You may ask me why you should not crave for fulfilment, after all, life is about goals and their fulfilment. You would be right to make this assertion about life because from the very first moment we are thrown into this corporeal existential sphere, life begins to lay before us an endless chain and cycle of goals to fulfill. From the immediate and recurring essential needs such as food, water and shelter to the long-term ones like education and career, it’s all about one goal after another.
But then here also lies the source of our unhappiness. The struggle to realise life’s endless chain of ambitions keeps most humans under continuous physical and mental stress all through their time on this earth. Society keeps raising the bar of “achievements” and with it comes more struggles. The human of the olden days society was satisfied with his expanse farmland, rich barn, and a mud house, but the human of today desires much more; he wants a mansion, a fleet of cars, and home luxuries like television and exquisite furniture. This is just one example of how society keeps us enslaved to ambitions. But truth is that the idea of success or achievement is subject to varied interpretations depending on a person’s disposition, his place and time of existence.
Society heaps upon one burdens that may not be essential for happiness. As one is growing, he’s indoctrinated to believe he must be economically successful, marry, have children, and do many other things society values. Thus, the mind of the individual is nurtured to see these cultural attainments as the beginning and end of happiness.
But unfortunately for the individual, he cannot control fully all the factors, known and unknown, that determine whether and to what extent he may make these attainments. These factors include society’s imperfect structures and luck.
Yes, while there are many things we can control about life, there are many we cannot control. While there are many things we know about life, there are many (perhaps many more) beyond our knowledge. Therefore, we are being unfair to ourselves, when we allow ambitions to deprive us of our happiness. Happiness can be a choice when we understand that our state of mind has a lot to contribute to our being happy. A state of mind that’s chained to society’s prescriptions about achievements and success will surely suffer a lot. But one who knows where to draw the line between what’s essential and what’s dispensable will surely suffer less. This is partly because he will always find it easier to calmly accept the reality whenever what he desires fails to come.
Now take this: the sure way to fulfilment is to stop craving for it, but to rather pursue happiness that comes with self-contentedness. This way, we gain fulfilment without directly craving for it. Stated differently, no one gets really fulfilled in an imperfect world that cannot satisfy all our cravings; this is why we’re insatiable. So, the best approach to it is to work towards what we desire but be contented with whatever we end up having at any moment. In other words, addressing our insatiability is the sure way to fulfilment.
The final line is this: we should take life as it comes, work as hard as we can, be hopeful for desirable outcome, yet be contented with whatever we have today. That is the secret of lasting happiness.
This is my meditation this midweek.
Henry Chigozie Duru, PhD, teaches journalism and mass communication at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria.