To chase happiness — whether through excess wealth, status achievements or spiritual attainment — is to live in regret. Constantly having our eye on some future prize produces the psychological feeling of missed opportunity and scarcity. The feeling that we need to run faster to get somewhere quicker — so that whatever we do is never enough. The whole idea of finding happiness only lays the ground for deferring happiness.

Pouring water into a broken pot

So, even when these external achievements are reached, they bring only a fleeting moment of satisfaction. For, a mind that’s constantly looking ahead does not fully experience whatever satisfaction it encounters. This is akin to pouring water into a bottomless pot.

A mind that’s constantly looking to the future is paradoxically also stuck in the past. Because running hard towards an idea of what one should be, cannot help but be rooted in some idea of what one has been, such that the quality of our engagement in the present — in the experience of the act itself — is diminished. We end up too busy judging a quite arbitrary self-image, constructed from memory of the past, against some idea of what should be in the future.

Quality of experience

The whole question of ‘finding happiness’ is then future focused by construct and thus doomed to produce discontentment and regret, right from the start.

If there is such a thing as finding happiness, it lies in becoming aware of the quality of our present experience. In the connectedness with which we engage in whatever we do — whether that is having a cup of tea, building a car, or writing a memo.

This is the art of doing things for their own sake.

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Harsha PereraHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.

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