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What you want and what you need

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Jun. 22nd, 2007 | 08:37 am
mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
music: cars driving past

I was thinking the other day that there's a very simple concept which, if gotten, can make a big difference to leading a happy life.

The concept is that what you want won't always make you happy. In fact, getting what you want will almost never make you happy. What you want and what will make you happy are two totally different sets, with a small intersection.

What led to this thought was me wanting chocolate. So I went and ate chocolate. But I didn't feel any happier. Then I wanted yoghurt, so I ate some yoghurt. Now I was feeling a bit nauseous, but not any happier. So I had a walk around the house. Still not feeling happy. So I drank some orange juice. Still not happy (but a bit more nauseous, and now with an acidic feeling in my mouth).

Then I thought "Wait a minute.. I keep getting all the things I want, but I'm not happy. Why?" And that is the end of the story.

Some other things I want but which won't make me happy are:

  • Playing computer games
  • Playing piano (or guitar or bass). I can be happy while playing an instrument, but the act itself does not make me happy.
  • Going for a walk
  • Drinking another coffee (particularly when my stomach and/or mind is already at its coffee limit)
  • Drinking tea (makes me less nauseous than coffee, but still no happier)
  • Eating a piece of cake (chocolate, toast, milk, etc etc)
  • Anything at all, when I know in the back of my mind that I could be doing something for someone I care about

So, are the things I want wrong? Should I stop wanting them? I don't even know if I could, but that's not the point.. the point is that they won't make me happy. If I want to be happy, then I need to separate the things I do from the things I want.

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Comments {3}

What is Happy?

from: anonymous
date: Jun. 23rd, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)

You describe what used to happen to make me eat more and more and enjoy it less and less, specially if I felt lonely or deserted.

I remember being happy working with my father in the garage washing engines and being useful. I feel happy when I sing (not the other way around). I was happy feeling my children needed me and I was useful. I was happy gardening and planting things and watching them grow - so long ago!

I think people like weddings because they can experience the vicarious happiness. Some people keep falling in love with different people to keep feeling happy I suspect!

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from: anonymous
date: Jun. 23rd, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)

It is no secret that giving away things makes people happy - feeding seagulls is an amazing feeling.

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What you want and what you need

from: anonymous
date: Jun. 26th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)

The Buddha said, and I agree, that not wanting the happiness is a faster track to happiness. Leaning to be easy with whatever is happening, not attaching yourself to it, and actually not trying to look for happiness all the time is a cooler way to live.

Happiness is fleeting, serendipidous and usually unexpected.

On the other hand deep, abiding joy, which can underly even sadness, loss and grief can only be obtained by abandoning the concept of happiness.

Carol Byrne (friend of Paula's)

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