EP: 21 - The Pursuit of Happiness
Ricky Richards Represents:
The Pursuit of Happiness
"Happiness is wanting what we already have"
Hello everyone, I hope you’re well.
I thought I’d try something a little different and create a podcast based of a lovely quote that I read recently in Tim Ferris’s new book, called tools of titans. The quote was: Happiness is wanting what you already have. I thought this was really nice, because lets be honest, most of us are in a perpetual cycle of wanting for more and it does so often lead to unhappiness. So as this as a starting point, I decided to collate together all the things that I do to try and stay happy. I’m not going to pretend I’m Mr cheerful all the time, far from it, but I have accumulated what I feel are a handful of useful happiness hacks, that fall outside the conventional, do exercise, follow your passion and other such cliché’s. So without further ado, let me get into the Pursuit Of Happiness.
Tip Number 1. Learn to Live With Less
For those that know me, you’ll know I’ve been a huge proponent of minimalism for many years. The logic to minimalism, is that the stuff we own can begin to own us. Now what does this mean? Well lets start off with what we actually ‘need’.
All people really ‘need’. Is shelter, ideally. Food, water and if you’re lucky, a handful of clothes. If you have access to these things, you’re going to be okay and if you internally have a mind-set of, ‘if all I have are these basic things, then I’ll be fine’, well then you’re desire to ‘want’ and lets stress this word ‘want’ because going back to the initial quote, happiness is wanting what we already have. When you don’t have something we want, it makes us unhappy.
There’s a great quote by Remit Setti, that I think works in harmony with the original quote - Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. So what minimalism is really saying, is if you want for nothing, then what you need to own to be happy is low. Likewise, there’s a host of other benefits. Say you own a car, you have to service it, tax it, clean it. It’s therefore costly which adds additional stress if you’re not in a position to comfortably afford such luxuries. Likewise, most people own thousands of possessions that never get used, that are simply kept because we think of a day it may come in handy or it pains us to let go of something we paid for or that has sentimental value. Well removing the attachment we have to these objects can help to bring clarity of mind, and if we want to move, we can just up and go, when we wake up in the morning we don’t need to tidy the mountains of junk that amass round us, we simply go on with being content, living a meaningful life with less, as the ‘minimalists would say. So that’s tip number one.
Tip Number 2: Use Your Emotions As A Compass.
I have a friend recently, who after talking to them, it became apparent that they really wanted something that another person they were extremely close too possessed. This wasn’t a possession, it was more of a life goal. But what my friend was experiencing was envy. Now the first thing to point out, is that we get trained right from the age we’re at school, that we must progress roughly at the same pace as everyone else, we take tests together with the kids in the same year as us, and then when we break free from education, and we see someone make significant progress in the direction we too want to go in, it can leave us feeling envy. But life is not so linear, people progress at different times. What I’ve come to realise, is that you have to look at your emotions and see what they’re telling you. In this circumstance, would it not be more beneficial, instead of drenching yourself with feelings of worthlessness and disappointment. That you might instead inspect the feeling your experiencing and say, my body is telling me that this is something I really want. Maybe this person can help to shed some light on how I too might move my life in that direction. Maybe it won’t happen overnight, but now you know someone on the inside, and so it might get you closer to the goal also. Likewise the same can be true of frustration. If you’re waking up in the morning and your not even remotely excited to go to work, if more than that, the thought is bringing you anxiety. Then why stay? Maybe it’s time to move on. Or if you’re angry with someone, instead of hurling abuse at that person and exacerbating the situation, maybe you can use it to reinforce what you believe your values are, make a mental or hand written note that these are the values that you live in accordance with. And you don’t need the approval of others if you’re moving in accordance with what you believe in. Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen, to be open to the possibility of changing your mind. But it means you’re not being reactionary, your instead using your emotions to steer you in the right direction. Which brings me to my third point.
Tip Number 3: Reactions Are Voluntary.
In life, we can plan for good things, but we never plan for bad things to happen. However, seeing as we exist, it’s inevitable that bad things are going to occur. Something will break we didn’t expect, an object or body part, we’ll loose lots of money for one reason or another, maybe a loved one dyes, or we get a serious illness, the list of awful things that can happen are endless, all we know is that at some point something bad will happen and we have no idea when. The trick then, from a happiness stand point, is not to be happy about these events, but to not let it cripple us when these things do occur. Realise that at times when everything is frankly going to shit, the only thing that could possibly make the situation any worst, is if you let this situation take away all your happiness. There’s very few circumstances when being sad, or defeatist, aids in either getting a situation resolved. Or, in the situation of a loved one dying or terminal illness, helps to get everyone on the right track. That’s not to say that crying doesn’t help to relieve anxiety and sadness sometimes, but try to use it as a means of release, rather that a fixed state. On a much less serious note, reactionary behaviour doesn’t just account for life’s curve balls. Sometimes, something a trivial as social media, can surface something that we whole heartedly disagree with, and our instinct is to be reactionary and lash out. But realise that this is so often what the publisher of the video intended to happen when they released it. They were looking to invoke reactions, to change your physiology, don’t be a victim to it. When you find yourself making decisions on a purely reactionary basis. Try and identify those moments and be more considered in your response, or even better. Don’t respond at all.
Tip Number 4 - The Measure of success in not how much time you spent doing what you love, it’s how much time you don’t spend doing what you hate – Casey Neistat.
I love this quote by Casey Neistat. Because where as most people put the emphasis on getting what you want, ie, spending time doing what you love, he’s instead put the emphasis on changing the circumstances you’re already in, ie, doing what you hate. If you have to do a lot of what you hate to get just a fraction of the time doing something you love, then I personally don’t feel that this is a long term strategy, as it’s likely not going to make you happy, because the contrast between the moments of pure ecstasy doing what love, balanced with moments you hate, will eventually lead you to resent that time not spent doing what you enjoy. Where as, if you can identify, times when you just generally aren’t enjoying yourself at all. Say it’s the 60 minutes a week you spend cleaning your house for example. Well, you can trade those 60 minutes of times you hate, for a £10 cleaner, and you’ve significantly increased your quality of life and ultimately, increase happiness. If you can get yourself to a base level of never hating anything, then the fluctuations between pure joy and just base level happiness is a much less turbulent emotional wave and will ultimately make you more happier overall.
Tip Number 5 - Be comfortable With Failure.
I, like may of you, have grown up in a world, where stories of success are much more likely to be shared than stories of failure. The reason for this, is because failure is much, much more common, than success. Many people will be familiar with the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule, that 20% of your efforts will normally account for 80% of your results. Well that is true of an individual, but when it comes to industries, it appears that over 90% of success, i.e sales, financial return, notoriety, and the like. Comes from roughly 1% of the market. So what does this mean? It means that you can almost never anticipate success. That great book your writing, film script, new track, whatever it may be. I hope you’re doing it because you intrinsically love doing it, because unless you’ve got millions of pounds or a bucket tonne of influence already, to force cultural significance onto your project, it’s very, very, very unlikely to take off naturally.
It does happen, they’re the stories we tend to hear about, which makes it feel much more likely to happen than we believe, and I’ve got nothing against self belief. Believe me, every time I release anything I tell myself that this is going to be the thing that catches the publics attention, I’m happy in my own self delusion, but when it doesn’t happen, I’m not crushed. I fight to live another day, because I know that I’m great, the world just doesn’t know it yet.. I’m joking of course. More realistically, I’m just one of many people doing great things and nothing I’ve made has significantly caught the zeitgeist as yet, and may never, but I’m okay with that, and I’m going to keep producing because that’s what I love to do.
Tip Number 6 – Embrace Your Insignificance.
One day, when you get a spare hour in your busy schedule, allow yourself to fall into a Youtube hole, searching for information about space. And discover that you are a tiny spec in what is an ever evolving ecosystem. Stand on London bridge at rush hour, or what ever city your in, and see all these people who believe whole heartedly in their own self interest and importance, all experiencing completely unique understanding and perspectives of this world we all share in common. Realise that many generations of people from not so long ago, are now referred to as single words, like Mayans – and that how many of us really know much about the prime ministers, presidents and celebrates from before our time. It is not to say that your life can’t be put to good use, but merely that weather you succeed or fail, whether you’re a millionaire or homeless, death eventually comes to us all, and all the years of accumulation and so called legacy building will ultimately be gone. You can look at this in two ways, there’s the negative perspective that if this is the case, then what is the point of living? Or there is the positive outlook, that I’m going to do all I can to make sure my life was well spent, in service of others, providing value, solving problems, doing all you can to contribute in a way that you believe is worthy of the precious time you have. Realise that as you don’t remember before birth, it is likely that you will not remember anything beyond death. But you could have been born an ant, a dung beetle. The fact is, you didn’t, you were born. You defied the odds of existence, so now you have a chance to do something. No pressure, after all, we all share the same ending to our life stories, but what’s in-between you have control over.
Tip Number 7 - Change it, Accept it, or Move on.
When something comes into your life that is causing you some form of pain, you really only have three options. Firstly, you can change it, That means, not talking about changing it, don’t go on about how terrible this thing is, either do what has to be done to make the change or if not, accept it. And finally if all else fails, move on from it, you neither have to change or accept it, but you’re not going to let it bother you anymore, move on.
Tip Number 8 - Luxury is Not Being Rushed.
Now this is another quote from Mr Ferriss, that I couldn’t agree more with. The things that leave us feeling stressed and ultimately unhappy, is when we feel obliged to do something fast, and even more so if it’s on someone else’s time scale. When we can do things at our own pace, it removes the stress and allows us to make progress at the pace that makes us happy. What does this mean practically? Well it means taking the steps to structure your life so it’s on your terms, this can start with something as simple as your email. Delegating times to respond rather than responding as messages land in your inbox. At a larger scale this means working out how you can become responsible for your own income so that you don’t have to answer to anyone else. It can take a long time to accomplish, but living comfortably on your own terms is a reality for some people in the world. And it could be yours too if you implement incremental steps to move toward that goal.
Tip Number 9. - Seek Joy From the Simple Things.
There’s a belief, that on average, the richer people are, past a certain point, the more miserable they can often become. At first this doesn’t seem to make sense, but if you explore it further, it’s easy to see why this might be the case. The richer you become, the more you’re exposed to beautiful things and experiences which over time, with repeat exposure, raises your expectations, which means that experiences below your expected threshold level, no longer bring you the same level of joy that many people would typically experience.
For example, after living in London for several years, I got used to a great quality of coffee, and when returning to Devon, the coffee that many people enjoy, seems sub par for me and I don’t enjoy a morning coffee as much as I do in London. However, as you can see, I’m talking about a coffee, a seemingly minor expense when compared to a lavish car, holiday or choice of clothing for example. Making a conscious effort to enjoy the small things in life, can bring you huge amounts of joy, the beauty of a landscape, the freshness of the air. A great book, the taste of home made cooking, exploring new places and meeting new people. If you can transfer your desire from expensive objects, into low cost experiences, this will undoubtedly increase your level of happiness significantly as you get to experience more opportunities to experience moments that invoke happiness in you.
Tip 10 - Fail Forwards.
Failing forwards refers to the kind of habits that you embrace daily. Can you undertake projects or new behaviours, that even if you do fail, still result in progress, be that making new contacts, learning new skills, or acquiring knowledge that will help you to avoid the same mistakes the second time round. If you’re good at identifying these kinds of projects, then you can go into them with significantly less fear and reservation, because even if you decided not to pursue the project long term, you’ll still have made forward momentum. I feel this is important, because people tend to not be happy, when they don’t feel like they’re making progress, and this is a great way, to take on projects that will constantly be pushing you forward, even if should fail.
Lastly, Number 11 - Bonus Tip - Be You.
I said I’d avoid the cliché’s going into this podcast, but I couldn’t help but say what I genuinely believe is a huge aspect in determining people’s level of happiness.
The question is.. Are you living in align with your values? What this requires is that you know yourself, and I don’t think that is always the easiest thing to know. It can often require that you experience more, to see what you enjoy and what you don’t, and also know that these values will change over time as your life circumstances change.
Never the less, living outside your values is always going to make you feel unhappy. If you value the feeling of teamwork, then a big corporate company where you’re just a number, is probably going to cause you unhappiness, however, if you like the competitive environment, maybe a big company with larger rewards is right for you. Likewise, if you like to keep things simple and aspire to live in a small house in the country, but your partner is materialistic, wants 5 kids and a high rise apartment, it’s probably not going to work out in the long run, because your core values don’t align. Knowing what your values are, not only helps you to live them. But it also helps you to identify the kinds of people who also poses the same kinds of values, and spend your time around people who don’t clash with you day to day. If you spend time with people you like, chances are you’re more likely to be happy because of it.
To sum up. Happiness is ultimately a decision we make, and being unhappy, is not a thing that happens to us, we decide that also. There are people who have all that you desire who are happy, and many others who are probably not. Happiness is not intrinsically linked to a level of achievement, it fluctuates and is never constant. But if I had to pick just two things that have made the biggest difference for me personally, it would be my appreciation for simplicity, for me to not need to poses things, and for me to not link my worth to the things I own or achieve. Because ultimately, I am merely exploring. I would not turn down high levels of success, but I feel no animosity should I never be fortunate enough to attain it. Secondly, the other thing that has made a difference in my life is self awareness. Becoming very clear in my mind, what I believe in as my core values, what I enjoy to do with my time as well as what I don’t. The kind of people I like to spend time with, the things that excite me and the things that I am just content in doing as well as the things I would do anything to avoid. By becoming clear about this, I am able to steer my life in the direction that suits me, and I no longer become susceptible to the beliefs that others have of me, because I have my own agenda. And no doubt, you can have your own agenda too.
I hope everyone who listens to this can take away at least one tip to try and implement in your own life. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider sharing it with someone who could do with the help, hopefully this can provide suggestions to the people who need it most.
Finally, Thank you for listening to the show and until next time. Bye for now.