All humans search for happiness. And all humans know that it’s an elusive state. Few of us can honestly say that we often go through an entire day being completely happy. Even fewer can say the same for an entire week, an entire month or an entire year. Never mind an entire life-time.
Part of the problem is that we’ve been taught to look for happiness by acquiring material things. It is a persistent illusion because, like any good illusion, it contains a portion of truth.
To a certain extent, material things do bring happiness. But there’s more to this understanding than meets the eye.
For example, if a person is walking around in the cold of night, shivering and hungry, and they’re invited to come inside, to sit by a warm fire and eat some warm soup, they will be much happier than before. In this instance material comfort does contribute a great deal toward happiness.
However, what we don’t always understand is that, as our basic needs are met, one by one, material things will contribute less and less toward our happiness.
Think about that cold and hungry person. They’re much happier now, sitting next to a warm fire with a bowl of soup. However, if we made them a second fire and gave them another bowl of soup, would their happiness again increase by the same amount? Off course not. Nothing else will come close to that first taste of warm soup.
Likewise, if we have a basic need to get from one place to another and walking is not an option, a car will contribute toward our happiness. But buying a fancy expensive model will not make us any happier than buying a more simple one.
We might feel a momentary sense of satisfaction, driving in our fancy car. But all shopping addicts know that the feeling quickly disappears.
And it’s not true happiness. It is a false and empty sense of satisfaction put there by a materialistic society dependent on our consumption to keep the money making wheels turning.
Because our entire culture, and in particular the advertising industry, has taken that basic premise, that material comfort brings happiness, and distorted it completely. To a point where we’ve been led to believe that finding happiness is a constant search for better things.
Many people have however started realizing that material wealth does not guarantee happiness. But it hasn’t solved the problem. Because we’re still looking for happiness somewhere else. If it’s not material wealth, then what is it?
The problem isn’t just that our culture convinced us to constantly buy new things, in search of happiness, to support a consumerist society that generates huge profits for a tiny elite.
The real illusion we’ve been fed is that happiness lies outside of ourselves.
Many people no longer look for happiness through constantly buying new things. Many people have awakened to the insane nature of a consumerist society.
However, most of us still look for external sources of happiness, within events and relationships, for example.
If I can meet that perfect partner, I will be happy. If am promoted, I will be happy. If that person approves of me, I will be happy. If one day I finally understand how the world really works, I will be happy.
The problem is that we still expect to find happiness through other people and events in the external world.
And when things don’t go as we want them to, we become upset.
The lie we’ve been told is not just that material wealth brings happiness, but that happiness is something that can be found outside of ourselves.
Real happiness, however, lies within.
Living a life without unnecessary stress and worry, brings peace. And that inner peace is what brings true and lasting happiness. It is a state of being which, if found, can always be there. Regardless of what happens in the external world.
But it is not like buying a new car. It is more difficult than that.
Not only because we are used to looking for happiness in the external world, but because those who still seek happiness in the external world will accuse us of being careless when we don’t react as they expect us to react, when things don’t go as planned.
It is however a false accusation.
Because being care-free is not the same as being care-less.
Being care-free means not worrying and stressing about things that we cannot control, while focussing our attention there where we can in fact make a real difference.
We cannot control the fluctuation of the global stock-market, we cannot control what will happen tomorrow and we cannot change the past, but, for example, we can take care in not overreacting with anger and irritation. We can take care to understand our own emotions, instead of projecting them onto other people.
Being care-less, on the other hand, means not caring about anything, not even when we can make a lasting impact.
Think about a child building a sand-castle. They’re not worried about what will happen tomorrow. They’re not thinking about the past, worrying about everything that went wrong.
They’re completely absorbed in the moment and putting all their attention into building a great sand-castle.
There are some things that we can do to ensure a better outcome tomorrow. If we are writing a test we can study and prepare. And there are some things we can do to alleviate problems from the past. If somebody wronged us we can tell them how we feel about it.
But beyond those basic measures, there is little else we can do to change the past or control the future.
The only place we have any real impact is in this moment. Now.
And yet the vast majority of people spend their time thinking about the future and about the past. Way more than what is needed to change the outcome of tomorrow or alleviate the impact of yesterday.
This is what worrying is. And we all do it.
Will my life be a success? Why did my parents treat me so unfairly? Over and over again, these thoughts plague our minds. To the point where we actually make things worse.
Because, by worrying, we remove ourselves from this moment. We remove our true power by thinking about things we cannot change.
To find happiness we must find peace. Within ourselves.
And to find peace within ourselves we have to become care-free.
If Somebody did something we do not agree with, we can honestly tell them what we think and feel. Is there anything else we can do about it, apart from talking about it over and over again and telling everyone else how bad it is?
If there is nothing we can do to actually change the situation, what other choice do we have? We must let it go.
‘Caring’ about something that one cannot change, only makes things worse.
If we are worried about injustices in the world, talking and complaining about it won’t do anything to change it. If we can do something about it, then that’s great. Do it. If not. Let it go.
When we’ve done everything in our power to make something better, we can let it go with a clear conscience. We do not have to care about it, because if we do, all we achieve is creating worry and stress. Which won’t improve anything.
Do not become care-less. That is not the answer. Carelessness brings misery because a care-less life has no meaning.
Being care-free means not talking about problems, unless also talking about solutions.
Being care-free means not thinking about things one cannot control or where one cannot make a meaningful impact.
Being care-free means taking attention away from the past and the future, where we cannot affect much change, and focussing our attention on the present moment, where life is happening, and where we can alleviate burdens from the past and ensure a better future. By doing something now.
Being care-free means being at peace with life as it happens.
Being care-free means being happy.