Don’t take this part lightly. This may, and probably should, be the most important question we ever ask ourselves. Man’s main goal in life is to attain happiness. It is what drives almost every decision we make. If you agree with me that excitement = happiness, then when you ask yourself what would excite me? What you are really asking yourself is what would make me happy?
I need to take a step back for a moment. Happiness is not a place it is an experience. It is a temporary experience. It is an experience that can be had but not contained or owned. Funny, if we replace happy with excited, it feels a little more comfortable of a comparison. I would like to think that all of us are looking for excitement in our lives, some more than others, but I don’t think even the most adventurous of us would want to experience excitement 24/7. Best case is that we would pass out from all the excitement, and worse case, the exciting would become the average.
Whenever I think of this idea, I think of the Twilight Zone episode where the criminal guy thinks he's in heaven because he is getting everything and anything that he wants, only to find out that he is in "the other place."
So, I think happiness, like excitement, can be sought after, experienced, reflected upon, even recovered from, logged away in our fondest memory chamber, and then used as guidance as we look forward to our next happy experience.
So Who Cares?
Why does it matter whether we define happiness as excitement? Or if we define it as something else, like the really good feeling we get when we buy something that we really wanted, or eat an ice cream cone, or something? This is where we get confused. I believe that many, if not most of the things that we have been conditioned to believe will bring us happiness, only bring us some weak substitute. But since it is the only thing we have, we accept it, and plan for the next weak substitute. Sadly, this makes the attainment of “happiness” too easy, or worse, too cheap.
But if the attainment of stuff, or positions, or yummy snacks is not what we need to do to experience happiness, then what are we supposed to go after. Seeking happy experiences becomes difficult, possibly ambiguous, and certainly not fun. It is far easier to just go out and buy a new pair of shades.
But by accepting the idea that happiness is excitement, it gives us something more tangible to go after. If we start to think about something that we are about to go do, or buy, we should stop and ask ourselves, does this idea excite me? If so, how much? If the thing that I am about to go after doesn’t create a level of excitement inside me, then there is a good to great chance that it will not give me the feeling of happiness that I was hoping for. And if it does, it most likely won’t last long.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Right about now, I get the feeling that you may be asking yourself - “This happiness stuff sounds like a lot of work”, or “Is this some Eastern Zen Buddhist Anti-Capitalist stuff?”, or “Dang, I sure could go for an ice cream right now.” Whatever doubts and resistance it may be inducing, I hope it is generating some thoughts or maybe planting a seed. Maybe you will ask yourself what you could do to create some excitement in your life. Think outside the proverbial box.
Think of some things. Think of some crazy things. Think of some things that you know you are not qualified to do. Think of big things. Climbing Mount Everest - that would be an incredible challenge. An incredibly scary challenge. Maybe that’s too far out of our league (right now), but what if something smaller could generate the same excitement. What if we attempted a smaller mountain that sat on the fence separating the inside and outside of our comfort zone. This could do it.
What Would Excite Me?
Here are just few ideas to consider:
Does this idea scare me? - Overcoming fear can really release some endorphins. A lot of endorphins.
Will I learn something? - Learning a skill that you previously thought impossible can generate some great feelings.
Will I accomplishing something? - What a great feeling this can generate, and you will probably learn something, and if it induces a little fear along the way, that’s the trifecta!
The one thing that these items have in common is that, in each case, we can use the outcome as something to build on to become more like the person we are trying to become. Does that new pair of shoes do any of these things?
So climb that peak. Now you are a mountain climber. Ride your bike down that mountain. Now you are a mountain biker. Go for a run on a rugged (or not so rugged) trail. Now, you are a trailrunner. By doing any of these things, we are becoming the person we set out to become.
So again, what would excite me? This is the question we need to ask ourselves as we make plans for our future selves. Will my future self benefit from the exciting thing that my present self is considering doing? If so, that’s a win-win.
So go out and do something exciting, it will generate some happiness, and your future self will thank you.
Take care and I'll see you out there!