Wisdom//

Happily Ever After Doesn’t Exist

On the illusion of security and finding peace of mind

Thananya/Shutterstock
Thananya/Shutterstock

Above all else, what many of us long for is a sense of security. Security exists, or seems to exist, in a range of different forms: in our relationships, in our salary or in our health. Someday, we all hope to reach a point at which the messiness and anxiety in our lives will stabilize.

We maintain the belief that when one or all of these things is finally ours, then and only then may we live peacefully. Until then, our actions are just a series of means to an idealistic end.

What most of us fail to consider, however, is that happily ever after might not exist. In fact, I’m certain that it doesn’t — or at least, not how we imagine it to.That sense of security we so deeply long for isn’t waiting for us at some point in the distant future.

We live our lives with the conviction that someday we will reach our so-called ‘destination’ — a stable position in which we will no longer suffer, crave or worry. And yet, despite all of our efforts, we will never reach that endpoint. We’ve got it all wrong.

Security Doesn’t Exist

I once read a beautiful quote from Jim Carrey that read:

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

That quote encapsulates the exact message that I’m attempting to convey. Peace of mind, security, stability, whatever you want to call it — it isn’t where we think it is. It doesn’t depend upon a flash car or giant social circle or any of those things. Asking ‘What do I need to be secure?’ highlights the issue. You don’t need anything.

The truth is: there isn’t a single person on this planet that’s ‘secure’. Nobody. Not even those people that appear to have it all figured out. Anybody who claims to have a perfect life is lying.

For as long as we’re alive, we’re at risk of danger in some way or another — whether that danger comes in the form of redundancy, loss or disease.Insecurity is a fundamental element of life, for if all things were secure, nothing would ever change.

Even if we fall asleep in the arms of a loving partner at night or sprinkle chocolate dust on our coffee-machine-cappuccino every morning, those things could be taken from us in an instant. Not only that, but our worries, anxieties, trials, and tribulations can still exist in the presence of our supposed ‘securities’.

The only people with full security are the dead. Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Let me tell you why realizing this seemingly disheartening truth is the only way you’ll ever find happiness.

An Ever-Changing Picture

Striving for some future moment of peace or satisfaction is only human. We’ve been doing it since we were infants, chasing after each novel toy or piece of food to fulfill our discontentment. Later in life, these desires transform into different motivations, like love, friendships, and a stable career.

We crave happiness in a range of different forms, but rarely is any one of them the answer. That’s not to say that we will never attain these things, but that having them won’t necessarily bring us joy, or freedom from pain.

Furthermore, not one of these destinations will afford us with the sense that we’ve actually arrived. Rather, once we get there we’ll be searching for the next thing — like a better car or a larger salary.

Many of the people that have come to the realization that happiness can’t be found in material things assume that it is only discoverable in art, philosophy and self-improvement — but these pursuits don’t solve the problem either, they just present a new and mostly similar dilemma.

Whatever goals we have, they will never be enough. No goal is so great that it makes further goal-seeking futile. The only stable element, the only thing that can remain secure amidst an ever-changing picture of goals and accomplishments, is the journey.

The Journey

We could spend weeks reading a detective novel, anxious to find out who committed the crime and excited to peel back each page to reveal a new clue, or we could turn to the end of the book and find out immediately. So why don’t we?

Because the greatest pleasures in life come not from acquiring some immediate form of satisfaction, but from the journey it takes to attain that satisfaction.

We may still have ambitions and goals, and we should continue to strive to achieve them. If we fail to appreciate the process, however, we will be eternally miserable, for arrival is rarely a solution and usually only opens the door to some new form of craving.

In becoming aware of this truth, we can observe our emotions with a healthy new awareness. No longer will we envy the rich and seemingly accomplished CEO, but we will appreciate the fact that they, too, are probably deeply dissatisfied. They’re searching for answers, unaware that they don’t exist.

Rather than searching endlessly, and hopelessly, for peace in the form of supposed securities like money or connections, we should make an effort to pay more attention to the journeys we find ourselves on. We should notice the beautiful scenery outside of the train window, the aromas and tastes of our food before we swallow it and become mindful of the hard work we put into receiving a promotion rather than treating each moment as a means to an end.

Then, and only then, can we accept our desires not as solutions, but as momentary and misguided desires. We can serenely accept that we will never be truly secure and that that’s okay — so long as we can learn to appreciate each moment.

Our goal shouldn’t be to rid ourselves of negative emotions by external means. Instead, we should accept that even if anxiety and sadness arise from time to time, we can continue to be happy. For the answer isn’t in the destination, but in the journey itself.

Originally published on Medium.

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