“Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”- John Stuart Mill
A lot of us go through our lives searching for happiness – that perfect state of mind filled with utmost joy, only likened to flying without wings. We condition ourselves to believe that once we get that thing we desire, be it a new job, promotion at work or even get married, our lives would be just perfect and we would have nothing else to worry about.
So we spend each waking day fully focused on the fulfillment of this goal, toiling really hard only to be rudely surprised that we are back to the same state of unhappiness just weeks, even days after reaching our goal.
Like junkies, craving for the next high, we set even more lofty goals, work even harder, achieve them and then find out that we are back to the same point, the cycle continues…
This reminds me of the time I was studying for my Masters Degree. I had set myself a target to earn a Distinction in my course of study. I worked so hard, denied myself of many pleasures, spent countless hours in the library and computer lab (to the extent that the out-of-hours security men did not need to see my ID to sign me in, because I was a known face there). When I finally reached my goal, I was surprised at how quickly the thrill of earning a distinction faded. It took just days for another reality to set in – I needed to get a job. So the cycle began again…
What I quickly found out on looking back is that life seemed to be filled with series of short highs and many lows made up essentially of chasing these highs. I literarily didn’t give myself the chance to be fully happy and content with what I had.
On further interaction with people and research into this subject, I found out that this behavior was not at all unique to me. A lot of us have busied ourselves with the idea that we would be happy once we achieve our goals (see related story here). We have equated happiness to a destination and strive so hard to reach it. Little wonder why there is a rising number of depressed people over the world. It is said that a shocking number of 121 million people worldwide (based on 2011 data BioMed Central 2011, July 26) are depressed and this depression is tied to discontent with their current life.
While some cases contributing to these figures could be as a result of serious mental illness, I can’t help but wonder if some of these cases could actually be avoided just by altering the way we think and approach our goals.
Rather than living life in short bursts of happiness, perhaps a more fulfilling way to live could be by realizing that happiness is a journey and then living life with more focus on gratitude and enjoying that which we have in the now.
Perhaps it would be better to think, “Well… I don’t have the perfect job now but I will do my best with the one I have and enjoy the family I have been blessed with” or “I am not a perfect 8 but I am alive and I do not need a tube to feed” or even, “I don’t have all the money I could do with, but I sure can dance to this lovely tune without help from medical practitioners”.
Once you start thinking this way, you would be surprised and perhaps even pleased that as you dwell on being thankful for what you have, your mind would bring to your memory even more reasons to be thankful. Before long, you would be surprised at the abundance of things in your life that you have overlooked in the past. This in turn creates excitement and a positive energy and dare I say, a certain spark.
This excitement would then affect your outlook on life and give you the zeal to work towards your goals, not from a frustrated place but from a place of immense joy and thankfulness.
Till you read from me again.
Do enjoy the rest of your week
Image credit: Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown
Welcome to the lovely month of May. Wow… I still find it hard to believe that It has been close to three months since I made a personal blog post. I decided to use this period to focus more on posting inspiring quotes to give myself a bit of time to get my more creative juices flowing. During this time, ideas for a number of posts have crossed my mind but I have decided to focus on a recent idea which touches on our self image and perception of beauty.
For those who know and have interacted with me either personally or through social media you may have been aware that I recently (well…within the past 7 months) embarked on a weight loss journey. I personally call it conscious living and in this time I have lost about 20kg (44 pounds) which represents about 20% of my previous weight.
Prior to my taking this journey, I never felt I was overweight as I have always had a healthy level of self esteem and was very proud of my curves. I guess I had an idea of how I looked and whenever anyone told me otherwise, I looked at them as slightly mental as I couldn’t understand where they were coming from/going to.
The bubble burst for me when one morning I was dressing up to go to work and had the sudden realisation that I needed a new dress size (size 16) and like I tell people, something in my head just snapped. First of all, needing a new size meant I had to spend more money changing basically everything I had in my wardrobe. I didn’t have the spare funds for this so I decided that it would be cheaper to just pay for a gym membership and work off the extra fat so I could fit back into my dresses.
What I found out was that the more I worked out and ate consciously, the stronger and healthier I felt. I realised that I was actually having fun getting comments from people and seeing the space between my waist and the waist band of my dresses get wider and wider.
Within 3 months, I realised that I was faced with the same problem of needing new outfits. However, this time they were in a smaller size but I did not mind. I have since dropped 3 dress sizes and I am having a great time experimenting with new outfits. My bank account seems to be the only one complaining. (Hahaha)
Even though I have found this journey to be positive with a lot of highlights – one of which is the opportunity to meet new and positive people -, I have noticed an interesting new behaviour I seem to have acquired. I noticed that when people paid me a compliment on how I was still losing weight, instead of accepting the compliment gracefully, I was quick to point out that I still had some work to do. My typical response to a comment such as, “Chika you look lovely in that dress and you have lost more weight, well done!” would be, “Oh I still need to lose about 3 more pounds so I can be a perfect 10”.
The first day I noticed this behaviour, I tried to understand my reason for responding this way and found out that it was one of two things; I didn’t believe them or I didn’t believe that I had worked hard enough to deserve the compliment (crazy but very true). This was not limited to just comments about my looks, I also realised that when someone such as my boss or colleague complimented a piece of work I had done, I would be quick to point out some not so perfect elements of the work.
On careful observation, I realised that I was not the only one who had this habit. A lot of other people around me responded to compliments in a manner that seemed critical about themselves. What I also realised is that responding to compliments in a critical manner was mistaken as a sign of modesty, in some cases the recipient of this compliment often felt it was flattery and like me, didn’t believe it. In reality, all it did was to project a low self esteem and sometimes even alienate the giver of the compliment.
The sad truth is that there are a lot of people walking around with an overly critical view of themselves, a number of people when looking into the mirror tend to see only the bits of their bodies that they feel are not perfect in their eyes and base their entire self image on this.
The beautiful irony of this way of thinking is that people most often, do not notice the imperfections you see in yourself. These “imperfections” are just a part of the whole package and if only you could one day see yourself through the eyes of others you would see that we are not half as bad as you think you are. In reality, most times that feature which you don’t like about yourself is the very thing that someone else admires about you. Isn’t this just amazing?
Having a positive self image is perhaps the most important key to living a fulfilling life. It determines our choice of work and opportunities we go for, the kind of relationships and friendships we keep, the way we dress, how we relate with our families, etc.
I will leave you with a link to a recent Dove advertising campaign which I felt was spot on. click here
In the three minute advert, an FBI trained forensic artist sits behind a curtain and draws a portrait from the subject’s self-description, which remarkably results in skewed caricature-esque sketches. One woman’s perception of herself resulted in a picture that resembled a sprouting and perturbed potato.
However, the artist then draws a second portrait of the same women using only the descriptions of strangers, which of course results in a much softer and realistic picture of the person. I believe that you would find this clip as inspiring and beautiful as I have and it would reinforce my message which is this;
“You are not half as bad as you think you are. Actually, you have got it going pretty good”.
Till you read from me again, have a blissful new month.
Image credit: waggeneredstrom.com