Some people think that the goal is to pursue happiness and yet the truth is that Life is most definitely full of difficulties and there’s a lot of suffering in it and you have to learn how to conduct yourself in the face of that truth. Getting clear on this from the get-go will help you understand yourself and how to best fit into the landscape of your life. It will also help you begin building your inner compass.
Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto would put it this way :
“the problem with the pursuit of HAPPINESS is that when Life’s storms come along" (which they absolutely will) "happiness disappears and then you’re left with nothing .... you need to pursue something that’s deeper than happiness. And if happiness comes along, then hooray for you!"
He goes on to say that there are 2 things to consider : The first is that it’s much better to pursue things that are meaningful than things that’s make you happy because “it’s deeper and it orients you more appropriately and keeps you centered in your own life and makes you more useful in your family and community.” Knowing this, knowing that there will be suffering and that Life is difficult sets up more realistic expectations and you also learn along the way that you can and will prevail despite the difficulties and suffering.
The second part of this has to do with our attitude towards (and the necessity of) adopting responsibility because a lot of what provides sustaining MEANING in one’s life is wrapped up in this. There are not enough conversations in our culture around this as we grow up and instead parents often say things like 'whatever makes you happy'. Later we begin hearing things like "You deserve this" but I would question what exactly that means. This phrase often centers around self-soothing behaviors which can be just what we need but can also be misreading what might truly give us value and meaning.
Stepping up and taking responsibility whether it's comfortable or not played out on a very publicly stage recently when Trump cancelled going to the WWI Memorial in France due to rain while other leaders attended and honored those who'd given of their lives. There is a profound relationship between taking responsibility and finding meaning in one’s life as opposed to pursuing that which makes you happy, or makes you 'feel good' or feeds your sense of self-esteem. There is an important relationship to the bigger picture of life that embodies far more than your own self comfort and provides great meaning.
As we take responsibility it also connects to a belief that we matter and that our actions have value and consequence. Apply this to how you show up in your world; how you dress, how you speak, how you do your job, how you care for others. Where in your life is it 'messy' and that's the place to start. If there are lots of messy areas, start with something small and not overwhelming. Make a difference and take responsibility for “cleaning up” something simple like a kitchen counter, dirty dishes, cloths left on the floor, regardless of what you think is somebody else responsibility or not. Take one little step and take responsibility for you. I call this the One Degree Factor and it absolutely builds strength into the core of who you are and it aligns you with your unique inner compass.
In order to see how profoundly this can affect your life, consider this : You’re a sailor on the sea, sailing from Los Angeles to Hawaii. You have set your course and there are no significant weather considerations to impact your journey. During the days that follow, you continually stay true to the course, correcting here and there as needed. But, let’s just say that you decide to ignore when you’ve drifted 1 degree off course, because really, what is 1 degree???? How much could it matter? The answer is - very significantly. It can determine whether you’ll completely miss Hawaii or not and whether you’ll more likely become a static of somebody lost at sea.
1 degree is not insignificant.
1 degree of change in your life, in taking on responsibility for yourself, in a relationship, in how you show up in your own Life affects a great deal more than you can ever imagine.