Posts tagged fulfillment
You’re Doing It Wrong: Happiness

Ah, the pursuit if happiness, an American institution so beloved it’s scribbled on a little piece of our country’s history we call the Declaration of Independence. Surely a man from Philadelphia, the very town in which that historic document was signed, would never dare to criticize such a hallowed phrase.

Of course I would, because this is the Internet and I have the power to tell an adoring public my self-important opinions. I’m going to wield that power like crazy right now, because this one’s a doozy: happiness is a lie, and contentment is overrated.

 

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Success is Bullshit

That’s right, I said it. Success, as most of us define it, is total BS. Think about it: it’s a completely relative, absolutely arbitrary measure we create in our own minds to judge ourselves against. And when you set that bar high, you end up spending a good part of your life, or even your entire life, knocking your self-worth down a peg when you’re not reaching your own subjective and lofty standards. It actually doesn’t make any sense and is directly related to the innate problems of perfectionism that seem productive but are actually self-destructive. And that’s why it’s bullshit.

Look, it’s great to be ambitious. I am. But it’s so easy in our culture of things and money and “being cool” to have your ambitions misplaced. You set a goal to be the best at something, when realistically you’ll never be the best. You want to revolutionize without realizing that many of the greatest innovations weren’t made by people who specifically sat down intending to innovate. You want to record a classic album only to realize that doesn’t actually solve any of the problems of the world. You want to make a lot of money, then find that financial success doesn’t fill the voids in your life.

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The Self-Help Delusion

I think it’s time to get over this whole “self help” thing. There is an entire industry based around telling us that they have the elusive secret to happiness, that if you just read this book, watch that video or do these exercises you can become a better, fuller person. I’ve read a lot of stuff like this, and even though I appreciate good advice, I’ve come to almost resent the whole idea of “self improvement.” I resent it because it tricked me into putting my energy towards trying to find something that I had all along.

You know those cheesy maxims that say you’re already perfect the way you are? It turns out they’re right. And if they’re right, that pretty much negates the whole business of helping you improve yourself. How can you improve on perfection? Thing is, you’ll never be satisfied if you’re bent on self-improvement. If you’re anything of a perfectionist, you’ll never be good enough. How can that be healthy? You’re not a work in progress. You’re a human being living a life in progress. You don’t have to work toward being a complete person, hoping you can achieve that fullness someday. You have it now. You just have to make the decision to recognize that.

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Don't Tell Me How to Be Happy

There are a whole lot of people out there telling me what would make me happy. Trouble is, most of them are also trying to sell me something, so it’s with a healthy dose of skepticism that I listen to their advice.

But it’s not just advertisements that have been beating their messages into my head for my entire life. It seems like just about everyone has something to tell me about finding contentment. Teachers tell me what skills I need to make a living in the real world. Blogs preach their truths of what would really fulfill me. From people I know and trust to complete strangers, everyone has an opinion—and I’ve been intently listening for nearly three decades. Why wouldn’t I? We all want to be happy, so we take as many tips as we can get.

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