I think that insights have the power to change the way we think and ultimately our lives. So I’ve decided to share some of my insights every month! Here are 3 insights I learned or I thought about in December.
Insight #1: Everything is great – until you stop and think about it. – Paula Ghete
Think about an activity you enjoy doing. Now let me tell you this – the more you learn about that activity, the more likely it is that you will realize it is wrong. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for almost every activity you can think about. They all seem amazing and great only if you never look beyond the surface. The moment you start to truly understand how these activities affect the world we live in, you will see the harm or negative effects behind them.
Think about anything like enjoying a burger, traveling, buying gifts for your family or bragging to seem cooler. The moment you look at each activity a bit deeper, it all becomes obvious: your satisfaction comes with a very big price tag.
Let me tell how I got this insight since this story will make it clear. It was the night of the New Year. We all know that this night is a cause for celebration everywhere around the world. And one modern tradition is to celebrate the beginning of a new year with fireworks! And I love that!
When I was a little girl, we would only get fireworks in the city centre. But now, fireworks are cheaper and more accessible so many people launch fireworks just outside their homes. In a way, that’s great because you can see fireworks in every direction you look.
On this night of January 1st, my boyfriend and I also got a set of fireworks. We went outside just before midnight to look for a place to launch them. Many neighbours were already setting their fireworks ablaze and the sky filled with bright colors in every direction. As we were looking for a place, we saw a small dog running scared and trying to get away from the noise. It was so scared that it almost ran in front of a car.
And that’s when it hit me: We shouldn’t have fireworks! Not when hundreds of pets and animals are scared since to them it seems like it is the end of the world. And fireworks were forever ruined for me. We never launched ours and went back home. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that scared little dog who was running for his life. And that’s when I said: “Everything is great – until you stop and think about it.”
Unfortunately, I have noticed this strange phenomenon in my life: the more I learned about the world, the sadder I became. That’s because when you begin to truly see the real causes and effects of our actions, you cannot help but see all the harm we are causing. If you are an ignorant person, an activity will seem good to you if it makes you feel good. But you never stop and think about how many animals and people suffered so that you can enjoy that. You never think about the effects your actions have on our societies and the environment. And when you finally become aware, it is painful to see that you have cause so much suffering and destruction without even knowing it. But I think it is high time we all open our eyes and move past our ignorance. It is high time we see our actions for what they truly are and we make better decisions. After all, what’s the point of a pleasure if it creates a world of suffering?
What you can do
There are many things you can do now that you know this. You can:
- Audit your behaviours by looking at the activities you do out of habit. Ask yourself: can this activity cause any harm to someone else?
- Bridge the gap with information. You will probably fail to see the true consequences of your actions if you are not educated enough. So try to learn about that. Learn about the effects of buying cheap things from China (child labour, human misery, pollution), travelling a lot (pollution) and spending time on social media (negative effects on your wellbeing, time wasted) and so on.
- Get in the habit of looking at everything as a series of causes and effects. It will help you better see the world!
- Educate yourself about anything. It will open your eyes and you will be able to connect the dots.
- Make better choices. Once you see the effects of your behaviours, choose to have a better behaviour and do the right thing. There is way too much suffering in the world already. We don’t need to contribute to it.
- Always choose powerful awareness over blind ignorance. Learning the truth about the effect you are having can be painful at times. But it is a burden I gladly carry because ignorance hurts much more and has bigger consequences for everyone involved.
Insight #2: When you see something wrong, don’t just do the opposite. Decide what is the right thing and do that! – Paula Ghete
There is an interesting tendency that can be observed throughout history – whenever there is a strong and popular trend, you can be certain that it will be followed by the opposite trend. When religion was very important in people’s lives, some people started to question whether God is real. When people started to become too materialistic, some people started to lead minimalistic lives. And you can see this phenomenon happening on a micro scale (a few months or years) or on a macro scale (centuries or millennia).
I think it is in our nature to react. And when we notice a certain trend or behaviour that we think is wrong, we usually react by going in the other direction. In some cases, this works great. But I think this is not an intelligent approach. Sometimes, doing the opposite does not solve a problem. It just creates a new problem.
Here are a few examples:
– There are certain races that are often discriminated against. In order to give them more opportunities, certain states took positive discrimination measure. But this made other groups feel discriminated against. Instead of asking for equal opportunities and rights, some people may get more than others while some could still be getting less.
– We all know men where the privileged sex throughout history. Now more and more women demand equal rights. But some take this to the extreme and act as if the men that are now living have to be punished for the sins of every man in the past. They act as if all men are guilty of misogyny and toxic masculinity.
My point is that is takes more than a reaction to right a wrong and solve a problem. Instead of going against the problem, we need to stop and reflect. We need to ask ourselves: What is the real problem? What are the causes behind it? What would solve this problem? What would be the best case scenario and how can we make that happen?
I realize that this type of behaviour requires a higher-level thinking ability, but I think we can all learn how to do this. It takes a bit of effort and time, but it is the only way we can stop creating new problems and find ways to make our world a better place.
What you can do
Pay attention to what is happening in our world. Read the news and try to understand the causes behind certain phenomena. When you notice a problem that needs solving, try to think about it from the ground up (problem – causes – desired result). Do not simply react as everyone does. Stop, reflect and try to create a real solution, not a new problem!
Insight #3: It seems that human beings were not designed for happiness. So shouldn’t we stop obsessing over it? – Paula Ghete
I have often struggled with depressive tendencies, so I wanted to learn about the science of depression and happiness. This helped me understand my suffering, but it also lead me to a rather sad conclusion: human beings were not designed for happiness.
It seems that there are certain psychological systems that work against us. For example, we have a negativity bias – we pay more attention to the things that are negative and they have a bigger impact on us. We also have the tendency to habituate to everything rather quickly. So no matter what amazing thing happens in our lives, it will not make us happy for long. Even if we get a great job, move to New York City, get married and win the lottery, we get used to all that in a matter of days, weeks or months. And out happiness fades away too quickly.
But I also learned that we can be happier if we fight against this normal tendencies. If we are willing to work on this and we put in constant effort, we can become a bit happier. So there is some hope too, but I still find this quite sad. As I read some great psychology books about happiness, I realized that we were definitely not built for happiness. Our own nature works against us. Yet we all want to be happy because it feels so good!
Lately I started thinking about this idea: since we were obviously not built for happiness, shouldn’t we stop chasing after it? But then, if we don’t live our lives trying to find happiness, why would we live? I obviously don’t have an answer for this yet. Maybe we should live for meaning, for a mission to make our world a better place for everyone. Maybe we should just live because we are alive and accept whatever happens. Maybe we should aim to experience all types of emotions and learn to slowly detach from them.
I still think that happiness is desirable, but since it is so hard to get – and keep – maybe we should aim for something else, for something more.
What you can do
If living your life the way you are now is making you happy, carry on. If you found a way to make your life worth living and you have meaning, carry on.
But if you are not happy and obsessing over finding happiness is only making you more miserable, reconsider. Try to find other reasons to enjoy life besides happiness. And know that just because everyone keeps talking about happiness, this does not mean it is the only thing that matters. It also doesn’t mean there is just one way of living your life.