“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’’- Aristotle
Even if your answer is not yes, you probably love the life of a rat-racer: Chasing one thing after the other, while not giving yourself a moment to enjoy something specific.
Doesn’t your life feel like one big fight?
One moment you are fighting to get noticed, the next moment you are fighting to finish some work. And if you have any spare time, you answer calls on your iPhone, or respond to emails on your iPad, giving yourself barely a second to breath.
What you probably don’t even notice is that the life of a rat racer comes with a price: While you are spinning through life, you barely notice how time flies, and miss out on the many moments that would be extremely pleasurable, if only you had the time to enjoy them. And when you juggle too many balls at once, guess what happens?
Eventually you lose them all.
In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar speaks about four types of people in life:
The Rat racer, who chases one goal after the next, always thinking if he gets that job he will be satisfied, but then believes he needs that specific car to be happy, only to learn that he now needs a promotion to be fully satisfied, until one day he realizes that he is in fact never happy with what he has.
The Hedonist, who runs away from pain, and seeks instant gratification, no matter how, in order to feel good with himself. This might mean by simply:
- Hanging out
- Watching TV
- Drinking or any other kind of activity that brings instant joy
One day he too realizes that his life lacks any real meaning.
The Nihilist, who has suffered many setbacks, and therefore believes that he is doomed to suffer,
The Happiness seeker, who looks for both enjoyable moments as well as a meaningful life.
Think about this for a second: Do you know what really makes you feel instant pleasure, or what allows you to sense a feeling of meaning?
If you are like most other rat racers, you will probably not have had much time to really enjoy specific moments, nor will you have found the right moment to think about what a fulfilling life would look like.
But let me ask you something else: When you achieve the things you are chasing, do they make you feel happy? Or do you instantly fall victim to the next deadline or commitment, making you continuously feel stressed out, and maybe even helpless?
If this is the case then you may be missing out on the magic of life, the special moments that really give us joy, and also the opportunity to have a vision of the kind of life that would make you feel energized, inspired, and yes, also happy.
So what can you do?
Luckily, the answer is very simple: All you need to do is to slow down your life.
Remember some of your the best moments in life? For example I remember seeing my wife for the first time at our wedding ceremony, and everything seemed to suddenly stop. I remember seeing stronger colours, hearing my heartbeat, and feeling the warm spring air breeze. It was the most intense moment of my life. And everything seemed like slow motion.
Sometimes, all we need is some extra time to seize the moment, to enjoy the experience with all our senses.
I want to propose three ways how you can make slowing down a life changing habit:
First of all, I propose you try and avoid multitasking. At first, you will quickly notice that you will in fact get more done in less time than vice versa.
Also, you will quickly find that you will enjoy what you are doing: In a famous study by Kahneman, he asked mothers to list their 10 most pleasurable moments, and surprisingly they rarely ever mentioned time with their babies. Kahneman found that the reason was that because they were always multi-tasking while with them, they simply didn’t recall experiencing much joy.
Secondly, I recommend you make it a habit to experience exciting and pleasurable activities on a regular basis: This could include some crazy hobby, or simply committing to doing something fun once a week with your partner. In my case, my wife and I go for a massage on a weekly basis, and I also go for a morning swim at the beach, several times a week.
And finally, spend some time on your own, in silence, simply observing what thoughts and feelings come up. In a world full of constant alerts and ring bells, we barely get time to listen to the voices inside our head, and the feelings inside our body. This is why we tend to become numb and no longer connected to fully understanding ourselves.
By slowing down your life from time to time, you will experience more joy and more meaning, two key ingredients to a happier life. So please try these three recommendations, and let me know how these are working for you.
Until next time.