Every January 1, we resolve to do certain things. Our success in meeting those goals is intended to transform our lives, so perhaps it’s not really a new year we desire, but a new soul, or at least a resurrection of our better nature. Our resolutions are, at best, perfunctory, composed out of obligation or habit with no why and no reflection. Year after year, the results are the same. The resolutions fail, our expectations don’t materialize and we berate ourselves for our failure.
With that failure, unhappiness ensues. It’s an annual cycle of disappointment and self-bashing.
Enter the “pop nirvana” gurus and life coaches to mine your unhappiness, the Deepak Chopras, Oprahs, and Eckhart Tolles who insist they have the “answer” to live your best life and be prosperous by employing unrealistic expectations in order to enrich themselves. And the same with the “God Wants You to Be Rich” folks like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. We want constant happiness and effortless answers, and so we are suckered into the fantasy.
This “be happy all the time” habit has transformed into an anathema for us, but a multi-billion dollar industry for twenty-first century P.T. Barnums. They’ve forced us to believe that happiness is a place where you can put down roots and live forever in perennial ecstasy.
It’s a lie.
I’d rather read and follow the advice of the dead guys like Jesus or Buddha or read books like the Upshanids, Vedas, or the Kyballion; all of which have endured the test of time. At least, I know the authors are not trying to sell me something.
I discovered a simple life gem without any help from Tony Robbins, and unlike the enlightenment peddlers; I’ll share it with you for free: You cannot be happy or prosperous 100% of the time. You don’t need to go on a $6000 retreat or donate to a church to discover that.
Happiness is a temporary stopping point; one of many waystations in our 72.3 years in the cycle of waking and sleeping. Just like sadness, it’s not a one-time event; it’s a dance between those two opposing poles, alternating at all points in between, each day we take a breath. Pop culture leads us to believe that unless you exist in perpetual joy, you must somehow be deficient; an aberrant personality in need of an attitude adjustment.
Thousands in the “be happy” industry get rich from perpetuating that nonsense.
Our expectations about life are far too great. We ask more of life than it can realistically deliver. We demand the ultimate experience every moment. This is why we feel deceived and disappointed. Television, movies, books, and songs convince us that we can do anything or have anything, just by imagining it.
Along with our desire for non-stop peak experiences, we demand more guarantees that life won’t change. That mindset is in direct opposition to a world with frequent busts and booms, fewer still-points, and too many choices accompanied by weighty consequences. It’s routine to feel as if you’re living in a perpetual hailstorm of ball bearings.
We need to accept the reality that life is not mountain-climbing, where you finally reach the summit and remain there. It’s more like a roller coaster ride, or whitewater rafting. Nature is full of predictable cycles. Life is like that too.
The answer may be the answer, but only temporarily. As we age and mature, the answer always changes. The world changes and we change; our wants, needs and answers evolve.
Eccentric gonzo author, Hunter Thompson, once remarked that every day is a choice of swimming or floating. I think that each day is a decision between two choices: Play it safe or take a leap of faith? Stick with routine or do something different? How we spend each day is, after all, how we spend our lives. None of our choices is perfect or comfortable. Each one has its own unique set of consequences. We can always choose what we do, but we can’t choose the consequences. And we can never expect happiness as certainty.
Perhaps instead of making resolutions or looking for answers, we should ask questions and set priorities. When the time is right; when we are at the peak of readiness and receptiveness, the answer usually appears—for a little while anyway.
As always, dead poets have a better way of stating it:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
This year I’m skipping the tradition of New Year’s resolutions.
By Carol Morgan