So I had this conversation with my young brother in law. He's 13, and is at a very formative point in his life. He is completely ran by his emotions and they make every decision for him. This is something that I've been thinking a lot about since the conversation I had with him.
I believe that one of the main differences between weak and strong (or immature and mature) people is the ability to make decisions despite the way they 'feel.' There are things that feel good that aren't beneficial to your life, and there are things that don't feel good at all that add great value. Balancing this takes strength of will and the ability to see out past the next few moments of your life.
This lead me to consider how the pursuit of 'happiness' can really mess a person up. We view happiness as a pleasurable state of existence and we pursue it as if there is a path that leads us to a state of constant, homeostatic happiness. For example, I have often thought that "If I was just out of debt" I'd be completely happy. I have this picture in my mind looking at my bank account growing more than it declines; not having to worry about spending money, and being able to do things like travel and other leisure without a second thought to 'how am I going to pay for this?' Seriously, the fear, the time spent obsessing about how over leveraged I feel, the fact that my family lives on one income keep me up at night and I literally have anxiety attacks thinking about it. So escaping to that "If I just..." place makes life so simple...I'd be happy.
But it isn't true.
There are thousands of examples of people who have all the financial freedom life could afford them and yet they are miserable, suffer with depression, and display all the characteristics of not being 'happy.' If the 'one' thing that I think would solve all my issues isn't really the 'one' thing...than there must be something else.
So back to what we fill our lives with. I think that we often times use our resources and time to fill our lives up with things that ultimately have no meaning. Sure, I love playing video games as much as the next person here, but does playing marathon sessions day in and day out really add value to my life, or does it just fill time with emptiness that constantly requires me to feed more emptiness? Is it like eating cotton candy and expecting it to be as filling as a porterhouse?
That's just an example. There are many things that we can look at in our lives, where we fill our time with things that ultimately add nothing back. We chase that 'feeling' of disconnectedness from the world, and we sometimes do it co-dependently with other people trying to escape as well. We distract ourselves from our problems...diversion and leisure allow us to do this without judgement, and we believe that is happiness. At the end of the day, however, we never actually get anywhere, and we never truly grow.
I think happiness is an empty goal. "If I just met someone, I'd be happy." "If I go to this party, it'll make me happy." "If I play this game, it'll make me happy." "If I just got that job, I'd be happy." "If Half Life 3 is made, I'll be happy." Its ultimately an empty fix that you sooner or later come down from and the next time you chase it you need more than you did the last time. So what's the fix?
I think, that instead of chasing happiness; we chase contentment and fulfillment and purpose. We involve ourselves in things that don't fade. Find something that has real meaning instead of something that is just a distraction. Pursue things bigger than yourself and devote most of your time to things that allow you to say, at the end of the day, matter.