I want to share with you some personal musings on ‘happiness’ — what exactly is happiness, how to feel “happier”, and how to live a more fulfilling life with more achievement.
What is “happiness”?
First of all, let us define ‘happiness’.
To me, happiness isn’t just a feeling of pleasure. For example, some people say after they eat a hamburger and feel pleasure from the food, “I feel happy!” But I think happiness is (and should) be more than that.
The best definition I got for happiness comes from the Greeks, who refer to happiness as ‘eudaimonia’ — which essentially means “human flourishing.”
To me, I prefer “human flourishing” as a more precise definition of “happiness”. Why? Because the concept of human flourishing is very active– it means that we need to ACTIVELY flourish, by doing stuff. To flourish is also this amazing visual image of us living life to the fullest, of us constantly growing, exploring, and flowing out like a never-ending fountain of awesomeness/dopeness.
So the interesting thing about a lot of people who think of happiness as a feeling is this: the feeling of pleasure is fleeting, and we also become desensitized to the feeling of pleasure after a while. This is called ‘hedonic adaptation’ — that we become adapted to the feeling of pleasure (hedonism).
For example, let’s say when you were in college and a 99 cent cup ramen would give you 9/10 in terms of pleasure. But as you get older and start earning more money, you get less pleasure from eating your ramen. Now, you must eat more high-end foods (like expensive T-Bone steak). And as time goes on, you become more and more bored by the expensive foods you like, and you keep chasing that next good meal, because your taste buds become adapted to the taste of good foods. Before you know it, you can only feel pleasure from eating expensive Michelin-star restaurants, with these complicated foods, wine pairings, where the portion sizes keep getting smaller and smaller (I’ve found that the more expensive the restaurant, the hungrier I leave it after the meal).
The same goes with almost any superficial pleasure we have in life. The feeling of buying an expensive new car, a fancy new house, moving into a cool trendy neighborhood, buying luxury goods, buying a new iPhone, a new laptop, a new camera, a new anything.
So what is the antidote to ‘hedonic adaptation’?
My idea: we flourish the most when we are in the act of creation. When we are making stuff. When we are making poetry, when we are making photos, when we are dancing, when we are creating stuff! Creating ideas, creating images, creating words, creating conversation, or creating anything.
So as a practical idea: if you want to be happier, create more stuff, and more often!
The psychologist Mihalay C. came up with a concept called “flow”. Essentially it is the mental state in which we are being challenged, and super-active in whatever we are doing. In America, we often call this “being in the zone.”
We are in a state of flow when we are super focused in whatever we do, and we lose a sense of time, space, and self. For example, when I’m in the creative flow of making photos, I forget about myself, my body, and time seems to float by in minutes. The same goes when I’m in deep and engaged conversation with close friends and family; hours of conversation seems to go by in minutes.
The same also happens when I’m in the creative flow of writing, video editing, or making videos. I love the state of flow the most, because I’m calm, relaxed, yet engaged and having fun!
The secret of getting into a state of flow is pushing yourself and challenging yourself at a task, a little beyond what you’re normally used to. For example, if you want to achieve a state of flow in photography, challenge yourself 10% more than you’re used to. Take more challenging compositions, get closer to your subjects, and take more risks!
In writing, write about topics which are interesting and challenging to you. The secret is to choose a topic that forces you to use more of your intellectual brainpower; but don’t choose a topic that will overwhelm you. Challenge yourself a little more than you’re used to, but don’t choose something that is too difficult.
Therefore, I think that to be happier is to be in a state of flow more often. That means never stop challenging yourself, never stop exploring and never stop growing, evolving, and attempting new things and new frontiers!
Shoot for the moon
The last note I have about happiness: shoot for the moon! If you’re optimistic about the future and hopeful, you’re going to be happier. You’re going to feel more excitement waking up in the morning, asking yourself, “What awesome challenge am I going to pursue today?” For myself personally, I’ve been super optimistic and excited about all this new GoPro Fusion 360/virtual reality technology and that has got me excited to wake up every morning.
What challenges do you want to create for yourself? What are ridiculous, huge, audacious goals you want to set for yourself?
Realize you have infinite potential. Remember what our friend Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story said, “To infinity and beyond!” Also think about the Lego movie, “Everything is awesome!” Consider all the modern tools, technology, internet, smartphones, etc we have access to. We live in a world in which we no longer need to worry about starving to death, freezing to death, dying of curable diseases, or being killed by lions or some random neighboring tribe. We live in one of the most peaceful and safe times in human history; why not exploit this opportunity to do epic shit, and push the human race forward?
Achieve your fullest potential in my new course, “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography Entrepreneurship” now on Udemy, and get a free copy of “Modern Photographer“. Your life is short, why not shoot for the moon?