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From a Scale of One to Ten…

Humans are funny creatures. I think that human beings are the only species on earth that honestly believes that the planet owes them something. Now, I’m not speaking from a cloud on this issue. Once in a while I, too believe that the world owes me something. I’m not really sure why that is. You hear people all the time complaining about how they should have this and that. That they are due for some sort of compensation for deeds well done.

I find this terribly amusing.

I think that part of the problem is that everyone believes that they should be happy.

I suspect a few of you who are reading this are scratching your heads.
Happy? Of course we should all be happy! What the hell is Jorge talking about? I think he’s seriously disturbed.

Believe what you like, but I am wondering whether or not this is our biggest flaw.

Recently, I have had several conversations on this very subject with various people and have noticed that my chat partners spoke about not being happy. These people are all from different walks of life. They are of different races. They are both men and women (Smartypantses like Dave and Jamie can leave the hermaphrodite comments at home).

These folks are feeling down because they wish to be happier.

I suppose that there really is nothing wrong with trying to be happy. However, obsessing about attaining euphoric joy may be something of a let-down. If you keep chasing your dreams without looking where you are going, the likelihood of you running into a wall or off of a cliff are quite high, I’m afraid.

So what to do?

I wondered about this myself. I always tried to strive for happiness. This, I thought, was something worthwhile. However, the bad part about striving for happiness is that when your quest is interrupted, it can really be a downer. You see, when I am not happy, it is usually because of some stress or another. This type of state leaves me weaker, and I tend to get sick. Indeed, worrying myself sick was something I seemed to excel at. And so, I would end up not feeling well for longer than I should have (and I daresay I shouldn’t have been sick in the first place), and this would affect all of the activities that I enjoyed.

I thought about how other species deal with their everyday lives, and I had a little bit of an epiphany. I realized that pretty much every species out there does what it needs to for survival purposes. Indeed, a lot of animals seem to dwell in a state of either fear or contentment (I am severely understating things, of course, but the point is that they are not happy so much as they are content. Honestly, I don’t know how many animals out there consciously go out their way hoping that the sun will come up tomorrow).

Applying this contented frame of mind to people is a little difficult, as we are complicated beings with emotions and feelings and blah blah blah – Honestly, we make ourselves more complicated than we really are.

I think contentment is underrated.

Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to be happy. I’m just saying that if we keep trying to be happy instead of letting it happen naturally, we will end up killing ourselves from the effort of what I believe to be impossible. Don’t believe what I’m saying? Try forcing a smile all day and see what happens to you…

To better understand my line of thought, let’s create a scale from one to ten, where one is misery and ten is bliss. Ambivalence would be around five, which would make contentment around seven or eight. Now that we have a scale, all we need are some volunteers.

Yes.

You, and…you, in the corner, yes…

Please come to the front.

Let’s examine our volunteers…


Our first volunteer, Jennifer, is an engineer. She loves the satisfaction of a job well done at work, and also enjoys all of the activities she engages in outside of work. She is active in soccer, and in the community, participating in various charity events, and helping out in her neighbourhood. She has a cat, and is also very seriously involved with her boyfriend Chet.

Our Second volunteer, Marcus, is a lawyer. He loves to win cases, and he loves to learn. He’s a great squash player, and is married to his high school sweetheart. While he doesn’t really have a lot of time for active participation in the community, he sponsors two sports teams through his home business (graphic design).

I suppose you were expecting two radically different cases? Not so. Well, not really radical. Let’s move on…

Jennifer is very laid back. While she does get upset once in a while, she doesn’t try to overdo it in the other direction in her search for happiness. While mildly disappointed when things don’t go her way, she doesn’t sit around and worry about it. Instead, she works hard to ensure that it doesn’t get worse, and in doing so achieves a certain level of satisfaction. She resides around the seven or eight mark on the scale we established earlier. With her averaging this score on the scale, she’s pretty level-headed about things, and realistic. There is mild optimism in her personality, too, as she doesn’t have too far to fall if something bad happens.

Marcus, on the other hand, is always trying to win. He’s all about making sure that he’s got a genuine smile on his face, but it comes with a heavy price. When something goes wrong, like a case going sour, his confident manner is usually shaken, and he becomes depressed. He feels like a failure because he can’t keep that level of happiness going. This tends to affect his work, and his home life. The normally happy Marcus tends to brood, and also likes to be alone. By trying to constantly achieve nine and ten on the scale we created, he becomes very vulnerable to falling far, even when he falls just a little.


Thanks, guys. You can go back to your seats.

You see, when Jennifer has a setback, and falls to a lower score, she doesn’t fall as far as Marcus, because her score wasn’t ridiculously high.

I believe that this is the problem with us humans. By constantly trying to achieve an impossible level of happiness, we set ourselves up to fall, and when we fall it feels like we fall so far, even when it is only a short distance…

So now, after all of this introspection, I sit at about a seven or eight. I think this is a great place to be. There is very little stress, and the things that used to bother me don’t really get on my nerves all that much. I don’t go looking for trouble, and at the same time, I don’t kill myself trying to find the holy grail. This is not to say that I don’t do things to make myself a better person.

On the contrary, I’ve been quite busy with my photography project, for example. It’s been an interesting experience, but I’m learning a lot. I don’t expect to be Ansel Adams or Diane Arbus, of course. However, when something good happens, I feel much better about it because I am not constantly waiting for something spectacular to happen while other opportunities might pass me by. And when something spectacular happens? Instant smile.

Does this mean that I just settle for whatever comes my way? Not necessarily. I still manage to have new ideas, and implement new plans. Considering I have a more stable base, this is much easier to do.

I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

Think about it. If I am on my own, and I am a seven or eight, imagine what happens when my wife walks into the room, or I’m having an animated conversation with Dave or Cat. The happiness rating usually goes up.

And since falling a little doesn’t feel so bad due to my relative position on the scale, and doesn’t happen so often anymore, the moments where the score rises occur more often, and are cherished for what they are – happy times.

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23 Responses

  1. Cheers to appreciating the journey and they many avenues that can enlighten if you take the time to notice them and chance venturing down them in the first place.

    Great post, Jorge.

    C

  2. I believe that you make your own happiness. Not all of us are stuck in ideal situations, but you have to make the most of what you’ve got. I find that people who have less in their lives have fuller richer lives.

  3. Everything in moderation – the Greeks had it right Jorge! I like to look at it this way – I have only ever felt a “ten” on your happiness scale AFTER feeling like I have been sitting around the 1 or 2 mark for a while. The heights can only be reached after the depths have been plumbed. Or something trite and meaningless like that…:)

  4. Haha, amen. I’m going through this myself. I could stand to be happier but any attempts to do so end up with failure. Yeah I think that the world owes me sometimes but doesn’t it owe everyone?
    Life isn’t what you make it, it’s what it shovels you. Go with the flow cause everything is an eventuality.

  5. I guess we decided that im around 6-7 on this scale. Happiness is different for everyone… well at least me…but maybe cause im simple:P watermellon bubble gum definitly makes me happy at, at least a 9.5 on the scale.. yes…. watermellon bubble gum…:)
    Also we as humans tend to focus on the bad, or expect happiness to come in a beautifully wrapped expensive package when the simplist, most genuine and wonderful things are under our noses!
    ~Scovix~

  6. Great post Jorge.

    Something to ponder:
    This expectation that the world owes use, and your reference to animals, leads me to wonder if “humans” are not “happy” b/c we believe that to be happy is something more than it really is. For example, whereas a dog would be elated with a simple tummy rub, we tend to view happiness as say, something slightly more tangible.

    Second point of wonderment . . . (is that even a word?!)
    Is it possible that our yearning for the 9 or 10 on the scale, part of that defining line between Man (and I use this in the sense of “human”) and Animal?
    Could it be that our unwillingness to “just be content” (say a 6-7) drives us to feel, to rationalize, to reason, and to advance/progress?

  7. Awwww….I’m really touched that you said an animated conversation with me could make you more happy! 😀

    Great post. It has really generated some excellent comments. Great points from everyone!

    I agree that we have to strive for contentment. I think too many people do not seek out things that give them pleasure….this happens a lot, I’ve found, to working women with children and workaholic men. They get stuck in a routine of working and taking care of the kids & the house & the multitude of obligations that they don’t take time for themselves…to do something they really like to do. Then they are sitting around 3 or 4 on your happiness scale most of the time. That was me a few years ago.

    We have to make time for ourselves and do things that make us happy – or at least content.

    You have done this with your swimming and k-rot and camping and photography, etc., etc. Plus you are a pretty calm and easy going guy in he first place. No wonder you are at a 7 or 8 most of the time. Good on you!

    Anyway, have a contented day! ;-D

  8. What did I say about using the word daresay? I believe it was, ‘unless you’re eighty-two or a British admiral: don’t.’ Ah well, you’re a big boy now. What’s a dad to do.

    Nice work here, son.

  9. Jorge…

    Well…as per our discussions, I don’t know the meaning of the word “relax” I stress, and this is me. I don’t think that I am happy all the time…not in that sense.

    I am happy though, if you know what I mean. If I weren’t stressed and my life ran differently I don’t think I would be happy at all.

    I’ve learned to be happy in my crappy job, and my less than perfect situations. I always try to find something that I can be happy about somewhere…some small thing…

    I recognize that I am sometimes on the verge of misery itself, but then I look around and see that some people are worse off than I will ever be in this world, and that I have nothing to be miserable about.

    crappy job – could be unemployed.
    hot apartment – could be homeless

    You see what I am getting at?? My unhappiness is what I make it.

    Meh, I’m ranting.

    Have a great day!!

    Linette

  10. Hello Jorge, That was yet another excellent entry.
    If i had to scale myself I would say i`m a 7-8. I try to appreciate all that I have and very thankful for what I recieve. I dont like regrets so if something goes wrong I just have to deal with it and deal with it in a not so mind-blowing way.

    Have a lovely week!!!
    Hasta Luego

  11. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh to sleep perchance to DREAM…

    Nice to visit again Jorge…

    Have a great week…
    Cheers…
    Diana

  12. I am in a unique position… or perhaps not… but at any rate, I have gone through the spiking “happiness metre” in the past… what I found is that I was unhappy with MYSELF… and that led to me being unhappy with a LOT of other things in my life that I had no right to be unhappy with. When you measure your successes and failures against each other, you are sort of setting yourself up for disappointment. I am now a MUCH more positive person than I EVER was… even setbacks don’t get to me as much as they used to… I am able with a small period of introspection, to put things “in perspective” and move forward to deal with the challenges.

    I firmly believe that we are in control of our own happiness, because if you really think about it, WE are the ones who decide, ultimately, what MAKES us happy!

    And no… the universe owes us no favours, but by the same token, it bends to our will! We can, with the right amount of attention and intention, control the flow of positivity into, and out of, our lives! You said to try holding a forced smile for a whole day and see what happens… you are absolutely right, but try to NOT smile for a day! 🙂 I bet you that’s JUST as hard!

    Just a few more points to ponder… 🙂 Good blog! And keep smiling anyway, you Handsome Man! 😉

    James.

  13. Hmm,
    I think that we have created exact opposite blogs; or maybe they are the same and at 2:30 in the morning I can barely keep my eyes open enough or squint to see it.

    Happiness is a funny thing. I can run around looking like an idiot with a grin on my face twenty-four-seven or I can just admit the fact that I am to be found somewhere down the middle line. Striving to succeed often has it’s bumps and gnarly cliche’s (no accent unfortunetly); but you can’t let any of those riffles in the road get you down. I call this my “normalcy factor”, you sort of choose how you let things affect you. I mean; being that I am of the sensitive sort (with a tough exterieur mind you), I have a general tendency to wash my hands clean of hurtful words but yet I somehow manage to forget to remove the stinger.
    Oh Jorge; I am going off here aren’t I? I’ll just stop before I let my words jump ahead of me and force my knees to buckle under my own weight.
    Take care,
    Drea

  14. Hey Jorgie. You know, I really can only hope that you hate it when I call you that. It would make my days so much more complete.
    I am a total happiness spiker. I like to traverse the scale from one end to the other several times in the day. But I believe in Happiness with a capital H, and that bad times are necessary to know the difference. We can’t have Happiness without Unhappiness, and so I am perfectly willing to be angry or sad or disappointed so that I can also be touched and tickled and Happy. To me, the bad times are almost as satisfying as experiences as the good times. This is probably because I’m a passionate person – everything I do, I hope I will have a strong reaction to. Sitting at a 6 or 7 would be frustrating to me. I want to be affected by everything, and I usually am. Conversely, I think I have also set myself up for reaching 9s and 10s rather easily. Lots of little things make me giddily happy, and that is an excellent way to live.

    J

    Incidentally, something about this whole post has prompted me to listen to Rufus Wainright’s cover of Across the Universe on repeat.

  15. I seem to be getting the impression that some people think that I have no passion.
    This is not true.
    I think it’s possible to be content AND passionate.
    This is what I am.
    I, too, can reach 9’s and 10’s more easily, now that I am not EXPECTING to always GET THEM.
    And I expect to have some bad times too.

    I think this is why I sit at 7-8 for the most part.

    It’s a good place to be.

    And this is only my very poorly-thought-out theory, by the way.

    For all I know, happiness might be a logarithmic scale. Or one measured by grams. 😉

  16. i grew up with my father and I remember him telling me all the time ..the World owes you fuck all ….! ..ain’t that a bitch ..all I can do is try 🙂 …takes life as it comes to me …:) ..hope you’re having a great week!! ..TTFN

  17. Wow that was a thought-provoking post if I ever laid me eyes on one…

    I think people are really wired differently. Yes you can condition yourself to reduce stress a bit, or try to be more level-headed in crisis situations. But I really believe we are born with how we react to things.

    I see this teaching ESL classes. My students, how they handle the language, the challenge of speaking, really differs between people. I students at the 9 end of your scale that excel, and some that do not. Same for your middle of the road case…. Some thrive, some do not. Of course, the ups and downs for my ‘9’ level students make things a little difficult sometimes.

    What is better?….. It really depends on the person. I’m an 8.7 on that 10 point scale probably and it something I feel comfortable with. The depression points kinda suck, but that is who I am. There are people I admire out there at all points of the scale.

    Thanks for the thought provokation Jorge pronounced George.
    Cheers
    ~ian

  18. i believe that the problem lies not in wanting to be happy, but in thinking it will come from some external source…

    shannon

  19. hi i was just perusing your blogs… again another talented canadian… i think we just have to take the good with the bad, and make the best out of every situation, the old adage of lemons and lemonade, comes to mind… anyhow have a geat day …ciao ***TheFairy***

  20. The journey is the destination.

  21. Hmm… I’ve always thought that the biggest problem with us humans is the spectacularly odd notion that life should be fair.

    But you make a good case for the happiness scale too.

  22. People do not want to be happy.

    That sounds radical, I know, but really it isn’t. I don’t want to be happy and I doubt that you want to be happy either.

    Remember Cypher in “The Matrix”? He’s not happy. He wants to be happy. His idea of perfect happiness is to be plugged into an Experience Machine that gives him happy experiences, even though in reality he is in a vat.

    Now, suppose for a moment that the evil robots in The Matrix aren’t evil or robots, and that life in The Experience Machine really is subjectively much happier than life outside the Experience Machine. That is, there is no enslavement or deception going on. You’re free to enter the Experience Machine, your body will be cared for, and you’re guaranteed to have good experiences. Entirely fake experiences, yes, but good experiences.

    If given the chance, would you enter such an Experience Machine? It would make you happy, right?

    Now, obviously Experience Machines are fiction, but suppose they were not. Most people say that if you put it that way, they don’t actually want to be happy in an Experience Machine — they’d rather be unhappy outside than happy inside. So clearly, happiness is not what people are after. Rather, they want something subtly different. People want to have a life that they can JUSTIFIABLY BE HAPPY ABOUT. You can’t _justifiably_ be happy about an artificial, preprogrammed, guaranteed-to-be-pleasant life.

    And it’s not just happiness either. I don’t particularly like being sad or angry, but there are things in this world about which it is justifiable to be sad or angry. I want to have meaningful events in my life, and that means sometimes having events that justifiably make me sad or angry, and that’s a good thing, even if it feels bad at the time.

  23. I don’t think I’d want to be artificially happy.

    Eric…
    You scare the crap out of me sometimes..

    🙂

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