The Desire for Happiness
Dealing with the frustration that goes along with challenging conflicts has some similarities to sailors dealing with stormy seas—it is best to utilize a well-rehearsed plan.
For dealing with conflicts, one such plan begins with thinking of the word “DIG.” With a little practice, we can use this word to remind us of a simple way to summarize the conflict even in the midst of swirling frustration.
The letters of the word “DIG” aids us to remember the words, “Desire,” “Interference,” and “Guilt.” Once we recall these words, we use them in a particular way.
First, we state what our desire is in the conflict, then, what is interfering, then, why we believe the other party in the conflict is guilty of doing something wrong. After doing this from our perspective, we then go through the same process from the perspective of the other party.
If we are thoroughly practiced in using this skill, the word “DIG“ not only helps us to create this concise description of the conflict even while in the midst of rising anger, it also helps us remember to dig a little to consider not just the most obvious desire that is involved in the conflict, but also what might be other desires that are involved.
Of course, in simple, low frustration conflicts none of this is necessary. There are times, however, that you will find that when all of those around you are beginning to get lost in a storm, your even-tempered, systematic guidance will calm the waters and lead to inviting harbors.
Conflicts in Which Happiness is the Desire
Now, sometimes when we describe a conflict it takes the following form:
The desire to be happy has a special place in the life of many of us. Nevertheless, today I would like to advocate that you think twice whenever you, or the other party in a conflict, describes the desire part of the conflict as “to be happy.”
What’s wrong with Happiness as a Desire?
Describing a desire in a conflict as “to be happy” is too vague. With a little effort you can usually dig a little deeper and find a more specific description. Typically, it is better for a boss to say something like, “I desire that you come to work by 9 A.M. at least 95% of the time than, “I desire that you make me happy.”
Another reason to avoid happiness in your descriptions of your desire has to do with earning respect. If you are like so many of us, you probably want to avoid coming off as shallow or having superficial desires. To explain a little more of what I mean by this, I’m going to discuss a little of what Albert Einstein said on this topic and then present a little parable.
Albert Einstein on Happiness
In a book titled, Living Philosophies: A Series of Intimate Credos, the first chapter is by Albert Einstein. There he states:
The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient for a herd of cattle. (p. 4)
When I read the rest of Einstein’s chapter, I came away with the following image. He kind of viewed happiness as one-half of an oscillation process, with sadness and happiness going back and forth, thrusting his ship forward, and where he chose to steer his ship was in the direction that led to goodness, beauty, and truth.
This is a deeper way to view the nature of happiness, and for those of us who want to be respected for being deep, in contrast to shallow, I think that there may be some value in meditating on this.
To further challenge you to think more deeply about the nature of happiness, please consider the following parable.
The Parable of Probliss
Once upon a green-blue planet, a scientist invented Probliss, a super powerful happiness pill. It made people as happy as anyone ever dreamed of. In fact Probliss was so effective in improving the happiness in people’s lives that a group of psychiatrists developed a plan that would have all of the people on the planet lie down on gurneys in sanitized rooms and then be hooked up intravenously so nourishment and Probliss could be directly delivered into the veins of everyone. If at any point people felt a little less than perfectly happy, all they had to do was press down with a fingertip and wonderful Probliss would soar into their lives creating pure, pure happiness.
Some didn’t like this plan. “What, no music, no love, no friends? Man, that sounds bleak!”
“True, none of that,” said the psychiatrists, “but far more happiness.”
And it came to pass that studies were done. The results proved indisputable–those on these gurneys who were attached to these machines that provided nourishment and Probliss developed far fewer diseases. They lived over ten years longer, and they were less of a danger to themselves or others when compared to those who lived their lives going out in the world without Probliss. Those who chose to live their lives in the old way, were much more likely to die in car crashes, accidental falls, and homicides. People on Probliss never died from these types of causes because all they did was lie on the gurney in a completely sterile, happy, and healthy state.
Once these results came in, the psychiatrists decided that everyone, from now on, would be tied down to gurneys, even if it was against their will. “It was for their own good,” the psychiatrists explained.
Now some men and women did manage to escape into a deep, green forest, experiencing anguish and tears, love and creativity, but not perfect happiness.
And so, whenever you think you want to seek happiness, consider the value that goes along with identifying a more specific desire. You’re still likely to experience some happiness while seeking this newly identified desire, and some sadness too as setbacks tend to occur. These alterations of happiness and sadness are part of the process that keeps our lives moving forward. Choose wisely in what direction you truly wish to head. And learn to appreciate that there are deeper values in life than happiness.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.