I just finished watching the film, ‘The Bucket List’, one of my all time favourite, feel-good movies. Not only do I like the entertaining duo of Morgan Freeman the benevolent, wise soul and Jack Nicholson, who has the alacrity of a 5 year old, but I also like the significance of the film. ‘Our quest in life’. I think we all spend our lives on a quest. Osho referred to life as a quest and not a question, maybe a quest for meaning, for love, perhaps an esoteric piece of wisdom and for many … the quest for happiness.
There’s a scene in The Bucket List where Nicholson reads the letter Freeman wrote him, where he says, ‘find the joy in your life.’
FIND THE JOY. How do we define joy? Is a large portion of our lives spent on the attainment of happiness and is it sustainable? Happiness is an emotion, a mood, a feeling, and a dynamic state. It isn’t a destination we miraculously arrive at, it’s about cultivating moments’ of joy throughout the journey, and most importantly … happiness is a decision. It’s derived from intrinsic motivation. If we’re continually questioning when we’ll find happiness, and what exactly will create that happiness, then we’re depending on external factors and therefore not being accountable for our own lives.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle, devoted his research to the study of happiness. Aristotle questioned the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence suggesting that happiness was the fundamental motivator. He related it to virtue and attainment for the greater good, as opposed to individualistic gain and defined virtue as maintaining the median. Artistotle’s theory is comparable to the Buddhist philosophy of the ‘middle path’ or the ‘middle way’, which is concerned with the balance between hedonism and abstinence.
Buddhists also advocate that contentment is a more achievable state than happiness. If we reflect on the catalysts in our lives that have generated happiness, buying a new car, passing an exam, falling in love to name a few examples, I’m sure we would discover these states are temporary, impermanent and therefore … unsustainable.
In her article ‘Being Happy’, Doctor Charmaine Saunders provides three main tips for attaining happiness which include, conquering your fears, what she refers to as ‘looking for the gem’ and seeing the magic. Dr Saunders posits that our fear stifles many aspects of our life and that instead looking for the positives is a surer way to happiness.
In 1972, Bhutan’s fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, coined the phrase Gross National Happiness (GNH) to demonstrate his commitment in developing a nation established on Buddhist principles. This concept was later developed by Kara Ura The Director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies, to holistically measure the quality of national well-being.
The research concluded that the factors contributing to individual and therefore collective happiness included, the work-life balance, good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation and has since been adopted by various other leading nations. It seems the quest for happiness is now a global phenomenon.
The path to a more content life
Healthy mind, healthy body
There is an old expression which refers to a healthy body in a healthy mind – Mens sana in corpore sano. I promote the regular exercise, balanced diet theory, however, I’m also an advocate for holistic health and feel that if we are in a continual state of stress and anxiety, we don’t possess the motivation to eat, eat nutritiously, cook or to engage in exercise. Our eating patterns become irregular, we crave for foods containing high quantities of sugar, salts and starch, sleep routines become disrupted and irregular and we don’t possess the impetus to exercise or even socialise. These factors can contribute to severe mental health issues including depression, anxiety disorders and a range of physical conditions.
Constant worry, stress, fatigue and physical ailments, may be an indication that you need to reassess key relationships, career, and seeking the guidance and support of a health professional, to implement changes to your lifestyle, which leads me to my next point …
A balanced lifestyle
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy …’ another cliché or perhaps another universal truth? With rapid globalisation and technological advancement, human beings are in a constant state of flux. Work demands, financial obligations and family commitments are common stressors which can affect our quality of life. Happiness is about maintaining the balance between the physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Sufficient rest, exercise and a balanced, healthy diet are essential, as well as discovering a talent, hobby, enrolling in a course, learning to meditate or practicing yoga, however, make sure you engage in activities and, with people you feel enhance your life, and contribute to it positively. Whatever you choose to do and whomever you choose to do it with, just remember that everything in life is interconnected, and occurs in duality, there are always seeds of hope in despair and fear at it’s best is inspiration, it is up to us to create the balance.
A Bucket List
If you haven’t all ready, I would strongly recommend you rent the film ‘The Bucket List’. If anything at all, I’m sure you will at least take away with you, the courage to convert your fears and create your own bucket list. Find half an hour to sit down somewhere quiet and start creating your list. Perhaps there are things you have always wanted to do but have always deterred yourself because instead, you listen to that little voice inside your, or perhaps to that little nagging voice of others. Maybe you have always had the support of others but have never had the self-belief and confidence.
Drown out the inner noise and that voice of others and … just write it. Once you have written your list, it might also require further planning, for example, if your list contains goals that involve finances, such as travel, or a specific allocation of time, like a course of study. Don’t forget to specify your short, mid and long term goals, a time frame and additional considerations to achieve the outcome.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, it’s all an experience and it’s how you reframe that experience which determines the ‘real’ outcome.
To quote my Mum, who always adopts a positive approach to life ‘don’t be afraid of succeeding!’ I questioned her, thinking she made an error, and that what she meant to say was ‘don’t be afraid of failing’, but she assured me, that, ‘don’t be afraid of succeeding’ was precisely, what she meant to say.
Enjoy the journey …