We are tree-climbing rabbits. Where — and how — do we find happiness?

Photo credits: By Ernst Vikne (Tall trees) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We are rabbits. All of us. We live in a jungle full of trees — hundreds and thousands of them. We climb trees in this jungle. That’s what we are meant to do. We climb multiple trees in our lifetime. Each tree signify a different milestone or a goal. The higher we reach, the happier we become. But we all have different capacities to climb — some of us rabbits are fast climbers, while some of us are slower. That’s okay. Each tree is different and needs a different style of climbing. So in a way, there is no absolute fast- or slow-climbing in this jungle of multiple trees. And we know this most of the times, but we do occasionally forget this. Even that’s okay. Because all of us rabbits have our own list of trees that we find important and our own priority-list of trees. So this means that we can choose to become fast on *our* priority trees. And so life goes on, peacefully.

While doing our own crazy thing and climbing our chosen tree, we see our friends — and strangers, sometimes — climbing other trees. We begin to think that maybe, just maybe, we are wasting our time climbing our tree and what we should be doing, instead, is to climb that other tree. Why? Oh, just because a lot of our friends seem to be climbing that tree over there! We start a discussion with ourselves — wouldn’t the view from that tree look more wonderful than mine. We start to feel confused. Sooner or later, we slow our pace of climbing our tree. Our focus shifts. And then the bad thing happens. We start wanting to stop climbing our erstwhile-chosen tree and get our asses down on the ground and restart our life by climbing on that other inviting tree.

And sometimes this is okay. Because not all trees are really infinitely tall — in the beginning of our lives at least — and we can quite easily start to climb the other tree. But, as it happens, as I am sure most of us realize, the trees start getting taller as we grow up. They require more time and more expertise to reach their top. This means a lot of dedicated time required to learn climbing that particular tree in order to be able to reach its top. And so, if we decide to quit our journey to the top of our tree before reaching its top, and instead start climbing another tree, not only would we not be reaching the top of our tree but also we would have to start from the bottom of that other inviting tree. And this is perfectly fine if the other tree is what we really want to climb. If that’s the case, by all means, we should go ahead and start climbing it even if it takes a thousand years to learn how to climb that other tree. But if we change our tree to that other inviting tree because our friend-rabbit seems to be enjoying its own climb and is nearing the very top of that tree, and if that is our motivation of climbing that other tree, then we would sooner or later feel discouraged, even after starting our new climb. Eventually we might want to quit climbing even this new tree. And maybe search for a third tree to climb. And this might just go on forever.

It is also possible that we might not want to start our journey on the second tree from its bottom because we think that it takes a lot of time to climb it and hey, my friend is already half-way up there. In such cases, we want to take a shortcut and decide to jump (gasp) from our first tree to the second one. We jump from wherever we are on our tree to the second tree that we think we want to climb (my precioussss). Poor rabbits-us. We might fall right onto the ground, only to injure ourselves and to lose the ability to climb any tree at all. Sometimes we do manage to get to the other tree, may be slightly lower than where we intended to. And we think that something good has happened. But even in this case, we realize sooner or later, that we have lost the chance to learn some of the specific tricks of climbing this particular tree because we did not start from the bottom (as we know, some tricks are common across climbing all trees, but some other tricks are specific to the tree we have now decided to climb, which we would have learnt if we had climbed it from its bottom most point). So we now face difficulty in climbing this tree and when we see our friend-rabbit, our original motivator, climbing at an even faster pace up above the tree, we lose courage. We lose direction. And sometimes we just give up and jump off into the blankness.

Remind yourself that the higher we reach in this jungle, the happier we are. Now, some trees are taller than others, which means that climbing a shorter tree as compared to a taller one would in itself limit our happiness to an upper bound. However, all trees are sufficiently tall — as you would realize — to take us to a happiness level that we would be happy to live with. It means that we don’t have to climb the tallest tree. We don’t even have to choose the second tallest tree. It simply implies that we don’t need to worry at all about the height of the tree when deciding which tree to climb till the time we know that we would enjoy climbing this tree.

But what about the height of our friend-rabbit’s tree? The answer to that, fellow rabbit, is that we would enjoy the climb on our tree much more if we don’t distract ourselves with the height of trees our friend-rabbits are climbing. But this distraction is bound to occur if we are too much into the social-tree-media, where we would most of the times let ourselves be bombarded with thoughts of how great our friends are doing climbing their trees. And this is fine, as it is. But when this leads to us starting to get unsure of our own tree, problems arise. Instead, if we can focus on becoming better at climbing our own tree, we would reach the top faster and we should know that reaching the top of *any* tree comes with the special power of being noticed by a lot of other rabbits. Also, we gain more generic tree climbing tricks in the process of reaching the top of any tree. So reaching the top of any tree is great in itself irrespective of the height of the tree.

Now, having reached the top of one tree, the one tree that we stuck to, we can now try jumping to another tree — if we so desire. By all means, we can retire and stay our entire life at the top of that tree. But if we choose to continue our exploration, we can decide to jump. This jump would be different from the jump we would have taken from the midway of this tree because by jumping from the top of this tree, we would now reach at a much higher place on any other tree than what we would have reached had we jumped before reaching the top, not to mention that we would not have gotten those special generic tree climbing powers before reaching the top of this tree.

We are still all rabbits. We still climb trees. And we now realize that we would do us and our rabbit-world a whole carrot-good if we can stick to one tree and reach the top before deciding to jump on any other tree. Of course, the moment we really realize that the current tree is not what we want to climb, we should get off of it as quickly as an insect wants to run away from a wretched cobweb. But if there is no substantial reason to want to get on some other tree, we should ensure to reach the top of our tree before wanting to climb another tree. There would most certainly be some difficult parts on this tree during our climbing-journey and sometimes we wouldn’t know how to cross a particular hurdle — and it is okay to wait — but eventually we would find a solution. Winning over the hurdles would make us as happier as the difficulty of the hurdle we clear. At times, we would stop our climb when we face a hurdle, and this would make us miserable. In such times, we should realize that we have crossed similar hurdles on our way till here, and in all those problematic hurdles — in every single one of them — what showed us the way of how to clear the hurdle was the hurdle itself (the work itself teaches you how to do it). So we should never-ever stop the climb, whether it is easy or difficult. The more we climb, the sooner we would reach the top.

And as we climb, there comes a moment when we inadvertently realize that we are climbing the tree not because we want to reach the blissful-top, but we are climbing because we enjoy the process of climbing and therein lies happiness.

At that moment, we would stop obsessing about the tree-top. That we would eventually reach the top would become a function of us enjoying the climb itself. But such transformation occurs only when we get seriously good at climbing our tree.

In conclusion, to use words of a successful tree-top reaching rabbit from the past in a slightly different context: Throw off the bowlines (select your tree and stop worrying about other trees). Sail away from safe harbor (stop doing nothing and start climbing your tree), catch the trade wind in your sails (grow your expertise in climbing this tree). Explore (climb higher and higher). Dream (of your new strengths as you climb further up). Discover (the joys of becoming a superman climber of this one tree, your tree).

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