Cover photo

The Key to Happiness:

Think Bigger

I spend quite a bit of time online, embracing a social-first approach. On platforms like Farcaster, I often see people talking about their struggle to find happiness. Yrs ago when I was doing data analysis on social media data, the amount of folks posting their attempts and failures of finding happiness actually made me sad. This pursuit isn't new and it's clear social media doesn't typically offer the right perspective for folks out there looking for answers.

People "chase" happiness through engagement, social media likes, and other external achievements, but the pursuit often leaves them feeling empty and unfulfilled.

This raises a critical question: Why is chasing happiness so unsatisfying?

The answer lies in the nature of happiness itself. It's a fleeting emotion, as transient as a summer breeze. The burst of joy from a reply, the warm glow of social media validation, the elation of achieving a long-held goal - these are momentary states, destined to ebb and flow with the tides of circumstance. Our relentless pursuit of these fleeting highs can lead to a cycle of frustration and disillusionment.

This isn't a novel insight. Philosophers and spiritual leaders have grappled with the nature of happiness for millennia.

Let's begin with what the Buddha taught: attachment to fleeting emotional states leads to suffering. He advocated instead of chasing one emotional state to cultivate equanimity - a balanced state of mind that remains steady as we tackle life's inevitable ups and downs.

This ancient insight of the Buddha remains relevant today. Social media, with its endless stream of highlight reels and carefully crafted personas, can create an illusion of perpetual happiness in others. We measure our complex, messy realities against these polished fragments, fueling a cycle of comparison and discontent.

But what if the pursuit of happiness itself is misguided?

What if, we have been overlooking something more fundamental amidst our relentless chase for this positive emotion?

Aristotle proposed the concept of eudaimonia - often translated as "flourishing" or "well-being." This state, he argued, comes not from the pursuit of pleasure or wealth, but from living virtuously and realizing one's full potential. In our context, this might mean using platforms like Farcaster not just for self-promotion or idle scrolling, but as tools for genuine connection, learning, and intellectual growth.

The Stoic philosophers offer another valuable perspective. Epictetus emphasized focusing on what we can control - our thoughts, judgments, and actions - rather than external circumstances. Applied to our online lives, this wisdom encourages mindfulness about our posts, comments, and the curated lives of others. It reminds us that true freedom and contentment come from aligning our actions with our values, not from controlling how others perceive us online.

As artificial intelligence and automation transform the nature of work and daily life, the question of purpose becomes even more pressing. If machines can handle many of our traditional tasks, where will we find meaning? The answer may lie in embracing what makes us uniquely human: our capacity for creativity, empathy, complex problem-solving, and forming deep, meaningful relationships.

Martin Buber's philosophy becomes particularly relevant here. He emphasized the importance of genuine "I-Thou" relationships - encounters where we engage with others as whole beings rather than as objects or means to an end. In a world where algorithms increasingly mediate our interactions, actively cultivating these authentic connections becomes not just fulfilling, but essential.

Viktor Frankl, drawing from his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, developed logotherapy - a therapeutic approach based on the idea that the primary motivational force in humans is the search for meaning. Frankl argued that meaning can be found through creating work or doing deeds, experiencing something or encountering someone, and the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

Frankl's insights remind us that meaning isn't something we passively receive from our surroundings or our social media feeds. It's something we actively create through our choices, our relationships, and our responses to life's challenges.

This shift from chasing happiness to seeking meaning doesn't mean abandoning joy or pleasure. Rather, it suggests that true fulfillment comes from a life rich in purpose, connection, and personal growth. By focusing on these deeper aspects of human experience, we may find that happiness follows naturally - not as a goal in itself, but as a byproduct of a life well-lived.

The reality is that we often place too much emphasis on achieving a feeling of happiness, rather than simply existing in the moment we inhabit, regardless of the fleeting emotions our brains constantly generate. Our feelings, after all, are the product of complex neurological processes - electrical impulses and chemical reactions that trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.

These biological mechanisms, while crucial for our survival and social bonding, don't define the entirety of our being. We are far more complex and nuanced than the sum of our neurochemical reactions. By recognizing the transient nature of our emotions and understanding their biological basis, we can gain perspective on our experiences.

This doesn't mean dismissing our feelings or striving for emotional numbness. Instead, it's about acknowledging our emotions while also recognizing that we are larger than any single feeling or thought. We can experience joy, sadness, frustration, or excitement without being entirely consumed by these states.

Embracing this broader view of “us,” we open ourselves to a richer, more textured experience of life - one that values the full spectrum of human experience and finds meaning beyond the pursuit of a single emotional state. This approach allows us to engage more fully with the world around us, connect more deeply with others, and find fulfillment in the complex, ever-changing journey of our lives.  

Find you, find peace.

Collect this post to permanently own it.
aaron logo
Subscribe to aaron and never miss a post.
#happiness#state of mind