Ronald Haines, Author

Immerse Yourself in the Adventure and Romance of Historical Fiction

Tag: individual

Choices and the Pursuit of Happiness

The recognition that human beings are free gives us the individual freedom to make whatever choices we want for our lives. But anyone who embraces their individual freedom must also accept the personal responsibility to make it happen.  Simply wishing for something to happen is not going to do anything; no external force is going to give it to you.  Your life is completely up to you, and you are solely responsible for it.

choices-bridgeWhile you are free to make your own choices, it is obvious that the choices you make will be influenced by the society and culture you are in, and that is fine. The key is to live the life that you want, and many of the things that influenced you prior to this point are important to you so of course you’re going to keep them. The important first step is to describe what the ideal life means to you before you can determine how you are going to get there. This isn’t going to be physical things such as possessions, but about how you want to feel.  Knowing that, you are able to examine the various ways you can achieve those feelings.  This is your goal.  It is then your responsibility to set a plan in motion to get there, to do what it takes, to achieve it.

You may be wondering if taking such action, veering from the path of conformity, is risky. Not at all, the biggest risk is to plod along and end your life with the words, “I wish I had,” on your lips.  Take heart that it isn’t the achievement of the goal that makes you free.  It is the journey, knowing you are in control of your life that makes it so:

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman — a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal. ~ Frederick Nietzsche

The American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, hit it on the nose when he penned:  “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” in the declaration of independence. Jefferson understood that happiness in life it was all about pursuing one’s goals, not necessarily achieving them.  If you do achieve a particular goal, you will simply have to create another so as to always feel the happiness of freedom.  Your life is all about the choices that you make for it.

Who You Are and What You Do

Who you are as an individual is so often not top of mind in day to day life. You need to be in the world to earn money to cover life’s expenses, and the occupation you perform defines you to the world around you.  You have been objectified, but chances are very good that you have also allowed that objectification to influence how you view yourself.  So much so that you may have even come to associate who you are with your occupation.  But what you do is simply a means to an end, it is not who you are.

Acceptance of being objectified starts early in life with virtually every parent quite innocently asking their children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers generally come back as an occupation such as a doctor or an astronaut, but that isn’t really the correct answer.  The correct answer to that question should be, “Me.”  The parent asked the wrong question.  Instead, what they should be asking is, “What do you want to do when you grow up?

Who you are is your authentic self, defined by you, but hidden from others in the world. You may not be consciously aware of it, but the products of your occupation are very likely tied to who you are.  After necessary expenses you tend to spend your disposable income on things that satisfy you or make you happy.  Since you derive benefits from the way you spend the money you earn, examining what those benefits are may help you to connect with your authentic self.  Once you break who you are away from what you do, you can set goals that will provide you with true satisfaction in your life.

Goals

Goals should not be considered in light of external things but in terms of the benefit that those things give you.  For instance, you may want to be (or already are) a lawyer. The benefit might be the intellectual challenge it provides or the satisfaction you gain through helping others.  Yes, there is the income to consider, but money itself is never a goal, it is simply the intermediary means of exchange between what you do and what you desire.  If you really think money should be a goal for you then look to the story of King Midas.

Drill down to find out what motivates you and what you really want in life. Think about lifestyle and how you would like to feel every day.   What does the money you earn do for you?  Perhaps it enables you to take a vacation, two weeks of bliss on the beach.  If while there you find you are truly happy and begin to dream of spending every day on the beach, you may have discovered a true goal for your authentic self.

Action Plan

Using the benefit of being happy by spending every day on the beach as your goal, for example, you can then develop a process to take you there. This is called an action plan is simply a series of sequential steps to follow.

You first identify how much money you would need to live on if you spent every day on the beach, and then determine how to earn it. Maybe being a lawyer is a good idea in this regard because it can bring in a lot of money, so being a lawyer becomes an action that will help you to achieve your goal.  The key here is that being a lawyer is no longer the goal, but simply a part of the process.  By staying focused on your goal you forgo frivolous purchases and willingly set aside the majority of the disposable income you make towards reaching it.

So you play the role of a lawyer, the world objectifies you as a lawyer, but you remain authentic by recognizing that this is what you need to do in order to be able to spend your life on the beach.  You feel wonderful every day knowing you are on the journey to the accomplishment of your goal.

What you do is not who you are.

Eliminating Stress by Being Authentic

Most people close to me know that I’ve always been an existentialist, and the current non-fiction book I am working on deals with eliminating stress by being authentic in one’s life. Here’s an excerpt from chapter nine:

Other people see us in a ways that we have no access to, and vice-versa. We are first and foremost an object to other people, just as they are to us, and according to Jean-Paul Sartre this is the basis for relationships between individuals to be one of conflict. Other people cannot see us as we really are, so our existence is one thing for us and something else for them.  If we allow the judgment of others to influence us we run the risk of not being authentic and will experience stress as a result, so how can one be a part of the world and live authentically at the same time?  We can try to tell people who we really are, but it is only through our actions and the products of our actions that they will judge us.

Consider a man who is living in a shack on the beach. Other people see this person with a scraggly beard and long hair blowing in the breeze walking around every day and they label him as a beach bum.  They are unaware that it is the daily wandering that drives his inspiration and creativity, and even if he told them that he was a genius working on a new project they would most likely look at him askance and still judge him to be a beach bum.  However, once he publishes a book or produces a painting these people will change their judgment, and from that point on they’ll recognize him as an author or an artist.

It is one thing to see ourselves as artists and tell other people at parties how we have great books or paintings inside us, but quite another to actually be that artist.  That requires us to make choices and act on them.  So whether we remain as inwardly frustrated artists who dress in suits and go to work in an office every day versus living an authentic life and producing art comes down to our accepting individual freedom and making the appropriate choices, in spite of the judgment of others.  It is easy to come up with excuses in order to justify not taking action, but Nietzsche would have considered it weakness to deny ourselves:

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

You may well be considered a nonconformist bum when you start out, but those same people who deride your choices will be the first ones with their congratulations on your success and will readily accept what they will then consider your eccentricity. More importantly, you will achieve happiness and be free from the stress of inauthenticity.