Happiness is about Removal
Preface: This is coming from a 26-year-old. My lack of life experience makes me think I am most likely wrong. But I’d rather put my ideas out in public and find out I’m wrong than keep them to myself and think I’m right.
I’ve heard the phrase that happiness is more about removal than addition. I’ve heard reiterations of this often, but the most recent time that has stuck with me a bit was from Kevin Rose on the Random Show .
And it seems to be pointing in the right direction. There are just a few core things we need in life to “achieve happiness.”
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” – Confucius.
So let’s start out with this first premise being true. What we all want is simplicity. Peace of mind and contentment.
So if this premise is correct, what are we trying to remove down to? What is at the core of this onion (or parfait) of life?
Well, there are a few things that I think would make most of us happy, in no particular priority. Also, this assumes that you have basic life requirements met. Having food, shelter, and water is a pre-requisite for this.
1) Doing things most of the time that fulfills us & excites us.
“Fulfillment” is a hard term to lock down. So I think we can look at excitement as an easy next-door term. If we wake up most days (say 80%) being excited about what we are going to do that day, I would say you are in the top 1% of fulfillment.
Instead of being disappointed it’s Sunday and Monday is tomorrow, you are excited that the work week starts because you love what you do. I know it’s difficult, if not impossible, for everyone in the world to like what they do for work, but let’s just set that as a precedent that being excited to wake up 80% of your days pretty much equals fulfillment.
I think we need to be growing to be actually fulfilled and happy. You could possibly hit #1 very often by just waking up every day, groundhog day style, to partying with your friends.
However, I think that’d get old. Very quickly. For a lot of reasons, but simply because there’s really no growth there. I think we need to be growing to be happy.
This also eliminates just binging on TV or movies. That is something to get excited about… I once stayed up until 5 am with my girlfriend binging on Dexter episodes… but you don’t experience growth within it. Growth that comes from doing.
3) Being around people you love and that love you
This doesn’t need an explanation…
So that could be THE CORE OF LIFE. Then why do we complicate it?
Why don’t we all just find something that allows us to grow, that we are excited to do, and then either do that with people we love or go home and spend our free time with people we love?
I think we struggle to do this for a lot of reasons. Goals that come from social pressure rather than ourselves, incentives that are short-sighted and not well thought through, and probably a long list more, but there’s one I want to discuss.
I think we are afraid to be by ourselves.
When you cultivate this core life and remove all the complications around it, you are left with a lot of empty space.
You’ll notice that I said “BEING AROUND” people we love. This doesn’t mean texting, checking Facebook, checking Instagram, etc.
However, you aren’t around people 24/7. So we currently add layers onto our lives that take away from THE CORE OF LIFE but fill these alone gaps, because we are terrified of being alone.
I say this from my personal discovery, and I still have yet to get over it.
I have cultivated a life where I “connect” with people less digitally. Most of my moves over texting are to try to meet up. I understand the importance of keeping in touch with people not around us, but I understand even more about the importance of being in the physical moment because that’s all there is.
We’re scared of the physical moment in which we’re alone. Luise CK puts it perfectly in this video starting at 1:00, but watch the whole thing:
However, Blaise Pascal said this before:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”-
Why did I come to the same conclusions as Luise CK and Pascal? Because I’ve felt the same thing.
I have set up my company where I can work until noon without talking to anyone, and everything is perfectly fine. I have a great person answering customer service emails, the rest aren’t urgent, everything else is automated.
However, in this open morning which is ideal for head down work, getting shit done, moving the needle type of stuff, I find myself trying to check email, contact people, simply afraid of the open time. The alone time.
I solve this somewhat by working in coffee shops. But even then, I still am afraid to put in my headphones and go deep into this alone world—I do end up doing this, as that’s really the only way to build anything, but not as consistently as I’d like.
You have to confront a lot of things when alone. Whether you’re a writer staring at a blank page, an artist at a blank canvas, an engineer with a giant new problem to solve, you have to go to battle… and inevitable, quite possible, quite usually you come up from that time realizing you weren’t enough to win that battle.
The important part is to keep in mind you can still win the war, but it’s still tough to deal with this empty time. Questions start to come into your head…
Am I even qualified for this? How did I get this far without someone calling me out as a fraud?
However, if you’re checking your email or Facebook or sales for the week, you’re constantly pushing back these questions with little shots of dopamine.
“Oh look! An email. I must be important! Someone needs to talk to me!”
Instead of dealing with the silence, the cultivated space, we add complications to fill the gaps.
These complications don’t just happen in the workplace but bleed into almost every area of our lives.
If you check Facebook often at work, chances are you’re checking Facebook often outside of work. Or checking for texts. Or checking email.
You’re out to dinner, and your girlfriend or boyfriend runs to the bathroom. You quickly check our phone. No texts? OK, what about emails? What’s in the Instagram feed?
This saves us from the times of dealing with the gaps. The gaps that come from removing complications in life beyond THE CORE.
You can’t have the simplicity of THE CORE OF LIFE without a lot of open gaps.
Having that simple of a life exposes your inner thoughts, who you are, the demons you have suppressed through constant shots of social media dopamine.
That’s why it’s a scary place to be because I’m not sure how many of us really know our inner selves, then on top of that, how many of us love our inner selves.
But that’s really what it comes down to. Loving ourselves, being excited about what we do, growing, and being around people we love. Pretty simple.