Striving for happiness is the wrong pursuit. Striving to live a purposeful, meaningful life is what we should be after. This may involve doing things that are not necessarily fun or pleasurable but are meaningful and more worthwhile.
I listened to the Joe Rogan Podcast episode 1068 recently with Michael Shermer in which they were talking about his new book “Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.’
They touched on many topics, but one that stood out for me was Michael’s closing remarks on what does it mean to live a fulfilled life. This is something that I often ponder myself.
A product of our society.
We (many of us, predominantly in the Western World) are born into a World that prescribes to the concept that the path is to go to school, then university, get a job, find a job, work for 40-50 years, buy a house, go on holidays once or twice a year, have kids, retire, and on and on.
Bundled up with this is that in order to have happiness these are the things that are going to bring it to you and if it doesn’t well then you can always buy more stuff and that should do the trick. But for many people it doesn’t.
So we struggle with the concept of is this all there is to life and wonder how we’ll get through the next however many years of this. The truth is though, this isn’t how we are wired. Buying more things is not what gives us meaning and fulfillment.
Strive for meaning not happiness.
In his closing remarks Michael outlines that striving for happiness is the wrong pursuit. Striving to live a purposeful, meaningful life is what we should be after.
This may involve doing things that are not necessarily fun or pleasurable but are meaningful and more worthwhile.
He uses working out as an example, working out, may not be fun at the time, but afterwards you feel better about yourself, you have a better sense of self-esteem plus many other benefits.
I don’t agree with his example of working out because I quiet enjoy it and do find happiness in it at the time. There are days when I don’t particularly want to do it but do it any way and feel much better after.
Looking after a parent is another example he cites. It may not be fun or pleasurable and you don’t necessarily enjoy it but you feel better about yourself for having done it because it was the right thing to do.
I’d add to that it doesn’t even have to be someone you know or love. It can be a complete stranger. Doing something for someone else with no expectation of return is one of the most fulfilling things you could ever do.
It’s the right thing to do
Think of a time when you did a good deed and the other person was overwhelmingly grateful to you, they wished they could repay you but couldn’t. You didn’t ask for repayment and wouldn’t have taken it anyway. You just did it because it was the right thing to do, you felt amazingly good about yourself after. So why not do more of that.
Michael goes on to make the point that if you have more long term goals, not oriented towards being happy but rather on having a purpose driven life. That’s what makes people feel better about their lives and that’s enough to feel like life is worth living .
You don’t need the promise of an after life, just this life , I can make a difference, get up in the morning, do something that makes you feel great for having done it
You just need to be engaged with the world in some meaningful way and that’s enough.
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