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Happiness Manifesto

After traveling around the world for a few years now, in some quest for happiness, I found out different guidelines that will help me toward it. I met many people and everyone had a different answer for what actually happiness meant for them. I just kept what I thought was making sense for me and decided to write down these ideas for myself. After finishing it, I understood it could help some other people and decided to write it in a more formal way in here.

 

 

 

1. Happiness = Expectations – Reality

 

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”

Alexander Pope

 

When I was in Thailand, I went to a temple in the north of the country, close to a city called Chiang Mai. It is a huge city with a hippy vibe and laid-back atmosphere. There, I met a Buddhist monk to ask him about happiness. The temple was not very far from the city, but the monks rarely went out. I was wondering how a person spending most of his time meditating could be truly happy. He explained me the basics of the Buddhist philosophy. All is about acknowledging that suffering causes unhappiness, which is inherent to every human being. Everyone suffers and Buddhism explains us that it is because we try vainly to grasp emotions that will surely fade in time. Thus, Buddhism gives some clues on how to suffer less. However, I was concerned with the fact that these ideas decrease unhappiness but don’t really increase happiness. What interests me is not to get a plain life, neither happy nor unhappy. I want to be happy. Thus, I started to think about it a bit deeper. All the times when I was unhappy were times when the reality did not match my expectations. The times when I was happy were the times when my expectations were lower than what really happened. I concluded that my happiness was conditional to two things, reality and expectations. Even if one can argue that we can impact both, I believe that the easiest way to impact the difference is to work on our expectations. By lowering our expectations, we end up happier. It is somehow a modified version of the Buddhist truth, my version. However it is also important to underline how much luck and destiny impact our life; by acknowledging that, and stop trying to swim against the flow by wasting time and energy, we can be happier.

 

 

2. Don’t own too many things

 

“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”

Albert Einstein

 

I traveled in the Peru by bus for about four weeks. One day, while leaving a city called Chachapoyas, in the mountains not so far from the Amazonian forest, I met a French teacher. He was taking a gap year to discover the world. After about fifteen minutes of small talks, he told me that his backpack has been stolen a few days before. He was thrilled, he felt free of concerns and worries. At that moment I did not really understand why he was so happy, he had nothing and still a lot to travel. Now, I can take a step back and agree with him. To be happy, you have to be free and having too much belongings that you care about can just prevent you from moving as you could if you had less. All this world of materiality just holds us back and prevents us to reach this material freedom. I will never say that owning nothing is the solution, however you don’t need more than a few. More than that, you should not be attached to it. I have a shirt that I really like in my backpack because someone I really cared about gave it to me two years ago, but I keep in mind that nothing is as unique as the memories that this shirt brought me. I can lose the shirt, not the memories.

 

3. If you don’t like what you do: change

 

“Happiness isn’t something you experience, it’s something you remember”

Oscar Levant

 

I worked a few months in a small town called Hamilton, in New Zealand. During that time, I was living in a small hostel where I met a lot, a lot, of interesting people: strange people, young and old, some normal people too. One night, a new guy arrived in my dorm; his name was Jack. He was 30 or 35, well not too young for sure but not old either. As with every new guys coming to the hostel, we talked a bit. Actually we talked a lot before dinnertime. I was fascinated by the way he ended up there: one day, after work, he took the metro as every day and while looking at the window in front of him, he decided that he will never go back to work again. Just like that. The next day, he packed and left everything without even notifying anyone and travelled. When I asked him, he did not know for how long he will be away or even if he wanted to go back. It is an extreme case, but the lesson is simple: change. Human needs to change to live instead of just survive. It can be as simple as to change food or as crazy as this guy. You can produce changes artificially in the beginning and make it a habit until you don’t even notice it.

 

4. You need money; it’s a fact, deal with it

 

“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of”

Jane Austen

 

Don’t believe the people who tell you that money does not count. It is not true and you can be sure that they never tried to live without money. You need money to be able not to think about money. When I worked in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, my flat mate was a musician. A good musician, but he wasn’t as successful as the Beatles and did not earn a lot of money out of it. He was very proud about his liberty: he was not an employee, did not work for anyone, he was free. That is one of the first things he told me, he was proud of his freedom and almost bragged about it. But every single time we went out together, he was counting his coins because he did not have any. I don’t blame him for having no money, who would I be to say that. However, it was obvious that, for me, it was not freedom. At least, not my definition of what freedom should be. He was not free from his needs, because all the time he was thinking about money. From that moment, I realized that the romantic view of a life free from money was a utopia. Accept money as it is, earn enough to be able to think about being happy, without struggling every day. It is not a goal by itself of course, but it exists and you should keep that in mind.

 

5. You will never be truly happy if you cannot be happy alone

 

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul”

Democritus

 

Somewhere in the Andes, while hiking with a friend, we arrived to a lake. The lake was pretty high with an altitude of about 4000m and we could feel our breath being a bit slower and difficult. It was quite cold too even with the sun being quite strong. At the other end of the lake, we noticed a yellow tent and we walked toward the tent. Inside was an American guy in his 40’s. He owned his business back in Texas and was an entrepreneur. Everything was going great for him. He had money and a family, and looked happy. The reason for his happiness, he told us, was that he took the time to be alone once in a while and learned to like these times. By enjoying being by himself, he appreciated the company of others even more. At the end, he did not crave for a social life as some people do. He just learned to enjoy all the moments of life, alone or not. Traveling made me work a lot on that, a good exercise is to eat alone at a restaurant. Being able to eat alone in a restaurant requires a lot for many people but once you passed that test and enjoyed it, you will understand.

 

6. Freedom is in your mind

 

“If you want to be happy, be”

Leo Tolstoy

 

As long as others dictate your actions, you will never be your true self and you cannot possibly be free. Independence of others judgment has always been a key difference for many people. These crazy people you see on the street maybe went too far on the other side, but one should try to get rid of others view. I did most of my trip in New Zealand hitch hiking, but this day we were the ones to have the car. We were five people and two sits were still free in the back. After a few hours on the road we noticed a guy on the side with his thumb up. We stopped to pick him up. As we slowed down, we noticed that something was strange: his face was covered with tattoos. We were a bit scared at first, and when he entered he took the sit close to mine. I had no choice but talk to him. To avoid any awkward moment, I went straight to the point and asked him about the tattoos on his face. To sum up the thirty minutes of talk, the idea was that he wanted to be free from other people opinions. Some people need to show it physically by dressing differently or acting socially different. For me it is more internal, I just don’t care about what people think of what I do. You can call that detachment.

 

7. Work is part of life: don’t dream about leisure at work

 

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”

Confucius

Don’t believe that not working is the answer: it’s not. Everyone needs to work because it does give you a rhythm in life. If you don’t work, you will feel lost after a while for sure. I am not saying that you need to work 24/7, just enough for you to appreciate the rest of your life but also the time spent working. If you don’t like to work, it is just that your definition is not the good one. Somewhere in the Atacama Desert in Chile, I stayed over at a place in the middle of nowhere. There was an observatory and a guy. He worked every night, with the stars, gathering data, doing some computations, and so on. He found his own definition of work and was happy. I would not do that, being alone in the desert working, but obviously he liked it. Everyone has a different vision of what working should look like. If you dream about holidays at work, it only means that you are confused: so don’t postpone until it’s too late, start to find what working means for you. You have a life, don’t waste it.

 

 

8. Food isn’t just food

 

“Some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had occurred at my family’s dinner table”

Bob Ehrlich

 

None can ever state the importance of eating. In every culture, lunch or dinner are moments when people gather together. It is not random. Everything about it is important: the cooking, the eating part, and even the dishes! Somewhere in Tibet, close to Lassa, I met an English guy. He was quite old; let’s say 80 or 90. I don’t remember much of our talks, but I remember one thing. At some point, he looked at me and told me: “Let’s have dinner”. I saw the light in his eyes, he was happy. Every meal made him happy because he felt equal to everyone else. Eating is one of the last thing that makes old people happy and we should understand that. Taking the time of eating is not just about eating but also a moment where everyone stops together and enjoys. Cooking is also a time of joy that you can share with people. Don’t waste money on psychologists or psychiatrists, just save some time for dinner.

 

9. Art is part of the answer

 

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”

Edgar Degas

 

Almost every philosopher trying to answer big questions ended up with art at some point. Art is important because it expresses what cannot be said with words. It expresses things happening in your head that you probably are not even conscious of. Aristotle stated it right more than two thousands years ago: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”. When I was younger, I did not fully understand sculpture or paintings in museums. Every time I went to a classic museum to see great pieces of art, I did not like it, I did not feel quite right, and I just wanted to go back home. However, music has always changed my life. I used to speak about the soul of a song and some people thought I was crazy; some people didn’t. When I was in Berlin in a club called Tresor, I never felt it so deeply: it was probably some kind of trance now that I think about it. The Tresor is a club in a basement where the music is electronic and very loud. The bartender serves drinks behind a fence, as if he was in a prison and the rest of the world was free thanks to the music. I have never been a huge fan of electronic music, but this time I merged with it. So, find some art you understand and stick with it. If you are not touched by sculpture, don’t force it: it’s not for you. Just find the right one. Seek for beauty.

 

10. Mentors are fucking important

 

“My best mentor is a mechanic and he never left the sixth grade. By any competency measure, he does not have it. But the perspective he brings to me and my life is, bar none, the most helpful”

Brendon Burchard

 

By definition, a mentor is a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time. I will just add one thing to that: a mentor might also not be aware of being your mentor. If you think you can manage life without anyone helping you, it is possibly true but you won’t have enough of a lifetime to achieve it. Mentors are people who recognize in you dead-ends they already over-passed and vice-versa. Mentors can also give you guidelines in your choices. But most of all, mentors are people with better skills, better behaviors or simply people you want to be like by some aspects. When you see them, you can’t help yourself thinking that you wish to be more social, more charismatic and so on. Just observe how they do, mimic what they do until you manage to feel the same and be the same. I crossed the path of a few people that I met around the world who inspired me. Every time, I tried to stay with them and speak with them as much as possible to get the most out of it. All of them, three people actually, were the most charismatic people I’ve ever met: on from London, one Italian from a small village and another was from Leipzig in Germany. I don’t know if I am charismatic or not, but one thing is for sure, not as much as half of what they were at that time. The common dominator of these three people was that none of them cared about what other people could possibly think. They just act as if only their judgment counted. I am not there yet, but I believe that I am aiming toward that feeling. It is a lot of training to be so. Find mentors, let them help you change.

 

11. Meet new people, different people and get out of your comfort zone

 

“I love meeting new people; I think everyone has a story to tell. We should all listen sometimes”

Kim Smith

This piece of advice is the easiest one to grasp. Some people are happy when they meet the same people all over again. I believe that these people won’t be the readers. I like to meet new people and especially ask them for their favorite songs or favorite movies. If you travel in the world, you will meet different people for sure. It is not because they are not like you that you cannot appreciate the company for a little while. Sometimes you need time to appreciate someone, sometimes you don’t. But one thing is certain, people are part of life. So, go out and meet them; I am not saying that you should be aggressive, but just open to new encounter.

 

12. Love exists and it can last until death

 

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved”

George Sand

 

Love exists, it is everywhere: in movies, rock music and life. It does exist and it seems to be a state of mind. If it can last one year, why not two or ten or twenty? No reasons, right. However don’t rush to it, if so you could ruin everything. When my parents divorced when I was around fifteen, they were concerned about the fact that they destroyed the idea of love in my head and in the heads of my brothers. I believe it was actually the other way around: after that time, I decided that I should not care about social pressure any more, get married fast and feel sorry for myself twenty years later. I think that love, as a social feature was a mistake from the beginning, as people tend to understand it wrong. Start to do what you love and then you will find love: that is how it works. Most people don’t understand that: they think that finding love will help them understand what they like in life. It is both stupid and immature, and ultimately, it leads to a society where people divorce and cheat. Do what you like and the rest will come. And since you made no concessions on what you liked before meeting the person, you won’t put the fault on the other one. Finish your own construction by doing it in the right order: you don’t start a house by lighting a fire in the fireplace.

 

13. Learn new things everyday

 

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

We are used to link learning and judgment because of school and university. However, it is more than that: learning is vital. It is a constant need. It can be various and multiple: learn to sing, a new language, a new skill, how to make a mojito, etc. Once you realize it, it becomes obvious and you start looking forward to waking up because you know you will learn something new and exciting! Also, most people think that after a certain age, you stop learning: it is wrong. When I was in Jordan, I met these people in Petra, at the top of a hill. They were around fifty each. And it was a group of four friends, learning the guitar. No one really knew how to play but they were trying and helping each other. They just wanted to be a band! I don’t know what they can do with four guitars and no drums but still, they were happy to learn: it’s a fact, I saw it. However, don’t drop everything while trying it. If you start to learn the piano, then drop, then start to learn Chinese, and abandon, and so on. You will feel useless and depressed. Learning can be small things like a magic trick or a new recipe. Achievement is as important as learning for your self-esteem. One way to do that is to learn easy stuff !

 

14. Everybody needs routine, habits

 

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it”

John Steinbeck

 

When I started to travel, I thought that one of the major problems I was seeing around me was that people were sick of the routine. All of their issues came because of the routines they ended up with. I thought that traveling would be the end of my routine. It was true, partially. I quickly realized that I needed small routines because it was reinsuring in the unknown. For example, I had to read at least half an hour every day. It was a time for myself, and I started every day knowing that whatever would happen during the day, at least I will be reading half an hour. It comforted me a few times when I was camping by myself in the middle of nowhere in a forest of Slovenia and felt totally lost. It seems stupid, but it feels very good to have certainties. Routine gives consistency and are good in every life. However, routine without any change is what destroys people. People feel trapped instead of feeling comforted. Use your illusions.

 

15. Jealousy destroys happiness

 

“Desire nothing, give up all desires and be happy”

Swami Sivananda

 

From all negative feelings, jealousy might be the worst. It comes out of imperfections and supply itself. Everyone experienced jealousy at some point, and knows how time consuming it is. Nothing good can come out of it and the feeling should be erased as soon as realized. Not repressed, erased. It is easy to fix when it is still young. Otherwise it turns to resentment and bitterness. To avoid this kind of feeling comes together with the absence of any judgment: do not judge people. In India, I met a Brahman, an Hindu priest. Even with a heavy accent I understood the main message: don’t give a shit about other, things are what they are. In Hinduism, basically you are told that your present life is the consequence of your past lives. So, if it is bad now it is because you did something wrong before and you deserve it. So, don’t envy anyone! Just try to be a better man or woman and it won’t happen to you again! I do not believe in reincarnation, at least not in the Hindu way, but I agree with the idea of Karma somehow. Especially when it tries to prevent jealousy.

 

16. Be bored

 

“Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty, his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure”

Aldous Huxley

 

Some people could tell you that boredom is the worst. Some people could tell you that you should never be bored. They have some arguments supporting that and it makes sense, because boredom does not feel quite right. But it does not feel quite right by itself, it makes sense when it is part of a whole. Being bored while talking to someone makes you realize how good it is to have friends to talk with! I have once been stuck with a girl for an evening. We were part of a group, but she was French and we were only with Mexicans: it was in Mexico! So, she decided to keep talking to me and I was bored out of my mind. For three hours, she was the only one talking. She was talking about vegan people because she was one. Talking about how animals are so cute that we could not kill them or even drink milk, she was speaking to plants before eating. She was kinda crazy actually. Only things like that, no debate, just facts. She did not want to know what I was thinking about, she was just saying the same things all over again. After one hour, I stopped caring. I just tried to carve this moment in my mind, to be able to appreciate good conversations better after that. And even appreciated that moment.

 

17. You don’t need to have a passion to be happy

 

“Do anything, but let it produce joy”

Walt Whitman

 

That is one of the biggest mistakes of our time, I believe. When you are five, people ask you “what do you want to be later?”. As if one answer was the right one and we had to find it. We grow up with this idea in our minds, we have to find our path, our passion and live for it. It is almost scary. More you grow, more you see people who look passionate. People around you start to say they love their jobs even though it is not true, you start to idealize the lives of rock stars and wonder if it can happen to you. And ultimately you get lost thinking that you are a loser, that you are no guitar genius and that your life has no point. I was thinking this way for a long time; until I realized that my passion does not exist. I like playing the guitar, skiing and surfing but I need to do more than one thing. I will not be happy if only do one thing. I am all of it. I was unhappy for quite some times, because I was looking for my passion too hard. It took me 25 years to realize that the things I like was not reducible to one single activity and it would never be like that. If musicians drug themselves so much, maybe there is a reason for it, think about it.

 

18. Be selfish

 

“To be stupid, selfish and have a good health, are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost”

Gustave Flaubert

 

It is crucial to be selfish. The word selfish has a bad connotation because of the Christian roots of the western world, but still, be selfish. Think about yourself before thinking about others. You need to be happy first and then take care of other people if you want to do it right. Otherwise you will try to take care of others thinking it will make you feel less sorry about yourself, which honestly is worst. This idea stroke me when I was taking a plane to go to South Africa. As usual the cabin crew was doing the safety demonstration. Since I took airplanes many times, I normally don’t listen to the safety demonstration any more. However, at that time I decided to look at the air hostess, maybe because she was pretty. At some point she showed how to use the oxygen mask and reminded to always put our mask first before helping a child or someone else. Me first if I want to be able to do the other one correctly. It woke me up: I have to be happy first if I want to be able to help other people to be happy first! My happiness is a prerequisite for everything.

 

19. Experience: no regret

 

“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?”

Albert Camus

 

Remorse are fine but regrets are not. The difference is that when you have a regret, it is because you did not do something. A remorse is when you did something wrong. You can redo the past again, ask anyone. In Kenya, I met this old woman who hosted me for a night. She was nice and we had dinner together. After an hour talking she revealed me that she missed her life. When she was in her 30’s, she met a guy and fell in love with him deeply. However, she never dared to tell him and ultimately he left Kenya to go to the UK. This woman just kept thinking of what could have happened if she just told the guy everything. I felt sorry for her because the wound was obvious, even though it was 30 years in the past. She kept saying that she could have tried, the worst thing that could have happened would have been better than what happened to her without knowing the answer. Some people tend to live in the past, these people are depressed. Some people are living in the future, these people don’t live. Some people live in the present, these people are crazy.

 

20. Music list

 

This list is opened to suggestions:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Imagine, John Lennon

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Heart of Gold, Neil Young

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Nothing else matters, Metallica

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Creep, Radiohead

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits

*
p<>{color:#000;}. While my guitar gently weeps, George Harrison

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The show must go on, Queen

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Scarborough fair, Simon and Garfunkel

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Your song, Elton John

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There is a light that never goes out, The Smiths

*
p<>{color:#000;}. People are Strange, The Doors

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tears in heaven, Eric Clapton

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Summertime, Janis Joplin

 

 


Happiness Manifesto

  • Author: Bastien Landry
  • Published: 2016-09-18 20:35:08
  • Words: 4894
Happiness Manifesto Happiness Manifesto