The Lie of Conditional Happiness

We have grown up thinking that happiness is not the default state of being. We end up thinking that we are sad until we get something or do something. If we get this or do that, then one magical day, we get to be happy. We end up believing that happiness is conditional. You have to go to Disneyland to visit the happiest place on earth. We have to graduate from college to earn lots of money to be happy. We need to search high and low to find love so we can live happily ever after. We have to have two kids, preferably a boy and a girl so we can experience unconditional love and thus happiness. Our whole life, we have been taught that happiness comes from a pursuit of some milestone where everything falls perfectly in place, then we will be so amazingly happy. Society and media has conditioned us all to think this way. But conditional happiness is one of those little white lies to keep us from going crazy. If happiness was there all along, what else should I do with my life? Purpose and happiness is not the same thing but we all have been tricked into thinking happiness is the purpose. We just need to jump over those hurdles and finally, we may find it; that warm and fuzzy feeling called happiness.

Why conditional happiness is not happiness

The first problem with seeking conditional happiness is the possibility that we never get pass that condition. What if we set a condition incredibly unrealistic or is beyond our control? If your happiness is conditional upon someone else's love or approval, then what if that person will never love you? Or if they do, then what happens when they change their mind then no longer love you? If your happiness is conditional upon becoming a movie or sports star, what if we do not beat the odds or we never had the physical talents in the first place. I wanted to be in the NBA but if my happiness was conditional upon that, I would never be happy because I did not end up as a tall human being (also I'm not that talented). Having conditions that are beyond your control or unrealistic is basically creating the conditions for sadness instead of happiness. We create our own hurdles and barriers to our happiness. Or maybe someone created those hurdles for us? Either way, we are sabotaging our chances of finding happiness.

Now let say that you are amazingly talented or extremely lucky and you get everything that you have wanted. The second problem with conditional happiness happens once we get something. We should be happy right? More or less the time. Then what happens? Our happiness declines. Why? Everything has a marginal utility, the additional benefit from anything, people or things after each subsequent experience of it. Unfortunately, almost everything has diminishing marginal utility which means we get less and less happiness once we experience something again. That big shiny house that you got, you will be less happy about it everyday after the first until one day, you just think it is just another average house. That amazing person sleeping next to you, there will probably be some point where you will reach maximum happiest with that person then less happy every day afterwards. Sad but in many occasions, very true. We do not get lasting happiness from achieving things. We just get excited momentarily.

In response, many times, we have to find something else to make us happy. A new condition. A new happiness. Then we get it but in the end, we are all sad again. The cycle keeps going. We either need to get something bigger or better. Like a drug, the first high was good but we need a better high next time. What is better than a new car? Two new cars! But when higher doses no longer work, we jump to something else. We realize cars are so boring so we should get a plane! So we shifted our drug of choice from marijuana to cocaine. Bigger house. More expense car. Hotter spouse. More money. Better title. When does it end? It never does. Conditional happiness is a carrot that always changing. Instead of being in a state of happiness, we just keep running faster and faster with more and more pressure. Until one day, when we are tired of the chase, we realize that with all these things, we are still unhappy and empty.

Unconditional happiness

If conditional happiness will never make me happy, then what should I do? Simple. Just stop chasing the carrot. Stop making happiness conditional. Enjoy the journey of life unconditionally. Stop thinking happiness will happen when something happens and everything falls perfectly into place. Just let yourself be happy. You do not need someone or something to let you be happy. Do not ask for permission; just be happy. No magic or lotto needed. Let yourself be happy by just living happily. No limitations. Don't say that you don't deserve to be happy. Don't say that you need to make yourself pretty or better or smarter then you can be happy. No conditions. Enjoy the little novelties of daily life and see the happiness that is already there.

I know some of you will say but what if I need certain things to be happy? Sure go ahead and get those things but do not make those things the reason for happiness. Socrates viewed happiness as something that did not depend on external things but it depended on how we use those things. Yes it is definitely nice to have resources. There are plenty of people with everything that take their lives every year. Things are not happiness. What we do with it, is happiness. Being in love is happiness not the fancy wedding. Working on something that we love is happiness not the paycheck. Celebrating with friends is happiness not the expensive club. It would be naive to say that money is not conducive to happiness. It helps but it is not a necessary condition. You can love, laugh and smile without being rich, famous, or beautiful. You just need believe that happiness is unconditional. Happiness should be your default state not sadness. You are happy until something happens not the other way around. Forget the lie that happiness is conditional and happiness will magically appear.