In life, our main goal is to become happy. Think about it: why do we work and try to make as much money as we can? Why do we try to spend time with our children and wife? Why do we buy certain clothes and not the other ones? Or in a more spiritual way: why do we go to church/synagogue/mosque/temple (strikethrough whatever doesn’t apply to you)? And why do some people use drugs, while others don’t even want to go near them?
I’ll tell you why: because we believe those things will make us happy. That’s all there is to it. My neighbor stays at home from work as often as he can because he believes spending time in front of the television will make him happy. The other neighbor doesn’t come home until midnight because he’s working overtime, hoping a higher income will result in more happiness for him (and his family).
Ironically, however, many of us fail in our attempt to reach this supposed perfect state of being, this profound happiness, and we’re actually unhappy or even downright depressed.
How is it possible that by striving for happiness, we create the opposite feeling?
In his latest video for Prager University, radio talk show host Dennis Prager explains why that is.
So, how would you like an equation to determine the exact amount of unhappiness in your life?
Well, I am here to tell you that I have developed an equation. It is U=I-R. U is unhappiness, I is image, and R is reality. The difference between the images you have had for your life and the reality of your life is the amount of unhappiness in your life, which gives you an idea of how powerful images are in hurting us.
As Prager says, we all have an image of what our life is supposed to be like. “I’m supposed to make this amount of money, I have a perfect marriage with an understanding wife and loving children,” and so on. While it’s perfectly natural and healthy to have goals, these kinds of nearly perfect images actually destroy our chances of experiencing true happiness because most of us just can’t live up to them. Well, perhaps that 0,01% of the population do, but the other 99,99% have to settle for something else. Prager says,
That’s the biggest part of what mid-life crisis is about. Images kill people. Think of anorexia. Some teenage girls and young women have an image of how they want to look, and in some cases, they will starve themselves to meet that image. This is true for whatever images we have in our life. People imagine family life a certain way, they imagine a spouse a certain way, they imagine their children a certain way, they imagine their job a certain way, they imagine a whole host of things, and then those images are very often shattered.
So what’s the solution for this age old problem? Simple: you either “develop a new image and enjoy that, or just celebrate the reality that you now have.”
The former approach will work in most cases, but the second solution is absolutely bulletproof. By focusing on ‘images,’ we often forget that we actually have a pretty darn good life. By looking at reality and analyzing it, we realize that we have a lot to be grateful for: a spouse who generally supports us (even though we sometimes mess up), children who may cause us stress every now and then, but who are — at the same time — a great blessing, friends that care for us, a roof above our head, a car to go to work with, a job; the list is endless.
Prager is right: we don’t need images. Reality itself is enough to make us happy.