Psychopaths and the dead might not experience pain, but the rest of us will many times throughout our lives, and this can recur on a daily basis for many of us. Now let’s clarify what type of pain we’re talking about here. When I think of pain, I don’t think about waking up at 7 am when you’ve only had 5 hours of sleep, having a cold shower to wake yourself up from the lack of sleep, or cleaning up the dog pee from the carpet. I am referring to deep pain. The pain of losing something that’s truly dear and precious to you. Losing things like a friend or a family member, or your rights and freedoms.
Experiencing pain is an essential part of a healthy and happy life. Afterall, without pain how can we truly grasp what pleasure is? But perhaps more important, how can we understand gratitude? In my own life, without the dark valleys of pain and hardships I’ve faced, I would lose touch with the people that mean most to me in this life. And this is what happens to some that get an easier path, than others that face constant trials and hardships. The more trials and pain I experience and endure, the tougher I get, and the more grateful I am for the things that I do have. Life just tastes sweeter. Considering this, the pursuit of happiness seems like a very daunting, and ultimately, impossible task.
The more trials and pain I experience and endure, the tougher I get, and the more grateful I am for the things that I do have. Life just tastes sweeter.
Don’t chase happiness, become antifragile
What is Antifragility?
Antifragility is essentially resilience 2.0, a concept developed by Nassim Taleb. Resilience 1.0 goes something like this: if we put resistance on a system the system will essentially go back to its original form. Antifragility goes a step further. If you put pressure on a system it actually grows bigger and stronger. Our muscular system is a great example of this. If we work out our muscles actually grow stronger. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is about breaking down, PTG (post-traumatic growth) is about growing stronger.
What conditions can we put in place to help us grow stronger and increase the likelihood of us growing from hardship?
The Paradox of Happiness
Happiness is a good thing. But it is a means towards other ends. The problem is that the pursuit of happiness is fleeting. Those who pursue happiness, they end up being less happy.
The solution is to pursue happiness indirectly. Pursuing happiness directly can cause more harm than good. For example, looking directly at the sun is not good, but breaking it down into its elements can lead us to enjoy the indirect pursuit of happiness and as a result, raise our overall levels of happiness. Looking at a rainbow, the indirect glow of the sun is more satisfying.
Let’s Talk About the SPIRE Model
There’s a model that was created to shape the formula for a healthy life—wholebeing. This can trigger the antifragile system. SPIRE well-being considers the whole person—it encompasses spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational, and emotional well-being. By taking the whole into account, the greatest well-being can be realized. Read that one more time. That is what is called wholebeing, and it can be used as a term to define happiness.
The first trait is about a sense of finding a sense of meaning and purpose in life, in work, and at home. If you wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose you are more likely to overcome barriers.
We must be physical, and experience the physical world around us. Finding ways to unwind is essential. What kills us is not so much the stress of life, but the lack of recovery.
People who are curious and ask questions are happier and live longer. It’s not just about asking questions, but deeply engaging with the material. Text, a work of art, and nature can be included.
The number one determinant of happiness is the quality time we spend with people we care about and people who care about us. The number one condition we can put in place to increase the likelihood of antifragility, growing through hardship, is the quality of our relationships.
Embracing painful emotions is critical, but how do we cultivate positive ones, specifically gratitude? The Roman philosopher Cicero spoke about gratitude as the mother of all virtues. When we appreciate the good in our lives we have more of it.
Happiness is Much More than Pleasure
Happiness is about whole-being. It resides on a continuum. Happiness is a lifelong journey and knowing that we can have realistic instead of unrealistic expectations.
Things don’t necessarily always happen for the best, however, we can make the best of things that happen.
- About SPIRE. Wholebeing Institute.
- Don’t chase happiness. Become antifragile | Tal Ben-Shahar. Big Think. January, 26 2022.