05 Feb Chasing Excitement
I recently read a book (well listened to the audiobook) that argued for redefining happiness as excitement. I’ve seen this in how some people live their lives always looking for the next thing that will induce a rush, and I think it misses a few things.
Excitement can be the heightened anticipation for an upcoming activity, or the rush or emotional surge we get while taking part in an activity. The thought process behind questioning what was accepted as happiness I agreed with. We tend to trade all kinds of current time and energy for some future promise of contentment. The pursuit of happiness seems to be what we concentrate on instead of actually being happy. Especially when talking of work, most of us are trading our time and energy for money to pay the bills, and if we’re lucky save a little for some time down the road when we can rest.
But is excitement happiness? Personally I think it is really just another chase. Don’t get me wrong, being excited about life and the things you do is important, it’s just not always possible. The author of this book was mainly talking about excitement in the sense of having things that cause a rush while doing them, but also are useful for telling everyone about afterward.
If we’re doing something for the sake of essentially bragging we’re a bit off. It’s nice to have stories to share with others, but wanting to have an extravagant or impressive story that will awe everyone shouldn’t be a motivation for our actions. Otherwise I don’t think we can enjoy those moments. We just want cool stories to tell and for people to admire us.
I started writing this just on the topic of excitement vs. happiness, but I’m not sure you can do that without exploring what happiness is more deeply. There will definitely be differences in opinion. Different strokes for different folks and all that, but no matter what you like to do, or what activities you enjoy that bring a smile to your face, real happiness shouldn’t be a pursuit, or something we chase.
True Happiness is Inner Peace
This is what it is for me. I noticed years ago that there were days at my job when my boss expected miracles to be performed (honestly, that was almost every day). Sometimes I would be very disgruntled and stressed when asked to get things done yesterday, but other times I wouldn’t mind. The same situation, but very different within me. The days I took things personally I left work feeling stressed and unhappy. The days I just did my best to fulfill my boss’s requests and let things work out as they may knowing I did all that I could, I left work feeling fine. Maybe even happy, with a smile on my face.
This is not easy. I’ve found that for myself the ease in which I can be alright with what I can and can’t control is definitely effected by my overall situation. There are certain aspects of life that help serve as a beneficial foundation, giving us a certain amount of security. Job, love life, friends, family. These all help influence our mental and emotional base, and the less stable any one of these is the more difficult it is to maintain that inner peace. At least that’s what my experience has been.
In the past few years I’ve been laid off and got divorced. I haven’t been able to find a job in my old field, I work at a warehouse that is taking a visible toll on parts of my body, and my love life has had a few very promising starts that have ended in great disappointments.
There are days, or parts of days, when I feel unhappy (at times utterly depressed). I’ve found when those bad feelings are sticky I either need to give the time to my body and mind to digest or process those feelings (just like a bad meal), or I need to get busy helping friends who need help, tackling the next item on my to-do list, or just doing some mindless activity to keep me out of my head.
Overall, as long as I do my regular practices that help cultivate some inner peace (meditate, yoga, journal, eat decently, help others), then I have a better chance at being happy no matter what life throws at me.
So excitement can be great, but it shouldn’t be our pursuit. Things can’t always be exciting. Chasing anything external as the foundation of our happiness is a never ending exercise.
What do you do to cultivate an inner peace that allows you to be happy under any circumstance?
If you’re interested in learning more about the things I practice in my life that give me a little inner peace, grab a copy of my new book True Happiness: 4 Practices to Promote Inner Peace and Simple Guides to Carry Them Out.
The book is one part the story of the past few years of my life, and one part guides to take you through the process of creating habits that improve your life (meditation, exercise, self study).
Happiness isn’t about being right, it’s about being right with the world.