“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts” – Marcus Aurelius
When it comes down to happiness there are many different opinions and strategies on its attainment.
From the acquisition of skill to the accruing of scarce resources and the validation from others.
"I'll be happy when I get 100,000 YouTube subscribers"
"Once I get that Mercedes C63 parked in my driveway I'll finally be happy!"
"My life sucks, if only I could get that girl I'd be happy"
Sound familiar? I'm sure you've heard friends make similar statements, hell... you've probably even made them.
I know I did. that's how I used to think.
There's 2 big issues with this thought process...
1 - It's not sustainable
The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
This concept dates back centuries, to such writers as St. Augustine, cited in Robert Burton’s 1621 Anatomy of Melancholy: “A true saying it is, Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless, and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill.”
Consumerism is all about stuff, buy this, buy that, upgrade that… you’re lead to believe what you currently have is never good enough.
When you buy something new you’ll get a brief hit of happiness, but this doesn’t last long and once it’s gone you revert back to your baseline level of happiness, which creates the never ending cycle. You buy more and more and more. Each time you buy a new object you get that hit but it never lasts, you soon find yourself with barely enough room to store the shit you wasted your money on that’s now cluttering your house as well as your mind. Just like fight club, eventually your stuff will own you if you follow this path.
We all think that winning the lottery or acquiring that Ferrari you’ve been dreaming about day in day out is the key to finally being happy and having what you deserve, but it’s not. After a little while of cruising the coast and feeling ecstatic in your new prancing red pony your happiness level will do as the hedonic treadmill says and return to their (low) baseline levels, leaving you swearing you’ll be happy when you get the new upgraded model…
2 - You're banking on things outside of your control
The opinion of another individual, the weather, the traffic....
These are all outside events.
You cannot control them. There's literally nothing you can do.
Focus on what YOU can control.
as Marcus Aurelius said in Meditations, “You have power over your mind"
Your thoughts, your reaction to the situation at hand - these are the result of your mind.