Is it not remarkable that deep down we all want the same thing? Everyone. Whether you’re short, tall, rich, poor, black, white, underweight, overweight, and/or something completely different, we are all trying to achieve (and pardon the reductionist view) those chemical reactions that make us happy.
I must say, that fact fascinates me. We are all too frequently getting caught up in the things that make us different – income, race, city, height, looks, etc.… – but beneath it all, we are all trying to achieve the EXACT SAME THING.
Of course, “happiness” is rarely the response that people will provide if you ask them for their true desires, but regardless of what they believe they desire, happiness is usually the base sitting beneath those various goals. Does Johnny want money? It’s because he thinks money will make him happy. Does Susan want to get into an Ivy League school? It’s because she thinks that will bring her happiness with the acceptance letter and/or down the road by having a top-tier education. Many times, they are right in that fulfilling their short-term(ish) goals will bring along happiness, but the truth is that the big picture is far more complicated.
We spend our lives hovering around some base equilibrium level of happy. Minor events cause minor peaks and troughs while major events cause big peaks and troughs. Interestingly – and several studies will back me up on this – a massive life-changing event (e.g. winning the lottery, which would make Johnny a very happy person) produces an extended spike on this happiness graph, but one that only lasts for so long before we return to that base level.
Like surfers on the ocean, we are trying to catch that perfect wave, but just as there is no wave that last forever, there is no state of perpetual happiness… and that’s okay. That’s why we always aim for good waves in the meantime (mini-goals), to keep pushing us forward in this ultimate pursuit.
All too frequently, though, we compare our life with other people’s. Comparisons are a dangerous thing, though. Perhaps a wave you are trying to catch this year is getting a Ford Mustang while your neighbor’s wave is getting a Ferrari. Getting caught up in these distracting, negative comparisons will frequently cause us to fail to appreciate what’s truly important, and perhaps, miss our wave altogether! On these days, it is incredibly helpful to remind yourself that we’re all swimming in the same ocean (you, Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and everybody else), and regardless of what our respective goals are, the height of the wave is the same for everyone. In other words, both yours’s and Donald Trump’s happiness scales are from 1 to 10, and the fact that it takes more for ‘The Donald’ to get to 10 should not force you to change your scale to match his. Take advantage of the fact that you can appreciate a far greater variety of things in life – it truly is a gift.
The power in this analogy is for the tougher times when life isn’t going your way. These lows are a natural and inevitable part of life, just as there are days where the water is flat. In these cases, remind yourself to remain patient and as a better day on the ocean will come.
We are all equipped with a surfboard and water – all you need is the attitude a willingness to chase those waves!