I seem to surround myself with deep thinking individuals, one of whom being my friend Diane. She posted a little trail of thought on Facebook not long ago and it got me thinking.
The purpose of our lives is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable and to be compassionate. The world is not a dream, but a reality of which we are the chief part. Go out into the world and sympathize. Not only in thought but in action. The world is not interested in what we do for a living. What they are interested in is what we have to offer freely: Hope, Strength, Love, and the power to make a difference. You are not here merely to make a living. What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead – either wide or limited. Make yourself known and felt for something that would be loved and missed. Live Well.
– Diane Ade
Intriguing words to say the least and I couldn’t help but interpret them. To elaborate on what she means from my perspective, happiness is a result of our positive actions not our selfish achievements. It isn’t something found by searching for it, but instead it arrives when we, as Diane put it, live well. This idea of searching for happiness being counter intuitive was best phrased in a TED talk by Sebastian Wernicke. In it he had people summarise TED talks about happiness into 6 words. The final result; “Striving towards happiness = moving towards unhappiness.”
This is not to say that one should not desire happiness, but rather that often through searching for it, we lose sight of what it truly is. The idea that Diane puts forward is that our purpose is not to be happy, but rather to be useful, honourable and compassionate. Essentially, searching for happiness can be interpreted as a selfish act, in that when we focus on ourselves and what we can receive we lose sight of the rewards of giving; the rewards of being useful, honourable and compassionate.
So, what does it mean to live well? In her passage, Diane puts forth the notion that to live well is to make a difference. Although I agree, I also see it as finding a balance of self and other. To live well is to find a balance of becoming the best you and offering the best you to others. The more you grow as an individual the more you have to offer.
Diane is aggressive in her assertions that happiness and financial gain should be secondary points of our focus. We look at things that we feel will bring us happiness such as material gain, but fail to notice the recurring narrative of those who supposedly “have it all” but still feel empty. We are not filled by what we have but by what we are. So if we possess traits that connote positivity, such as generosity and kindness, our tanks are topped up. Likewise if our traits have negative connotations, such as selfishness or arrogance, our tanks are depleted.
We are wired to give. When we are selfless, our reward centers light up. However, this is not to say that our motives for giving should be driven by personal gain, but we are social beings and what is more intimate than the act of helping someone; giving part of yourself to aid another.
Happiness will come as a result of our deeds not from what we receive.
Image taken from Cherie Joyful