We Fabricate the Obstacles that Stand Between Us and Happiness

We're convinced that there are challenges -- immutable, concrete, biological -- we must overcome in order to be happy. What if we convinced ourselves otherwise?

3 min. read

You sit down in a restaurant, the server comes over and asks what’ll you have. “I would like a double bacon cheeseburger, please. I prefer my fermented milk on top of pig on top of cow on top of cow.” Then the server replies, “No problem, hun’. Just put together this 5,000 piece puzzle _Minimalist Sand Dune_ and I’ll have your order right out.”

Wait what?

That hopefully sounds absurd. You’d never stand for that. “I’ll eat my heart attack somewhere else!” you might yell. But we do stand for that. We put 5,000+ piece puzzles between ourselves and things we want every day, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

I’ll be happy when I get a better job. I’ll be happy when I find someone to love. I’ll be happy when I finish college and get into the real world. I’ll be happy when I finally have a bowel movement after eating that cheeseburger. I’ll be happy when…

We’ve convinced ourselves that the things standing between us and happiness (you can think of “happiness” as interchangeable with contentment, satisfaction, or fulfillment) are necessary obstacles we need to overcome. We believe that having a better job is a necessary prerequisite for happiness, as if it’s a biological imperative. But it’s not.

Biologically speaking, if you’re living in a developed nation, you’re probably far more than covered. If you’ve got food, clean water, people to socialize with, a safe place to sleep, and get some action (you know what I’m talkin’ about… hugs.) every now and then, you’ve satisfied your biological requirement for happiness. Everything else is as imaginary and unnecessary as that 5,000 piece puzzle standing between you and fried death.

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If you want a better job, that’s fine. But why do you want it? If you want to have a “fulfilling” career (whatever that might mean to you), totally okay. But do you know why? If you want dollar-dollar-bills, y’all, I’m aight with that. But y?

What I’m saying is that what I’m _not _saying is that those things can’t — or won’t — make you happy. They might. But the things many of us in western worlds view as necessary, things we see as universal human prerequisites to some greater truth, aren’t. And ultimately you have the power to decide if they are necessary for your happiness, a decision that, for many of us, was made for us when we were young and we never thought to challenge it.

But we absolutely should challenge it. We should investigate the seemingly unconquerable Titans in our lives that we hold responsible for whatever we’re lacking, or see as standing between where we are and where we want to be, and decide if it’s a fight we want to have before we decide how we’re going to fight it. We spend a ton of time focusing on the latter (there are entire sections of bookstores dedicated to it), but we almost never consider the former. And I’m not just saying this because I’m a pacifist. But I am. But that’s not the point! Stop arguing with me!

Life is a road trip. Your car doesn’t need much to keep cruising (tires, fuel, that blue stuff that gets dead bugs off the windshield). The things most of us see as roadblocks standing in the way of our journey are more like Sudokus: if you want to solve ’em, you can, and it might be fun, but even if you don’t your car is going to keep zipping along.

As for me, I have the windows down, the Taylor Swift up, and my hand airplane-ing in the wind.