One of the main concepts behind minimalism is getting rid of things you don’t need. However, this idea doesn’t have to only apply to material things. It can also apply to the ideologies and ways of behaving which don’t add value to our lives or support our mission. If you want reasons to be unhappy in life, you don’t have to look too deeply to find some. Unfortunately, we are designed to focus on the negative and it takes a conscious effort to try to see the positives in every situation. This wiring of our brain, this way of thinking, is due to nature as much as it is due to nurture. In other words, to a certain extent, we are programmed, at a primal level, to look for the negatives/dangers in any situation so that we can avoid them and survive, but we have also been programmed by society to believe certain concepts about happiness that are simply not true, yet many of us believe them. Below are four of the most erroneous ideas we need to stop believing if we ever want to be happy. And we need to stop believing them NOW.
- When I find my soulmate, I’ll be happy: First of all, the concept of having a soulmate is debatable, I just don’t buy into the concept of there being only one person in the whole world that can fit into our lives like a missing piece of a puzzle. I believe that there are a number of people who will come into our lives and compliment us in different ways. I even believe that perhaps there will only be a few number of people who will compliment us extremely well. But believing that there’s only one person out there for us just doesn’t sound statistically accurate. Regardless, thinking that finding your “soulmate” is going to make you the happiest person in the world is simply not an aspiration that we should subscribe to. As with anything else, we need to be able to be happy by and with ourselves as opposed to feeling like someone else is the source of our happiness, especially if that someone is a hypothetical someone created in our minds. Be happy by yourself, stop feeling like the missing piece to your puzzle is someone else, because it’s not. The missing piece to the puzzle is us realizing that we are already complete.
- When I find my dream job, I’ll be happy: Everyone has heard the saying that when you love what you do, you won’t have to work a day in your life. I’ve also heard that when you end up doing what you love as a job, it stops being a passion and it becomes a JOB. We should keep this in mind and be realistic when thinking about what our dream job would be. Instead of focusing on what job you think you’ll be the happiest doing, focus on how you can try to see the positives in the job you already have. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and more money doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness, believe me! Figure out what’s most important to you and what you excel at (we all excel at something), and then figure out how you can incorporate those things as best as possible into your existing job. However, that’s not to say that you should stay at a job that simply makes you miserable. If you really don’t like your job, find something that compliments you better. We spend most of our lives at work and life is too short to waste our time being in any situation that makes us unhappy. No matter the situation, we always have a choice; choose happiness!
- When I lose the weight and look the way I want to look, I’ll be happy: This one is something most women struggle with. Unfortunately we have been brainwashed by the media to think that there’s a universal definition for beauty. However, that is simply not the truth. Attractiveness is something that is so subjective that it can’t be defined. Look at the way “beauty” is seen across the globe and you’ll realize that beauty really does come in different shapes and sizes. Did you know that in some countries, slender women are considered unattractive? How we feel about ourselves and how confident we are is something that shines through more than a slim figure ever will; remember that! Don’t let the source of your self-worth come from TV or the media. If your weight is something that’s having detrimental effects on your health or overall well-being, then by all means, do whatever you need to do to be healthy. However, if the reason for wanting to lose weight is simply because you don’t think you’ll be loved or be deemed attractive, than you need to look at why you feel that way. Remember sex-appeal goes beyond physical looks. No amount of makeup, plastic surgery, or designer clothes can ever fill our voids. We must love ourselves for who we are, realize our “flaws” make us unique, and everything else after that should just be for fun.
- When I make a certain amount of money, reach a certain status, or buy that thing I really want, I’ll be happy: If assigning the value of happiness to a person isn’t healthy, then doing so with material things is certainly not any better. Thinking that owning something like a fancy car, big house, designer clothes, expensive jewelry, etc. is going to make us happier is just silly. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have wealth or wanting to live a certain lifestyle with certain comforts. Life is too short and if you have the means to build that house you’ve always wanted, buy that convertible, hire a housekeeper, a gardener, a chauffeur, or whatever adds comfort and value to your life, then by all means, do it. The trick is to be able to identify the real reason behind why we want or think we need certain things. I mean really dig in and ask ourselves, why do I honestly want this? Do you want a big house with a pool because you have a big family and are an avid swimmer? Or because you somehow associate a house with a pool as a status symbol? Do you want the flashy car because you actually think it’s a good quality car, or is it because people will think you have money? It’s so easy for us to fall into the trap of appearances and materialism. Having a materialistic lifestyle is almost unavoidable to a certain extent when you live in a country where the standard of living is so high, and acquiring material goods is so easy. But it’s important to remember that materialism does not equal happiness, if anything, it reinforces the false belief that happiness is something that is outside ourselves that must be found. Next time we find ourselves wanting something that we think will make us happy, we should ask ourselves why until we can discern the real root of that need.
Notice a pattern? All these things point to external things; things outside of ourselves. We’ve been taught our whole lives that happiness comes from the outside; from the perfect body, the fast car, the big house, the luxuries, the recognition, the money, the degree, the perfect spouse, the kids, the dream job, and others’ love toward us. However, the sooner we realize how completely wrong that is, the quicker we’ll find our path to TRUE happiness. Here’s a cliche that happens to be VERY true; happiness comes from within! Ask any monk, Buddhist, or any spiritually enlightened person, and you’ll find that this is a universal truth. When we rely on factors outside ourselves as the sources of our happiness, we are setting ourselves up for failure, not to mention we are giving something or someone else power over our happiness because that person or thing can take away our happiness the moment we cease to have them.
Happiness is not a thing that happens to us, happiness is a feeling we choose to create, and when we’re able to fully accept that fact, only then will we realize that only we are responsible for our own happiness. Only we are responsible for achieving it and it is nobody else’s responsibility to bring us happiness. Yes, there will always be people and circumstances that will test our will to be happy, but it’s how we choose to react to these obstacles that determines our outcome. For instance, you can choose to let your ego get in the way and feel offended by someone’s else’s words and marinate in your anger and be bitter because someone “hurt” you, or you can choose to remember that you have complete control over your thoughts and emotions. You choose which perspective you want to look at every situation from, so why not choose one that’s going to support your commitment to being happy? When faced with a situation where you are inclined to feel angry or offended, before reacting, ask yourself the following question: “am I going to play the victim in this story and give someone else’s words or actions control over my emotional well-being? Or am I going to take control over my emotions by realizing that nothing outside of me has the power to control my own thoughts?” Try committing to choosing the latter each and every time and notice if things start to change!
Accepting this responsibility and feeling that sense of ownership can feel enlightening, liberating, but also challenging. After all, giving someone/something else the responsibility of our happiness is easy! Heck, it’s even convenient! It’s much more convenient to say “hey he/she made feel that way,” as opposed to admitting that “I chose to feel that way because it’s the only way I know how to react to those types of situations, it’s how my brain has been trained to react.” Again, it’s about not letting outside factors become the source of our happiness.
What if we minimized the concept of happiness by getting rid of all the associations we’ve assigned to it? What if we removed from our definition of happiness all the things that really won’t matter much when we’re on our deathbed? What is it we truly desire? Is it companionship, love, acknowledgement, a sense of belonging, security? Figure out what REALLY matters to you in life and focus on how you can satisfy those core needs instead of relying on outside factors as your source of self-worth. Step outside of the status quo and realize that in the end, nothing but what you carry within will matter. By minimizing our definition of happiness, we will make it easier for ourselves to achieve it.