As someone who has moved around a lot, tried different things, different jobs, I look at the people who never left their home towns, still have the same friends who are far from perfect and far fewer, and they seem no less happy living day to day than the people I know who moved to a place they 'love', got a great job and do scubaing, skiing and general traveling months out of the year.
There is something about adaptability that make humans strong. Getting a severe illness people still tend to revert to being just as happy as before after a few years, though the condition remains. Winning the lottery doesn't improve your happiness since you revert to the same baseline in the same amount of time.
Those of us who move around are some kind of seeker looking to improve, but the environment might not be unfit for us and if we had another persons mentality we would be just as happy where we are as we will be in our optimal place.
At least that's in my experience - I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had very little in common with most of the people around me. The Internet quite literally saved me. It made me realize that the world is truly a vast place, and that I wasn't just "broken" because I wasn't happy in my current situation.
I feel that I'm hitting a language barrier (English is a secondary language) trying to explain what I mean. I'll see if I can explain my thoughts better later.
I feel like I'm very different from my friends who have stayed in our hometown. We're still working hard to remain good friends and they're excellent people, but we have different drives and needs.
That said, my closest friends here all also went away and came back (one works at his sister's law firm; the other two are both fairly well off with freelancing, inherited a home, etc), and the difference in their view from those who stayed is truly fascinating. I wish more people from this town would leave and see what the world has to offer, realize it's so different. I truly want to get out again, and it's taking its toll on me mentally for sure.
 - There's something that I can't quite name that is shared by places like that blog, HN, some subreddits, SlateStarCodex and many other places. The common desire of wanting to get better at things, gain greater understanding of the world and the systems that run within it. Some people come with curiosity, other with strong will of Tsuyoku naritai - but out of the contributors I've seen around the non-shitposting web, it's hard to find people satisfied with status quo.
The short version is that "better" becomes the new "normal", but it doesn't necessarily make us happier. I guess this may also be part of the reason why issues such as privilege and entitlement can manifest themselves, and start causing problems.
But they take time. It won't be an overnight change; you need to make a new habit (and unlearn others), and stick with them for six months. Don't try and change it all in one go.
The adaptability has both a good and a bad side. We become happy, but we become complacent. I am hoping that most humans value being a good person as much as being happy. Settling just on happiness doesn't take into account striving for higher values.
I think that's what the article is saying in a roundabout way: we should not be self-satisfied, but instead actively try to improve ourselves to become closer to the ideals we want to represent.
Two things I don't understand about this statement - first is the use of the word "should". Why should someone tell me what I should or shouldn't do (as long as whatever I do isn't impacting others negatively)? second, what is wrong with people who are just plain happy with the way they are and don't find any reason to try new things or "improve"?
To be clear, I am not for or against trying to improve one's life. IMHO, each person should be left to decide for themselves and not pressured to "improve". A person isn't inferior if they aren't trying to make more money, run faster, play the piano better or whatever, and they are just happy the way they are.
> It's not logically consistent to remain stagnant while self-satisfied if you have goals beyond that.
I used "should" not to express an obligation to someone else, but to yourself.
As to what's wrong with people who don't find any reason to improve: In their frame of reference, there's nothing wrong with them. That's why I said:
> improve ourselves to become closer to the ideals we want to represent.
If someone has no ideal they want to represent, then nothing I said applies to them.
I personally disagree with what you said here though:
> A person isn't inferior if they aren't trying to make more money, run faster, play the piano better or whatever, and they are just happy the way they are.
People live in the context of society, and the world they are creating. There's no unbinding oneself from the consequences of one's actions, the same way every act of consumption creates a footprint and cost to the world that we share with others. I think settling on one's own happiness is a low bar to clear, and failing to strive to leave our legacy better for others is a short-sightedness that leads to crises, best represented by the global warming.
Of course, people are being left to decide what they think they should be doing for their lives, but I hope we can agree that there exists a view in which they would be reasonably condemned.
It is an art to realize when to work hard on achieving something, and it is an art to realize you've reached your goals, life is really good and enjoy fruits of your efforts (at least for some time). Or even not reaching them after trying, but to be happy, long term. Life is indeed very short.
I think I managed to mix this in a good way - I am one of those happy people, but know enough about me & the world to motivate myself from time to time to push myself further. Its true that as one ages this becomes harder (but maybe its not related to the age but simple exposure to that cushy comfort zone)
It's good to shake things up and head for more opportunity, but it's also important to value the time you put in growing your community. After almost eleven years in NY I am reluctant to go somewhere else long term. Sure, a few months at a time but there's no way to speed up the process of making another decade's worth of friends. It's also important not to stop making friends, some of my closest are those I've made in the last five years.
Speaking of five years, I kinda like making broad plans about my life in five year chunks. I taught myself how to write software in Seattle. Started a company in Sydney about five years after that. And five years back I decided I wanted to learn how to write so I pulled back to doing freelance and focused on fiction. Now I'm pretty decent! I'm also back into the startup game, but I picked up a new super power which is pretty sweet. I dunno, if you regret not doing something, do what you can to try it out—you only get one life. There are tradeoffs but I'm happiest not living with regret about what-ifs.
This concept isn't a bad thing. You are constantly evolving, and some choices you make will work for you better than others have. However, if you want to feel at peace (which is a much more important goal) you can find that at any stage in your life.
Wherever you go, there you are.
I liked this recent read:
“My father knew a family named Wolfawitz who wanted to go on vacation but didn’t know where.
It hit them. Take a two-week road trip driving to as many towns, parks, and counties as they could that contained their last name: Wolfpoint, Wolfville, Wolf Lake, etc.
They read up and found things to do on the way to these other Wolf spots: a hotel in a railroad car, an Alpine slide, a pretzel factory, etc.
The Wolfawitzes ended up seeing more than they planned. Lots of unexpected things popped up along the route.
When they came back from vacation, they felt really good. It was easily the best vacation of their lives, and they wondered why.
My father says it was because the Wolfawitzes stopped trying to accomplish anything. They just put a carrot in front of them and decided the carrot wasn’t that important but chasing it was.”
Can’t fault the point about friends and relationships though.
(a) The grass may not be greener on the other side, and it's possible that you'll like it less, but with each sample taken you know which shades of green you prefer, and you might eventually spot the much better grass somewhere.
(b) How you do it and how you react to it is influenced by who do you spend time with, which is often determined by what you do and where you live, so it's kind of a feedback system - thus it can be nudged in many places, not just one.
IMO it’s a perfectly reasonable survival strategy.
How else can you be happy with what you have if you keep wondering whether there is something better out there? Perhaps one way is to go looking for that happiness. Either you find it or you discover that the thing you had originally was what made you truly happy. Either way, stepping out of the ordinary is great way to learn about yourself.
Sometimes I feel like that would be nice but then realize I’d be very unhappy with it. I’ve moved over 10 times in the last 10 years across 4 different states.
I’ve never really lived on ‘default’ and wouldn’t want to. I like taking risks and giving in to my impulses and it has been financially and personally rewarding in many ways.
For people living on ‘default’ I recommend tweaking the setting a little bit.
Caveat: European city dweller, not rich enough to be a home owner :P
IMO even when (if) we will arrive in the 3D printing industrial era we will remains for decades in "standard" society simply because even if we push 3D printing to incredible level becoming able to print nearly any kind of artifact we use daily it will still be an expensive slow process respect of a dedicated machinery.
Perhaps in a far far (and hypothetical) future when we will have easy and powerful 3D parametric CAD systems with fully interchangeable formats, with built-in CAE easily accessible to nearly anyone at least for basic simulation, with a so advanced machining that we can simply drop our part in a directory and the software take care to suggest material we need and auto-produce it we will see a new "modern era" of personal development. And this future is unlikely for many thing, industrial control is one of them: if we are able to produce really "individually" anything we are free. Too free for actual ruling classes. We can produce positive innovation that impact some rich&powerful business, we can produce weapons, we can innovate in unwanted directions etc.
Remember formally in the western we are citizens in democracy, but that's formally, a results of our ancestors fights, that was never really complete and vanish more and more every days.
At least, that's what I got from him.
In a future utopia perhaps we can have a different society but that's is utopia today.
It is more clear?
Most people live meaningless lives, that is why they feel empty. If you're just chasing the next raise or promotion or just raising a family so that they in turn can do the same you will inevitably end up feeling empty, whether you're living by default or not.
On the other hand, if you have some goal or passion you are pursuing ( one that you believe to be even more important than yourself) , then you will find yourself in the right city, surrounded by the right people, as a result of that.
I agree with the article for the most part but I think it's missing a big piece as far as suggesting _what_ should be driving all these "default" people to change.
Having very young kids and hanging out with elderly near the end of life helps to re-prioritize on what is truly important, as human beings. Sure we may be working on Project X which has the distant potential to meaningfully increase the human condition of humanity as a whole—and that is a noble goal. But I feel that in that effort, it is very easy to lose the art of being content in the moment with friends and family (particularily those you don't get to pick), savoring simple pleasures such as a meal or a walk in an ordinary park, and helping each other through the struggles of life.
I don't believe I've ever heard this phrase uttered by someone who wasn't an arrogant prick. Different people find different meaning in their lives. That they don't share the same definition of meaning that you do does not make their lives meaningless. For a lot of people, chasing social and economic status and raising a family absolutely does have meaning for them.
Now, if we're only talking about people who feel empty, well, feeling like your life lacks meaning is kind of the definition.
I don't think there was any need for that.
I don't think everyone needs to do these things. It depends on the person and critically, your motivation for doing so. I never did anything I've done out of curing unhappiness. The thought never even crossed my mind once in my life, until reading that blog. If that's the motivation, I think disappointment awaits. Mine were all related to goals, helping my spouse achieve her dreams, or achieving my own. Which increased happiness, but the goals weren't set out of unhappiness. I was happy, we were happy, but we wanted to do something more with our time on Earth, and take some risks. It was fun, we'll probably do it more if it makes sense. We keep pushing, I'm a very satisfied developer with no more career goals to check off my list, she just received her Masters and soon onto her PHD.
As much change as we've done over the years, I ironically wouldn't change a thing.
Setting goals that will increase happiness is good. I wouldn't set goals to increase happiness on its own. It's your disposition, circumstances, relationships, job that can increase happiness. As a result, I frequently decide to be a better husband (instead of just taking out the trash, start doing the dishes nightly, making the bed, going on more vacations, helping fulfill their educational and career dreams). Or a better neighbor or citizen, it doesn't require a spouse. I can do that right here and now, no need to wait for some special situation or a move to some other place. The consequence to taking action, any action like that, makes you feel better. It gives you a sense of control over your own destiny, and while I hear a lot of excuses from people, I always reiterate that no one has more control over our lives than ourselves. Just accepting that responsibility and taking charge feels good, you don't have to even succeed at the goal.
I've found setting goals, most often unselfish ones, whether it's helping spouse out as much as I can with her career by moving, helping with Masters degree papers, being a better husband, while seemingly indirectly related to happiness, has made me much happier. This is ancient wisdom, but I've accidentally stumbled across it out of love for my spouse.
You are already enough as you are. You were born enough. Happiness doesn't really come from surfing, that's enjoyment. Some people enjoy snorting cocaine, that's not happiness either. The Facebook and Instagram pretend-rich, be damned as well. Loving someone else, spouses, neighbors, it doesn't matter, is really loving yourself.
I've made a lot of changes in my life and I've never made a more fulfilling change than that one. I'm a flawed person for sure, but I wouldn't change spots with anyone, because I'm (now) always trying to be a better person regardless of my circumstances. I'd be worried that I'd be someone else, maybe with a billion dollars, who is afraid to make real change in their lives, be adventurous and risk-taking in the important way, loving others selflessly without reward. I could be Jeff Bezos. I can't imagine a deeper hell.
Finding peace with your surroundings also sounds nice, but for some it’s just not going to work- and making peace with the idea that long term meaning is not a good goal is probably ideal.
TLDR people are bad at meta-emotions. Also, fear of death, sincerity of love, and self respect.
Well there you go.
Jamie fell for the "career and consumerism" meme and now he realizes something critical is missing. How much drinking and Netflix and vacationing can you do before you realize that you're becoming a genetic dead end?
We're meant to feel bad when we're not accomplishing our biological imperatives.
Maybe. I have decided not to have children. While I can't predict the future, as of now, I think this is the right decision for me.
What exactly is the point of bringing another human to this planet? We have messed up this planet to the point of no return (almost), opportunities are dwindling by the day, there are crowds everywhere fighting for meager resources...
Does having kids suddenly make one happy? I see so many parents stressed all the time, simply trying to provide for their kids. How do you explain that?
Jesus Christ, only someone in a developed country brainwashed by liberal propaganda could believe this. Try going somewhere poor and dirty with far less opportunity, and see if people think this way. I swear there must be something in our goddamn water.
>Does having kids suddenly make one happy? I see so many parents stressed all the time, simply trying to provide for their kids. How do you explain that?
Probably because they are physically unhealthy. Developed worlds are physically unhealthy, I can't think of any better explanation. I see families with more kids and less money all over the world who are way happier (and technically speaking, more successful from an evolutionary standpoint). Sure having kids is a stressor but so is everything meaningful that requires human activity. The difference is that healthy humans seek it out and derive long term happiness (not pleasure or euphoria) from it. And they can handle it sustainably.
Sentiments like these really make me believe more and more that there is some kind of dysgenic sickness in the West.
Parents aren't "happier". At least not by my estimation. But they do seem to be more fulfilled and seem to consider their lives to have a deeper meaning once they have children and become responsible for the safety, care, and development of another human being that relies on them for essentially everything. This is the implicit reason it is done. It's not just the physical (sexual) imperative.
And regardless of the status of the planet, if the species is to continue, we at least need to reproduce at a rate approximating replacement. It could be lower - and then we would actually slowly depopulate the planet. But society does need to have birth rates that replace the existing people, or come close to it.
Based on all the parents I've interacted with, even if they don't admit this to themselves, they are probably in the same situation. They love their kids and interacting with them, but they are stressed out, have no time for themselves or their hobbies, and basically have two full time jobs for at least 18 years. In order to deal with that the only thing you can do is succumb to Stockholm's syndrome.
It's not about being happy, happy comes and happy goes; it's about doing something meaningful with your life, because it's the only thing that is going to work long term.
it's about doing something meaningful with your life
This is what I don't understand. Kudos to those who do something meaningful with their life - but why should I do it too? What if I am perfectly happy watching Netflix and sleeping 14 hours a day?
I'm not saying everyone is the same, far from it; there wouldn't be any need to keep billions of us around if we were.
But life doesn't waste opportunities for evolution, and there's no point in having billions of people watching Netflix forever. It will find a way to get you out of your comfort zone, cooperating or kicking and screaming.
On the other hand, we learn to be happy with what we have, according to these 2 authors (who happened to have TED talks):
In the US for example, people with such a lifestyle could find themselves suddenly plummeted in debt and doubt if e.g. they become ill or have an accident.