The Path To Happiness
edited: Wednesday, July 11, 2007
By E D Detetcheverrie
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2007
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To achieve true contentment, discover what it is you really want.
People are generally motivated by money and/or sex. To me, it's the same thing because what do money-hungry people plan to do with all the money they like to imagine themselves having? They want a bigger home, a better vehicle, the best clothes, big parties, they want to be primped and pampered...all of which would make them more attractive to, well, their choice of sexual partners. Even if you're already with someone, who doesn't love it when someone attractive flirts with them? It's quite a rush even if you never plan to do anything about it.
Maybe, like me, you're not money motivated, but if you did have millions at your disposal, you'd be starting and funding charities and programs to help make the world a better place somehow.
Most people equate success with money, which is rather silly when you consider the people who win lotteries and contests and such, or otherwise come into money without actually earning it.
Maybe you want to be famous. That's another way of saying you want attention. Who do you want attention from the most? Very often it's people you consider sexy. You want to be noticed.
Some people are content just to achieve some sense of security in their lives. A loyal, loving mate, maybe some kids, a nicely adequate home, a steady source of income, insurance and quality medical care, vacations once or twice a year....
Emma's good at this sort of stuff. She interrupted me today in order to help me find the real focus in my life. She asked me, "What is it you really, really want out of life?"
I thought and replied, "I'd love to be a successful author, maybe be known as a bit of an artist, too."
She smiled, but shook her head at me. "Nope. That's not what you really want. If you were this successful author/artist, then what is it you would use that success to create in your life?"
I considered. "I'd like...peace in my life. Calm. Happiness."
"Bingo." She grabbed a sheet of paper and drew three symbols on it, one representing each of the things I'd just mentioned, although I kinda thought they were all the same thing. Basically. She wrote P: M: E: S: I told her I didn't suffer from PMES and she ignored me. "These stand for Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual--the four stages of being."
I was feeling a bit uncomfortable about now.
"In each category, write down what makes you peaceful or calm or happy in each of these ways."
"Okay...." I wasn't clear on what exactly she wanted, but decided to play along.
Under the category Peace, I wrote that I would be physically at peace if I could drop about thirty pounds. In photographs I look like a bulk roll of Jimmy Dean sausage with legs. I don't need to be a body-builder, but I'd like to be fit. Obesity is one of the problems that occurs with chronic bronchitis. I hate it when my clothes get tight or I have to hold my breath to tie my shoelace.
Mentally, I put that I'd be at peace if I could really make a difference of some kind in the world...even if only on a small, localized level. I'm very attuned to environmental themes.
Emotions was hard, because I kind of thought emotions and mental stuff were pretty much the same thing, but then I realized I am at my most emotionally peaceful when I am writing.
And spiritually? I wrote that I enjoy some sort of structured meditation, and wish I could find a ritual that fit my personal spiritual ideals.
You're not just reading this article, right? You are writing down the three things you'd most like to have in your life once you achieve whatever goal it is you currently have, right? What would make you the happiest if you had that money, fame, sex appeal, security, or success? You're going beyond the means you think you require to achieve what it is you really, REALLY want.
Okay, then we repeated the same steps for Calm. Physically, sleep, exercise, meditation, and reading are all pretty calm or calming activities I enjoy. Mentally, I like researching my spiritual pursuits and working on little personal projects. Emotionally, I feel great after an extra-long and productive brainstorming session for the stories I write. And spiritually, I really gain a lot from communication with my idea of God. (Just call it prayer if you like).
And finally, what makes me happy? Well, physically, I get a real jolt out of physical exertion. Workouts. Once I'm motivated to get off my ass at all, I push full tilt for that athlete's high. Physical exhaustion, busting my ass, a good, honest day's hard labor leaves me feeling wonderful and ready to sleep like I'm dead. Love it. Mentally, well, there's nothing I really enjoy more than just plain daydreaming...whether it's story ideas or future art projects, scintillating fantasies, or trying to resolve some persistently pesky problem, it's bliss to just let my mind wander pell-mell, imagination on overdrive. Emotionally...that was tricky. I summed it as the overall feeling I get when we're doing something adventurous together, even if it's just driving an hour to check out a movie theater we've never been to. I love canoeing and going to Civil War re-enactments, and hitting antique shops on long weekends when we have no plans and a full tank of gas. I love the fun of wandering aimlessly across the countryside and checking out whatever strikes our fancy, be it a slap-dash family roadside attraction, a sign outside a church proclaiming a deep-sea fishing trip for anyone with twenty bucks, a run-down and ratty looking old bookstore full of dusty treasure, or the ruins of an old abandoned farm or church to go poking about and exploring in. Emotionally, I just like simple, inexpensive, often unplanned fun. And spiritually, I am happiest when I get the feeling someone's watching out for me. That could just be a sign I asked for coming true or finding a penny or a colorful marble or an interesting feather or shell. It could be a wild animal approaching or calling me. It could be a mysterious encounter with a frighteningly knowledgeable total stranger, or just an odd sensation of comfort--like I've been in a particular place or situation before. Not deja vu...something more like a long-lost childhood memory hazy with faded sunshine or soft candle glow. It's the feeling like everything's happening the way it's supposed to. There's a bumper sticker that says, "If God is your co-pilot, you're in the wrong seat!" I guess the best way to describe the sensation that makes me happy is like knowing God is in the pilot's seat where He oughtta be.
Anyway, Em looked at my responses and told me that I don't need to be a successfully published author or artist to achieve what I really want out of life. She broke it down like this:
Physically, if I further adjust my diet and stick to it more diligently and take the time to get the workouts my body craves anyway, I should begin to achieve the fitness I desire.
Mentally, I should seek work or projects that will result in me feeling like I've made a positive difference in my world, and which better utilize my brain power.
Emotionally, I should have fun with my writing and not keep trying to force myself to follow anyone else's guidelines or deadlines. I like my fun unrestricted, with little or no planning involved.
And for more spiritual satisfaction, she said I should take the time to set up structured prayer and meditation times.
It's all rather simple then isn't it? Why stress yourself out trying to save up a fortune or starving yourself "beautiful" or trying to climb some greased corporate ladder or pushing yourself to jump through hoops for some talent agent or publisher when you could just bypass all the BS and beeline straight for what it is you truly want in life? At first, I was resistant, because I like pushing myself to write...but once I saw the simple beauty of her logic, I realized that writing should remain a pleasureable and therapeutic activity for me, not a hassle to put out bulk pulp, promote my stuff, and try to schedule book signings and such that always leave me more broke and disappointed than before. Suddenly, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from me. Why fret about all that extraneous crap if I decided to take my sweet-ass time and write for practice and enjoyment rather than trying to impress someone else? I see now that I can relax as I write and not worry about how other people might perceive some extraordinarily perverse sex scene or wildly horrific act of violence in my work. I'll write what entertains me and gives me pleasure as I write it.
Never give up on your dreams! I strongly recommend honing whatever skills you possess so you can make your own daydreams come true someday...but the destination is not nearly as important as all the fun you can have on the way. My ultimate goals seem even nearer to me now and all the more easily attainable. I'm re-configuring my personal map of life and discovering that there's an easier way to get to all the highlights and enjoy them before I finally run out of time. Do you want to be the guy who works hard all his life, pushing himself harder and harder, sometimes putting his family and friends aside--sometimes even putting his own health aside--to achieve something he can use to finally get what he really wants...and then has hardly any time left to enjoy it? Or, do you want the best things in life with you now, to share and enjoy before you're unable, and live life like anything outside your own happiness is just petty stuff you endure briefly between bouts of bliss?
This all came about as I explained to Emma how I love bringing stuff to promotional events and cons and such, but the toll it takes on me to push myself to produce more and better stuff has been badly affecting my health every year for at least a few months straight. I've been dreading preparing for NecronomiCon this fall. Now, I don't really care. If I'm ready to go when stuff like this comes up in the future, I'll do it. If not, I'm not busting my ass to meet personal deadlines and quality control issues any longer. I'm all about taking the time to do things right. That's what gives me the most pleasure.
So, what really pleasures you? No, REALLY....