When I was 6 years old, I suddenly found myself sitting in a strange room listening to a strange person talking about strange topics. I didn’t really get what was going on, a few weeks ago I was eating sand and catching spiders and now I was what they called a “student”. I didn’t really understand what it means to be a student but apparently it seemed to be something nice, all the other kids and parents and aunts were super excited about it. So little me decided to be excited about it as well. Actually, I was proud, I was one of those guys who made it out of kindergarten. The future was in my hands. I wanted to do well, to learn it all, and by all, I meant all 26 letters of the alphabet. But I failed. To be precise, nobody (besides me) was able to read any letter I ever wrote. Not that I cared, but for some reason everyone else did. So I had to join a special program. And afterward another special program and then another special program. For grammar, for mathematics, for French… I probably took so many special programs that at the end I really was special 😀. So what was special about me? I got a different perspective on success and on achievement. Simply because it never came naturally to me, I had to create it, make it, chase it. And when I finally got there and finished my A-levels with some of the highest grades, in one of the hardest schools, of the most difficult state of the country, I noticed that nothing changed. The world didn’t turn upside down, no rose-tinted glasses magically appeared before my eyes and also no one really cared a lot about it. I mean I was successful, okay nice, but what will we get for lunch?
There is a good quote to it:
There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
– Oscar Wild
I experienced both. And I learned one thing: that this quote is wrong.
The tragedy is neither to get something nor to fail at getting it. But the tragedy is doing an action for the reason to get something. I will say it again because this is important: “The tragedy is doing an action for the reason to get something”. This thought changed my life. Not only did it lead to a tremendous amount of stupid decisions which made me fuck up many things (by intention to do so), but also it turned me into a student, more successful than I could have ever imagined. So let me explain: The reason we do something is because we want to get something. And the reason we want to get something is because we want to get something else. For example, I wanted to be good in school, so that I can get good grades so that I can study the subject I want to study so that I can have a job I love so that I can… (infinite number of means), so that finally, I can become happy.
Becoming happy, apparently that’s what it’s all about, that’s the only possible answer to an infinite amount of why questions. Try it out yourself! You will end up with happiness, simply because happiness is the only thing wanted for its own sake and therefore the ultimate goal! Or isn’t it?
What if it also is the ultimate trap leading to a “chokehold of happiness”? What if happiness is not a goal but a state, a feeling inside of us, something that is not out there but already here?
Let’s have a look at some brain scans:
The Brain of a happy person:
brain of an unhappy person:
In case you are not a Neuroscientist, let me give you a hint: they are exactly the same. And that’s the case because both have the same framework, the same set-up. Both have the neural networks, neurotransmitter and synapses for happiness. Reaching that long-wanted goal, solving this extraordinarily difficult problem or meeting this perfect person won’t change anything in the way your brain is built. And whether those things will make you happy or not, well that’s up to you, up to the way you frame it. Your happiness is not attained outside in the world, but it is inside, in your brain, right now, at any given time.
Indeed research shows that you could win the lottery and turn into a millionaire today or you could become disabled and lose the function of your legs, and both ways your happiness level would be the exact same after 1 year. (For more Info see: Dan Gilbert)
I believe we should rethink the reason behind our motivation. Because maybe it won’t be the goal which will make us happy but the process. And maybe being happy in the process will lead us to the goal!