A young man visits the town wise-man’s hut.
Sitting on the dirt floor, the wise-man weaves a basket.
The young man quietly and cautiously enters, and sits facing the wise-man.
They sit quietly for a couple minutes. The young man starts to fidget showing a growing impatience. He hates having his time wasted.
The wise-man finally looks up at the young man.
“What ails you, my son?”
The young man speaks in an urgent tone:
“Wise-man, I’m very unhappy. I look around and it seems that everyone is very successful and living exciting lives, and I’m not. I don’t have all the things I want, and I don’t even live in the right place. How can I get everything I want to live a happy, content, and fulfilled life?”
The wise-man looks at him intently, and studies him for a minute.
He finally points right to the middle of the young man’s chest.
The young man looks down at his chest, and then at the wise-man, puzzled.
The wise-man then speaks very softly, “Only in there, can true happiness be found.”
The young man scoffs, “What?! You old fool! How can happiness be in there!” the young man gets up and storms out.
Searching for happiness, the young man moves to a “better” location, gets a mindless, unfulfilling job because it pays decent, buys lots of material things, and looks for instant gratification from going out, drinking, doing drugs, and picking up girls.
The young man wakes up one day, years later, and looks at his face in the mirror.
Who am I? He thinks to himself. I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m still unhappy, even though I make good money, have lots of possessions, live in paradise, and have a different girl each day of the week. Is this all there is to life?
Do you ever wonder what the meaning of life actually is?
It’s a tough question, no doubt.
Three years ago I might’ve said there is no meaning.
That was three years ago, though.
Today I know the meaning of life is to be as happy, content, and fulfilled as possible.
The problem though, is that today we have severe impediments to being truly happy, content, and fulfilled.
For those of us in developed countries, the quality of life has skyrocketed in the last 100 or so odd years, and we have gotten quite comfortable.
No longer do we have to struggle to survive.
We have jobs and make money and we can buy the things we need and (quite problematically in a lot of situations) we can even buy things we don’t need.
We live comfortable but dull lives full of “quick fixes” that perpetuate a cycle of unhappiness, discontent, and unfulfillment.
Quick fixes can take many forms, like the following:
Buying material things (mindless consumption).
Eating too much or eating bad foods (and eating too much bad foods!)
Watching too much TV (especially sports and gossip shows) and mindlessly playing useless video games (key words: mindless and useless, some video games can be beneficial).
Taking illegal drugs and drinking excess alcohol.
Chasing “likes” and “follows” on social networks.
Masturbating to porn and/or having meaningless sex with strangers.
These things are escapes.
They only bring temporary pleasure and provide a short-term rush, which then you soon crash and need another fix, perpetuating the cycle.
Trust me on this, I know.
I used to be this way.
Too much garbage food, too much dull TV, and buying material crap used to be my escape.
They would provide me temporary highs, and I would go right back to being unhappy and miserable as soon as the high wore off.
This is a huge problem, and it shows that modern society isn’t really set up for happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.
Our capitalistic system is set up more for efficiency and profits, a well oiled machine that cranks out results.
You go to work, you do your job and keep your head down, and everybody profits (some more so than others).
Now, am I against capitalism?
Not at all. Capitalism has led to huge gains in quality of life over the past 200 or so odd years.
What I am against is:
a. the dull comfort that comes with modern jobs. These jobs help us meet our basic needs (good), but still leave us unfulfilled and yearning for “something” more, and looking to find that “something” in destructive ways (not good).
b. how this dull comfort (and extra disposable income) is manipulated and turned into a “keep up with the Jones” mentality, the one where you try to “buy” happiness through external factors, which keeps you stuck in the consumerist cycle.
Let’s continue with the second half of the story:
The young man decides to venture back to his birthplace and seek out the wise-man again.
He finds the wise-man’s hut, still the same hut after all these years, and enters.
At this point, the wise-man is not in very good shape, and he’s lying on a bed of straw, surrounded by family.
Oddly, the wise-man is laughing contently and wears a huge smile on his face.
The young man kneels at his bedside, and everyone in the room becomes quiet.
The wise-man speaks, barely above a whisper:
“I have heard you have gone on to live in paradise. You have lots of things and have lots of fun, yet you still show up at my hut, no different from all those years ago,” he paused and let out a horse cough.
“You want my advice again?” he asked rhetorically, his voice growing louder with more strength and conviction. “It is the same. You may have moved hundreds of miles away, live a safe, comfortable life, and have more than most will ever have, but you have never conquered your biggest problem: YOU.”
The young man hung his head.
The wise-man continued, “You have brought this nagging problem with you to your new home and experiences, and the problem is still with you to this day. Only when you change the way YOU see, feel, touch, taste, smell, hear, love and experience the world around you… will you ever be cured of what ails you.”
The room was overcome with a very deep silence, a silence in which you could hear a pin drop. He continued, his voice just barely audible now, “I hope you heed this advice and it helps give you perspective, my son. Now, let me be in peace with my loved ones, for I do not have much longer to live, and I want to enjoy my last moments, as I have enjoyed every moment of life… good and bad,” the wise-man finished, and he laid his head back down.
The young man got to his feet slowly while nodding.
He exited the the hut, stopped, and looked down at his chest. He pointed directly to the spot the wise-man pointed to many moons ago… and a giant smile came upon his face.
Happiness, Contentment, and Fulfillment Start With YOU (or “Inside-Out”)
It ALL starts on the inside and works its way out, not the other way around.
Living from the inside-out creates meaningful, lasting changes that will lead your life into true bliss.
Stephen Covey talks about this in the “7 Habits” (I’m always talking about ideas from this book, that’s because it’s damn good).
According to Covey, we first must change ourselves, from the inside, in order to make the changes around us we’d wish to see.
You just can’t do it the opposite way. You can’t be happy without FIRST a change in your heart of what your reality is, about what your expectations are, and about what you REALLY NEED and can actually attain.
We effectively need to change the “LENS” and shift the paradigm in which we view the world through.
In the past two years or so (since ’15, or what I call affectionately my “enlightenment”) I’ve changed many things that have brought me towards happiness, contentment, and fulfillment by changing the way I experience the world, including:
- Thousands of hours of soul searching, walking through nature, and meditation techniques.
- Went from aimlessly wandering to finding the mission of helping others and working towards goals that fulfill this mission every day.
- Writing over 100,000 words over thousands of hours, including this website.
- Reading hundreds and hundreds of books and blogs on every subject imaginable (but mostly personal development topics, health, and fitness)
- Getting into the best shape of my life. I’ve added pounds of muscle while losing lots of body fat, started doing more cardio, and even did a Tough Mudder.
- Cutting out useless people, and only keeping a very close knit group of family and associates around.
- Focusing on being the best father that I can possibly be.
- Stopping social media for personal use (although I still use it for some business purposes).
- Optimizing my diet and cutting out junk (except for specified times!).
- Starting the use supplements that have really changed the game for me.
- Cutting down TV to around 2-3 hours a week (mostly classic movies and documentaries).
- Working on checking my phone and email less, cutting down to about 2-3 times a day.
- Getting rid of most of my possessions.
…and I’m the happiest, most content, most fulfilled sonuvagun I’ve ever been!
Doesn’t this go against popular wisdom?
I’m living like a 12th century monk, and I couldn’t be happier.
Not possible right?
The thing is, all of the above helped me change my LENS, or how I experience the world IN MY OWN HEAD AND HEART.
Nothing on this list is about quick fixes, but everything on this list is about doing things that help me grow, self-actualize, shift my mindset, follow my heart, and gain perspective, which are all absolutely KEY for happiness, contentment, and fulfillment!
It’s Time For YOU to Take Control
Now it’s your turn to grow, self-actualize, shift your mindset, follow your heart, and gain perspective.
First, realize that outside factors contribute very little to overall happiness, contentment, and fulfillment, and it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Next, start looking inside and really analyze how you view the world.
How does your lens create your perception of the world?
How can you objectively look at every situation in your life and spin it into a positive light?
How can you turn your weaknesses into strengths, and make your strengths stronger?
Once you take the time to figure this out, you can really start to feel a shift in the way you interact with the world, opening things up to you that you never thought were possible.
You’ll start to realize that things don’t happen to you, they happen for you. Problems will start to become challenges, which build character and resolve. You’ll start to see risks as good things that help you grow as a person. You’ll go after things that really matter and help you become better. You’ll stop living in the past and/or future, and you’ll start to be present, actually living your life.
Next, get out there, take action, and do the things that will satisfy you, help you grow, and become the person you want to be.
Start to take those risks. Get a mission. Ask for it. Learn more. Love better. Start cleaning up your diet and exercising. Ditch things that are holding you back. Find your true self and don’t be ashamed of it. Give and give up to get.
I’m telling you, once you take the time to work on this stuff, everywhere becomes paradise. The weather doesn’t affect you, little problems cease to annoy you, and the world becomes a much more beautiful place full of opportunities.
So, the only question now is, what are you waiting for? Go!
P.S. While we’re on the subject of happiness, contentment, and fulfillment, my friend Regan over at Refined Mindset has a book out, Man’s Guide to Well-Being.
This book is filled with useful strategies, actionable advice, and lots of personal insights that can help you get better and be happier!
It also comes with a 100% money back guarantee if it doesnt change your life for the better.
Check it out here if you want.