The great philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” So often, I think we succumb to the mistaken notion that structure and creativity cannot work together to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, this is far from being true. Actually, in an environment that is too cluttered, creativity becomes stifled by that which is excessive and extraneous.
Clutter is something that we usually think of in relation to domestic activities. For instance, countless books have been written on the subject of getting rid of clutter around our houses. What is not addressed nearly as frequently is the issue of clutter in connection with the people and activities in our lives.
When we think of success and fulfillment, we usually turn our attention to what we want to add to our lives, disregarding the fact that it is every bit as important what we let go of as what we acquire. Although a chaotic environment can be used to foster creative endeavors, when you are spending time and energy on relationships or activities that are not bringing you any closer to your dreams and goals, you have to step back and examine whether or not those things and/or people should remain in your life.
I have spoken a lot about happiness in my SuccessDiva writing, and I am sure that many people would say that happiness is something they are searching for. But is happiness what you are really seeking, or are you craving the state of mind that you think happiness will bring you?
In a way, happiness is a catchall for a sense of overall well-being that is not necessarily connected to any specific person or thing. It is different from joy, which conveys a sensation of exuberance.
In reading a chapter on happiness from Robert Nozick’s The Examined Life, Philosophical Meditations, I became more cognizant of how misguided the idea of pursuing happiness can be. If we were able to purchase happiness like any other consumer good, would our lives suddenly become perfect? Or must we experience trials and challenges and even crises in order to live a rich, full, complete existence?
Yes, there are moments in our lives when we seem so connected with our own inner bliss that, if someone asked us if we were happy, we would answer “yes” in a heartbeat. But how often is this feeling of happiness long lasting? Like a movie that you are momentarily touched by–yet forget the details of in days to come–happiness is fleeting. Happiness is the butterfly that alights on your hand, only to fly away a few seconds later.
Thus, we must get beyond “happiness” and strive towards a state of fulfillment that can be sustained. To a certain extent, I think Socrates was right when he said that the “unexamined life” is not worth living. When we let obligations control our decisions and the expectations of others become more important than our own personal needs, we have crucified our dreams on the cross of other people’s desires. We have given up our birthright.
Happiness can and does exist, and it is a viable pursuit. At the same time, it is contingent on other variables within our lives. If we are not following what we feel to be our personal calling, any sense of “happiness” we experience is merely an illusion. In the society we live in now, where “quick fixes” and instant gratification are heavily encouraged, many people never stop to look within themselves and honestly acknowledge that sense of incompleteness that exists inside them.
When they do recognize and admit their inner emptiness, they frantically search for ways to fill it. Sometimes they look towards such things as alcohol, drugs, and food to numb their pain, Other times they attempt to satisfy their inner longing with material possessions, a relationship, or even a child. The problem with all of these solutions is that they will never quench that insatiable thirst within the human soul. For until we become comfortable with who we are, we will not find peace through something or someone else.,
To a large extent, one of the reasons that so many relationships fail is because people enter relationships looking for a partner to meet a need within themselves that only they can truly fulfill. And it’s oftentimes easier to run into the arms of another person than to look within ourselves at the person we are. Some of us are so damaged and wounded from the battles we have fought through life thus far that to acknowledge our wounds is almost unbearable; for, in doing so, we must remember memories from our past that we have no desire to resurrect. Rather than reliving them, we would prefer to have new encounters and experiences erase those memories for us. But can they ever be erased entirely?
Might it not be more effective if we faced our past, no matter how painful it is, and tried to make some sense of it? True, we might have to deal with a lot of destructive emotions such as anger, resentment, and even contempt. At the same time, unless we work through this emotional process, how can we move on into a state of forgiveness and inner peace? We must not only forgive those who have hurt us but also ourselves for the mistakes we have made.
It has been said that we have become a culture of victims. Rather than taking responsibility for ourselves and our behavior, we sometimes try to find someone else to blame our wrong decisions on. Or we may even say that circumstances conspired to force us into acting the way we did. Well, what’s the truth? If we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of victimization, we will always be at the mercy of unseen forces and events.
So, even though it may appear to be easier to blame someone or something else for a mistake that we make, in the end, we are letting go of our own personal power in doing so. The moment that you choose to take complete responsibility for your life is the moment when you will be at the peak of personal empowerment. Only then will you be able to apply the knowledge that you have absorbed and turn it from lumps of coal into clear, brilliant diamonds of wisdom.
Have you sometimes wondered why it is that in an age of nearly boundless opportunity, so many people still haven’t found inner contentment? I think one problem is that information has become so readily available and in such vast quantities that it’s difficult to know what to ignore and what to pay attention to. Similarly, it is all too easy to accumulate a multitude of acquaintances rather than a few, genuine friends. In a universe that promotes “the power of now”, we all want everything immediately–or, to use a somewhat trite phrase, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Or . . . do we?
Robert Nozick, in his examination of happiness, presents an interesting hypothesis about an experience machine that would automatically give us any experience that we desire. By making use of this machine, we would feel the pleasure of things–or as he puts it, how they would feel “from the inside”. Although, on the surface, this machine might sound ideal, Nozick makes a strong point when he draws attention to the fact that, although we would feel these experiences, the fact they were not really happening but were instead a product of our imagination (via the machine, of course) would mean that we were essentially living in a dream world. And, even though we might enjoy escaping to a dream world every now and then, most of us would not want to live the rest of our lives in an illusion. In spite of all the pain we may associate with the real world, there are few people who would trade actuality for an existence that was nothing more than a fantasy.
For me, this hypothetical experiment that Nozick suggests puts a new spin on the idea of happiness being a preeminent achievement. Sure, to say that we are pursuing happiness sounds good, and it can even be good. The question is this: is it realistic? And even more than that, if we were given a life that consisted of nothing but happiness, would we be completely content? I find that part of what makes life so interesting is a variety of experiences. If the four seasons of the year were all spring, even though there might be a lot of beauty to appreciate, that fertile splendor might get rather commonplace after a while.
Well, like the seasons of the year, our lives are about seasons, too. To expect that there will not be a certain amount of sorrow and grief along our personal journey is not accepting reality. And as we start to acquire more and more wisdom, we become more inclined to acknowledge those things in life over which we have no control. What we do always have the power to change is the lens through which we view the world. Also, we have the ability to choose the way we will spend our time and the people with whom we will share it.
Susan Ford Collins, in her book The Joy of Success, makes it clear that deleting is as much a component of ultimate success as either creation or completion. “Success,” Collins says, “is being able to let go of an unworkable method or system. An outgrown relationship you’ve tried everything conceivable to fix. A well-paying job you’ve done the same way far too many times . . . Success is cutting out, down, or back.”
If we are the scriptwriter of our own lives, should anybody besides us be creating the plot or writing the lines? No. Yet, tragically, many people come to the end of their time on earth realizing that they only achieved a fraction of what they were capable of accomplishing. And, what is perhaps even worse, they oftentimes come to the startling realization that the dreams that became a reality belonged to someone other than themselves.
Thus, rather than using their own unique potential, they were allowing someone else’s vision of success and fulfillment to be lived vicariously through them. Generally, these unfulfilled individuals justify their decisions with heartfelt phrases about not having wanted to disappoint their mother or father, their spouse, their children, or their friends. But, what they are not realizing is that in not wanting to disappoint others, they have ended up disappointing the most important person of all–themselves. And, in disappointing themselves they have inevitably disappointed everyone else, too, for they have not been able to put their heart into what they have accomplished. This means that no matter how impressive the results of their labor appear to be, they are the product of time and effort rather than passion and enthusiasm.
When motivational guru Anthony Robbins ends one of his Personal Power II audio programs, he always says, “Live with passion”. And even though I used to pay little attention to this key phrase, I now understand how much significance there is beneath the words. To live with passion is the opposite of living the life of “quiet desperation” that author Henry David Thoreau spoke of. It is to be engaged fully in work that you find deeply satisfying or to be in a relationship or marriage that is ignited by the flames of love, ardor, and affection. When you are living with passion, you are able to appreciate the sensation of raindrops falling on your skin or the crackle of autumn leaves under your feet.
Moreover, when this passion and zest for life is combined with wisdom, you start to understand that it is in being that you will feel contentment rather than in having. Sometimes, you may have to give up certainty in order to embrace opportunity. You may have to walk more by faith than by sight, for those who play it safe are rarely the passionate souls. To let go of that to which you are accustomed in order to step out into the unknown is indeed a risk. Yet, isn’t life itself a risk?
Although tomorrow will give you another chance to start creating your ideal life, a lot of hours will pass between now and then. And, since the one thing that none of us seems to have enough of is time, why not start now?
Live Without Limits!
This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva