Human beings are hard-wired to seek comfort and avoid pain. We all want to have more postive life experiences while avoiding problems. This natural pursuit of happiness, however, is not always simple.
When we think about the things we want to experience or the things we wish to avoid, we generally think about circumstances or events. We believe a better job, more money, a bigger house, or fancier car will bring us lasting happiness. Likewise, we fight like hell to avoid the pain brought by ending relationships, bad bosses, mounting bills, or dealing with inescapable things like sickness, old age, and death. As a result, we develop a belief system that embraces attachment on one end and repression on the other, the very things that lead to suffering. We strive to have more good experiences and less bad ones, all in the name of avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. While this link between circumstances and happiness seems logical, it is a misconceptions that tends cause us long term suffering.
We wish to have what we cannot have and avoid what we cannot avoid.
The truth is that circumstances, both desirable and undesirable, arise mostly outside of our control. While we have a certain amount of control over ourselves, we only have limited influence over other people and our environment. Because most of life’s circumstances happen outside our locus of control, using good and bad experiences as a metric for judging life’s successes and failures is futile.
Judging ourselves based on things outside of our control strips us of the little personal power we have over our lives.
It feels natural to judge our personal performance by the experiences we have in life. When good things arise, we like to take credit for them. When bad things arise we tend to direct blame towards ourselves or others, seeing the undesired experience as a result of either personal shortcomings or directed attacks. We like the idea that “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to those who do bad deeds”. This ideation brings a feeling of stability and trust in the world, a type of contract that gives us…