for now. Be curious. Pick up a book to learn, not to become more intelligent. Exercise because it feels good, not because it will make you look good. Meet someone new to begin a friendship, not because they may be The One. Welcome unexpected change. Throw yourself off-course and into the unknown.
The fear is simply because you’re not living with life. You’re living in your mind.
Stop living in your thoughts. Stop wishing your life away. Stop waiting for happiness to happen.
As Sadhguru says, if we are rooted in reality, there will be no fear. There is no fear in the now. No fear equates to happiness. Happiness not measured by a fixation of a possible future, but by how you live your life from one day to the next.
Take advice from a child and experience life’s journey at your own pace.