Image Credit of Pixabay

The Quest for Happiness

The original transcript of the dialogue between Me and My Grand Father.

Grand Father:

Are you aware that we often spend our entire life learning to be unhappy?

Now please don’t give me that look. Let me first explain this to you.

The way we learn to be unhappy is by buying lot of mental models.

Me:

Could you please explain this model because only models I am aware of are those pretty looking fashion models.

Grand Father:

A mental model is a commonly accepted notion about the way the world works. It is an amalgamation of perception, imagination and comprehension.

The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. We are at best only aware of few selected concepts, and their interpersonal relationships. And we often use those to represent the real system.

We’ve got mental models on how to get the best education, find a dream job, how to excel at work, how to pick a restaurant or choose a movie …literally dozens of them.

Me:

So where is the problem?

Grand Father:

The problem isn’t that we have mental models. The problem is that we are not even aware that we are processing almost all of our decisions through the prism of these mental models.

We think this is the way the world works. And the more we invest in a mental model, the more it appears to be true.

A kind of confirmation Bias.

And most of the mental models are a variation of the if-then model.

And the if-then model is: if this happens, then we will be happy.

“I’ll Be Happy When I’m Married to the Right Person”
“I’ll Be Happy When I am successful in getting My Dream job”
“I’ll Be Happy When I’m Rich and Successful”

Me:

You mean to say that all our obsession with outcome is highly misplaced?

Grand Father:

Well, we live in a world where obsession with outcome has become the default personality trait of every achiever.

We often tend to define our life in the following way:

Here I am, here is where I wish to go, these are the precise steps that I need to take in order to get from where I am today to where I wish to go, and if I succeed, life is wonderful. And if I don’t, then I have failed miserably, and this means that life is no good, life sucks.

If you are obsessed with the outcome then you are guaranteed to have more than your fair share of frustration, resentments and all other stuff that makes life suck.

What you can do is start investing in the process instead. That is, once you have determined, here is where I am, here is where I want to be, your focus on the outcome is only to the extent that it gives you direction. Thereafter you start investing in the process.

You are unequivocally clear about the steps you wish to take, and you put everything into it.

If you succeed, wonderful.

And if you don’t succeed, still no harm, because now you have a new starting point, and from that new starting point, you select another outcome and keep going. And when you do that, you will find that every day brings out the best in you.

Me:

Wow. Sounds pretty simple to me. Is there any catch in it?

Grand Father:

First of all stop confusing happiness with enriching experiences.

Most of the things that we do in our life are just activities providing us with multitude of experiences.

Don’t believe me. Just have a re-look at all those activities that you think makes you happy.

Going to movies, vacation, shopping, adventure, drinks, dinners, new possessions etc. all are nothing but mere enriching experiences.

Do you really think these experiences will eventually make you happy. Think again.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Me:

How a person with limited capability can make any visible difference?

Grand Father:

By simply being useful so that the life could become more meaningful.

It need not be anything big in particular. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. And as a result you will have your share of small but significant contributions.

The last thing you want when you are on your deathbed is the realization that there’s zero evidence that you ever existed.

Not the kind of evidence that we often witness in social media where every silly minute details of insignificant lives are so very meticulously documented right across every social media platform.

Me:

Could you please suggest some ways of being more useful in our life?

Grand Father:

Being useful is an acquired habit. You need to work on it to start seeing every small opportunities that is there in front of you. You can:

Help your friend in studies if you you think he is struggling.

Call your old friend and ask if you can help him with something.

Engage yourself in some silly activities with your kids.

Help your boss with something that is beyond your responsibility.

Write your personal interpretation about some interesting stuff that you recently learned.

Me:

If that’s the case then I guess being useful is all about the mindset.

Grand Father:

Absolutely right.

Mindset but with a difference.

And like any other mindset, it often starts with being very decisive about your life long pursuit. What are you doing that is making some visible difference in this world?

You got to be brutally truthful with yourself to find out the answers. Any self deception on your part would often result in lot of regrets.

Me:

Regrets, how?

Grand Father:

Bronnie Ware is a writer who worked for many years in palliative care. When she asked her patients whether they had any regrets in their lives or if they would have done anything differently, a number of themes came up again and again. These are the most common ones:

I WISH I’D HAD THE COURAGE TO LIVE A LIFE TRUE TO MYSELF, NOT THE LIFE OTHERS EXPECTED OF ME.
I WISH I HADN’T WORKED SO HARD.
I WISH I’D HAD THE COURAGE TO EXPRESS MY FEELINGS.
I WISH I’D STAYED IN TOUCH WITH MY FRIENDS.

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Originally published on http://studentlifemadeeasy.com/the-myth-of-happiness/