Welcome to part 2 of how to be happy! Previously, we examined three important concepts in working towards happiness - that happiness isn't a solo effort, the end goal is self-happiness and that working towards self-happiness requires consistency and hope.
Do check part 1 out if you haven't yet done so!
Chapters in this guide:
Part 1 - Finding Happiness
Part 2 - The Meaning Of Life
Part 3 - The Most Important Thing In Life
Part 4 - How To Become Wealthy
Part 5 - Learning To Love
Part 6 - Know Yourself First
In part 2, we will examine what defines happiness, and how to apply the concepts we have learnt previously to work towards achieving happiness and finding our purpose in life.
What is happiness?
To begin, let us attempt to break down the vague concept of happiness into more manageable and understandable terms. What is happiness? What is this concept that we are working towards?
In my opinion, happiness can be broken down into four parts:
That is not to say that someone who possesses all four qualities will definitely be happy, and those who lack some or more of these qualities will be unhappy. In general however, it is a good start to base happiness off of these four qualities.
In this guide, we will go into each quality in detail and how you can work towards each one. In a way, achieving these four qualities in your life is the "hope" while working towards happiness, and it is going to take consistency to get there.
We need to have the hope that if we work on one or more of these qualities each waking day, we will eventually reach a place where we are happy with ourselves and where our life is.
In this part, we will be focusing on the first quality in happiness - purpose.
What is the meaning of life?
This is an age-old question that is difficult to answer, much like happiness. Life is so fragile that a sudden illness or accident can rob away decades of hard work. What are we living for? What is our purpose in being alive? Perhaps there's no true answer.
Honestly, the majority of our lives passes by in somewhat of a daze. We are always worrying about our next plan, our next responsibility. It's like working a job you don't really like for months only to go on a holiday for a week or two. Do we really want to live solely for these short moments of happiness?
In our guide to investing, we mentioned that we try and make money to buy ourselves more "me" time - time to do what we want and truly love to do. In essence, we want to maximize the time we spend in happiness and minimize the time spent working towards happiness.
Reality, however, is not so simple. In the previous part of this guide, we examined how many people tend to focus on more pragmatic things, and in the process, give up or place less emphasis on the things that they truly want to do.
Here's the thing. There really is no meaning in life. You are born, live (hopefully) to a ripe old age, and then you die. If you're religious, maybe there's a heaven or an afterlife, and if you're not then well, you're either in hell or decomposed into atoms.
What you do in between your birth and your death is entirely up to you. You can either make it as meaningful as you want it to be, or as meaningless. Still, 80 years is a long time to live if you have no meaning in life.
If you keep doing the things that you don't like due to pragmatism and the need to survive, you'll never be happy. Sure, we can wait until we retire to start doing the things we want to do without worrying about money.
But do you want to spend the majority of your life doing things you don't like?
If we want to be happy, we need a reason to get up in the morning. Something that spurs us to wake up and start a new day. Something to work towards that gives us a sense of joy and purpose. Something we truly want to do.
Life inherently has no meaning. We have to create that meaning and purpose in life by ourselves every day.
The different levels of ambition
The key to finding meaning in your life is in first knowing yourself. What is your ambition? What are your dreams and goals in life? To many people, this can be quite unclear because they don't know what they want, or what they are looking for.
To begin, let us first establish our level of ambition in life. In my opinion, there are three different levels of ambition:
- High ambition
You want to change the world and make an impact. You want to start a business, or see something you create influence other people's lives. You tend to have idealistic dreams and ambitions, and often try or take unorthodox paths to achieve them.
- Average ambition
You are content with a 9-5 job. You are willing to go to work, come home and play some games or watch TV. You just want an ordinary life, and maybe sneak in some travels in between to liven things up. You can shop or hit the streets on a weekend to go relax and have fun, and are content with the daily routine of life.
That said, you usually still have their own dreams or goals that you want to fulfil, except that you do not feel that you can achieve them, or are simply too unmotivated to work towards those goals day after day. As such, you are stuck in sort of a routine limbo.
- Low ambition
Finally, we have those with low ambitions. Your ideal life would be to laze around and just read books or drink some coffee. You have no motivation for work, and no motivation to do anything. If given the chance, you could totally live the rest of your life just watching Youtube or sleeping life away.
The interesting thing about these three ambition tiers is that someone in an ambition tier will have trouble understanding another person in another ambition tier, usually leading to conflicts.
A high ambition person would never understand why a low ambition person is wasting their life away, while a low ambition person would never understand why a high ambition person is trying so hard. It's all relative.
Now, let us first focus on which ambition tier you think you belong in. An important distinction here to make is whether you naturally belong in that ambition tier - or whether you are forced into that ambition tier.
Most people are of naturally average ambitions, but due to taking on a job that they don't like or other reasons, they end up in the low ambition tier, where they can feel unmotivated to do anything.
First, determine whether your life is in the ambition tier that you naturally feel you are in. If you feel like you want to do something you like and make a difference, you might be in the high ambition tier, but you are stuck in an ordinary job which takes up a lot of your time and energy.
In such a case, you would be a naturally high ambition person, but stuck in an average ambition tier.
If you're in an ambition tier that is different from what you naturally want, you're likely to be unhappy, finding little purpose and meaning in your life.
Our goal here in discovering meaning to life is to move to an ambition tier that is naturally where we want to be at.
That is to say, if you're of a high ambition, go start your own business, even if it's a side business to your main job like a side hustle. Work on something you want to do, even if you can only spend a little bit of time on it every day.
If you're of average ambition, find or work towards a job that isn't soul shackling and stable. This might require you to upskill yourself. This way, you can build your life towards a routine that you are comfortable with.
If you're naturally of a low ambition tier, then it gets a bit harder. If you really are content with just breezing through life, then you have to work first to make that happen (i.e. get rich). Only with wealth can you support such a lifestyle. It's not easy to reach a point where you are free to do nothing!
The key to achieve the purpose portion in happiness is to work towards a lifestyle that allows you to do the things you want to do, whether it be changing the world or a routine life.
This is where consistency comes in - you need to work towards this goal every single day until you reach it. This means that you need to minimally put in effort towards this end every single day, no matter how tired or unmotivated you might be.
That is why we need hope to keep us going. If we don't put in consistent work, we're never going to reach a place where we can be happy with the things we're doing in life. And if we don't have hope that we will reach there one day, we won't be able to have consistency.
Recognizing whether the current you is at an ambition level you are naturally at is quite simple. If you don't like what you're doing in your day to day life, then something is definitely off.
Identify which parts of it you don't like and which parts you do. This will give you a hint as to what you truly love to do and which ambition tier you should be working towards.
Never give up your ideal ambition - no matter how idealistic it may seem. Whether you succeed or fail, it's a step in the right direction towards improving your life and imbuing it with meaning.
The problem comes for those people who belong to a certain special fourth tier in the ambition ladder - those who don't know what their ambitions are, or where their goals lie.
Finding your purpose
A lot of people, myself included, have trouble deciding what we like to do in life. Innately, I think we all know what ambition tier we are at. The difficulty lies in committing to a path.
If we are going to commit consistently towards a goal, then what is the goal we are working towards? More specifically, rather than a vague term like an ambition tier, what should we work towards?
The problem is like a student deciding which course to choose. If you don't know where your interests lie, it can be daunting to make a choice, knowing that it can lock you in.
Luckily, life isn't like that. Remember, the only meaning in life is the meaning that you create for yourself. You don't have to stay locked into a single choice forever. You can always start anew.
If you don't know what you like, just do the things that you have the least resistance to. Try many things, and step out of your comfort zone. The hard truth is that we will never know what we like doing until we actually try it.
Nowadays, with Youtube and the internet, it is even easier to get a view of different professions. See something interesting? You can be sure to find a community class for it somewhere.
Anything can be made into a passion, and any passion can be made into a job if you work hard enough.
If you love what you do, you'll never work a single day in your life again.
Of course, there's also another saying that if you turn your passion into a job, you will start hating your passion since you begin to view it as a chore instead of a past time. It all depends on how you feel about it. Always follow what makes you happy - life is too short to do things that make you unhappy.
Remember, a purpose in life does not have to be synonymous with a job that feeds you. It just has to be something that gives you hope and gets you going every day. It could be a hobby, a passion for something, a community. It is up to you to find that purpose.
That said, dedicating yourself to a hobby or passion of yours can be a very good start. You get to meet like-minded people along the way, and could open you up to discovering more about yourself and your purpose.
Here is a very simple flowchart that you can use to determine where your passion lies. Of course, this oversimplifies the myriad of jobs out there, but it could be a good starting point for you to discover what you have interest in.
If possible, do make your own flowchart in your mind and determine which industry or profession you have the least aversion to. That could be a good starting point to try out various things and see if you take on a liking for anything.
Often, the type of profession you are passionate about stems from your personality, so start from there. Are you altruistic? Do you feel strongly for any cause? Do you have anything you want to do?
These questions can help you to narrow down on your passions and then try them out one by one to find something you like.
Remember, life is not a race. Just because someone has found their passion early on and is working wholeheartedly towards it doesn't mean you have to quickly choose. Take your time and find something that really calls out to you.
There is no point forcing yourself to do something you don't like. Life is too meaningless for that. Inject your life with meaning by doing the things you actually like.
In this part, we went through understanding your level of ambition and finding a passion that you can work towards at a scale that fits your ambition level.
Finding your purpose can be difficult, and can feel like you're groping around in darkness most of the time. The worst part is doing something you're passionate about, but not getting much progress on it.
Find out how to improve on your passion, and improve yourself. Remember, your passion and purpose is a hope. Once you find it, stay consistent in working towards it every day, no matter what happens.
For now, it is enough for you to think about the things that you like and don't like to do. The things you like to do should be a guiding light for you when working towards finding your purpose.
Self-happiness, our end goal, is a sum of all the small parts. Working towards finding your purpose in life is just one part of the whole. We still have three more parts - wealth, health and love to go through!
When you're ready, move on to part 3 in our how to be happy guide, where we will discuss why you need to be healthy to be happy, how to do so, and how to create a concrete plan using routines to work towards happiness steadily.
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