The future’s bright.
That’s what the technology ads and glossy keynote conferences keep promising me anyway.
But I don’t know. It seems like a big gamble.
I prefer to know how I can make today a place where I want to live.
The best question I’ve found in accomplishing this task is not in asking “What will make me happy today?” (generally a losing question), but “What will make me like myself more today?”
For those in the unconditional self-love crowd, that will seem like a road to dissatisfaction. What if you don’t accomplish the tasks you set yourself? Will you now be filled with self-admonishment and feel like a failure?
I think of self-love as more of a background necessity. It’s what my brother Matt might refer to as “core confidence” – you always need to mentally be fighting in your own corner and treat yourself like a best friend.
But your day-to-day happiness is more about the practical question of asking: “What do I have to do to treat myself like a best friend right now?”
My 7 Criteria For Daily Happiness
I’m not a big “life-plan” kind of person.
I have general instincts for where I want to be in the next six months, but I tend to direct 95% of my efforts to what’s happening in the next 24 hours. Sometimes the next 20 minutes.
I prefer to have a daily focus to keep my sights locked in on what matters.
And once I ask the question: “What will make me like myself more today?” or even “What will make me feel good about what I did today?” it clicks all my current priorities into place.
I remind myself of the true essentials:
- I need to be around people who I connect with emotionally/intellectually
- I need to show generosity, kindness, or make a contribution
- I need to stretch my physical capacities and take care of my health
- I need to work out my mind – read a book, learn one extra chapter, master one new concept, memorise one new poem, write one more page, look up words in the dictionary.
- I need to feel grateful and present – meditating, walking in nature, trying something new, tweeting a compliment on someone else’s work, giving a gift, sending my cousin a piece of music they’ll love or a great article that will help them with their work.
- I need to manage my environment – respond to emails, handle bills, do laundry, whatever is necessary to have a modicum of order and control (without getting lost in pointless distraction tasks).
- I need to take chances – meet new people, pitch an idea, take a creative risk in my work, seize a career opportunity, not shy away from approaching someone for advice.
One advantage of just having a daily focus for your fulfilment is that is cures you of the disease most people suffer from, namely the future expectation of happiness, or the “someday when I have x” image of fulfilment, where x is more income, property, career success, fame, or a false illusion of universal approval and respect from one’s peers.
Instead you just focus on the virtues you want to build. Greek philosophers like Aristotle thought that a good life consisted in cultivating the ideal set of virtues and expressing them through our everyday actions. This always made more sense to me as a map of living a good life than a strictly goal-oriented mentality of constant achievement and acquisition of material possessions.
Once you start knowing what you need to do and who you need to be every day to flourish and be happy, you become gratified by what you can do this second, rather than the promise what you might have in some far-flung future.
Let’s face facts: the future is always a gamble. And its ability to disappoint is palpable and all too real.
The world today tends to live for tomorrow’s hope of joy and success. But who’s to say it will turn out that way?
Tomorrow’s technology might promise us everything. But it also might destroy us. Worst of all, it could bore us. The Apple Watch might die a death in less than a year. Maybe Elon Musk won’t ever send us all to Mars. Although we all hope the Occulus Rift will be a portal into a cyber-space wonderland of fantasy and magic and unmatched in its delights by anything in the mundane realm of human meatspace…it could just turn out to be a crappy kids Christmas toy.
Maybe we should be more grateful for the gifts we have to play with now.
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Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.