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The selfish pursuit of happiness

                                        By Dean Nicosia

August  2005

Life is a funny thing (that's one way to put it), it's short and very unpredictable. They say that life is what you make of it, but yet so few people know what to make if it, or how to make anything of it, for that matter. 

It seems that some go through life not enjoying it one bit, and yet others seem so happy all of the time (I hate those people in the mornings).

Some people become heroes, great leaders, and icons, yet other fall between the cracks, never becoming anything more than coffin stuffers when its all over. Sadly some don't even make it into a coffin. Some help make the world a better place for mankind  and others cause so much destruction. A few end up at the very top, many end up at the bottom, and the rest end up somewhere in the middle of the pack, with seemingly no explanation of why or how. You get the point. 

What is the secret to a happy life, if there is one, or is the whole thing already laid out for us before we even fill our lungs with Oxygen for the first time? 

There are some people who will  tell you it's about helping others, giving rather than receiving, though self proclaimed wiser people will tell you to look out for number one. Let us not forget that moderation is touted to be the key to happiness, yet more charismatic fellows will tell you to suck the marrow out of life, and "carpe diem".

 It seems that all of these wise proclamations make sense, while standing in stark contrast of each other. 

You can read three different motivation or self help books, and find three totally different paths that supposedly lead to happiness, yet most lead to nothing more than a few bucks in the hands of the author. Some say that anything will make you happy if you really want to be happy, yet others claim to have the only true way to happiness. 

If you think I'm writing this because I have the answer, you are dead wrong. But I'm not writing this in the dark either, I think I have one simple thought on the issue.

Selfishness.

I've seen people on both sides of life's fence, people at the top, and people not able to carry on another day. I've seen rich and poor, smart and downright dumb, religious and atheist, and everything in between.  I've noticed one thing about the happy, and the same about the sad, it seems comes down to the level of selfishness, and not how much money they have in the bank. 

Life has it's crazy curve balls, the things that bring happiness to the sad, and shear terror to the once happy, and it doesn't seem that we'll ever have that figured out. It's the old question of "why do bad things happen to good people", or in my thinking, "why do good things happen to evil people"?  Nobody will ever figure that one out. But there is something to be said about selfishness, or in the case of some, selflessness.

 It's worth a bit of a look, a bit of a mulling over, to see if there is anything there.

It seems that no matter where people are in life, the ones who are obsessed with pleasing there own selfish needs all of the time, end up winding their way down a path that eventually leads to destruction. Those whom I've know that are less selfish, tend to find more happiness in general.

Sounds childishly simple, I know, but stick with me for a second, and the next one I write will be about football, I promise. (not really)

Those people in life who are the most selfish don't tend to have the quality relationships, the quality of life, or any form of stability, and the sad thing about that is they don't realize that they are so selfish in the first place. They have this sort of selfish hunger going on that they never put in check, and eventually they end up being the most self serving people with the least knowledge of that fact.

They tend to fall into addictions and self destructive mindsets, and overall unhealthy lifestyles.

Truly self-less people tend to find true friends wherever they go, and keep those friends for a very long time.  They always seem to make better, more thoughtful decisions, and you don't see them staying depressed, or focused on negative thoughts as much. And that is part of the key to happiness, due to the fact that on this great planet, nobody goes very long without real problems. Happiness lies in how you deal with those problems, and when you help others, yours don't seem as bad. 

I'm sure that I, as most people, fall somewhere in between the totally obsessive selfish people and the mother Theresa's of the world. I'm sure that a little moderation is needed, as selfish goals have brought many good things to the word, and truly week and spineless people can't even be trusted, let alone really be happy when they are being walked on and manipulated by others. 

The problem is that sometimes selflessness is confused with weakness, and selfishness is many times mistaken for strong and successful.

It's funny, because being self-less, while remaining strong enough to stick up for yourself and your values, as well as motivated enough to compete in the marketplace and succeed professionally seems to be a tough thing to do. I'm sure it's darn near impossible, yet I know that this is the closest thing you will find to true happiness. It it truly is a sign of strength and success, as apposed to being a ruthless selfish tyrant. (there's a word that begins with an "a" and ends with a "hole", but I won't use that here as this is a family website) 

I'm not saying you can be truly selfless all of the time, and I'm not even saying that you should never be selfish, I guess I'm just noticing that one is better than the other.

Those who carry bitterness and resentment towards other lose in the end, while those who forgive, end up way farther ahead, in my experience. Carrying bitterness is a selfish act, while forgiveness is a truly selfless act. 

So the next time you are down, mad or just feeling bad in some way, or if you find yourself losing friends quicker than money in a casino, or if you just aren't happy with anything, you may just want to take a look at the type of person your are with respect to selfishness. 

You just may find the answer in helping someone else, or being someone's  friend that you wouldn't otherwise be, or just shaking off the funk of self pity.  This may seem a daunting task if you have always been a very selfish person, but it starts quite simply with the little things that you do, and how you do them. When you do something for someone with nothing expected in return, no matter how small the act, that is a truly selfless act, and a great place to start. (especially when you won't even get noticed for that action)

Good hard work will make you appreciate a night on the couch. Spend all of your time on the couch and you will grow to hate it. If you are always focused on pleasing yourself, you will run out of ways to get that done, and run out of happiness in the process.  By trying to be less selfish, you may find the start of something better, a way out of some of your problems, plus it's a nice change of pace.

Or you may need professional help, I don't want to downplay people with serious emotional issues or addictions!

Hey, sometimes you need help figuring out why you do the things that you do, and I know that some people need medication, and counseling. The act of realizing you have a problem and getting help can be a very selfless act when it is saving you and the people around you. Taking care of yourself is not only good for you, but good for those close to you! .

What I am saying is that the majority of us don't need professional help to find true happiness.  Pick your head up, and set aside your own desires and problems for two seconds once in a while, it will do you a bit of good. And you may just find some happiness and peace there. We have a culture that tries to fix everyone's problem with a drug, or a series of expensive sessions with some smart guy. Sometimes we just simply need to stop focusing on our problems, and there is no better way to do that than to help another whom is worse off than you. (believe me there is always someone worse-off than you, unless you are that one person in the world that truly is at the bottom of the pile, and I'm sure that person doesn't have a computer with which to read this with.)

If you look at the criminal mind, you see selfishness at it's peak. "I want to make X amount of dollars, and I will do anything to get that money, even if it means stealing, selling drugs, or selling my body to get that done" is just one example of how pure selfishness if left uncheck is pure evil. 

It's ok to want and desire, but at some point you must put someone else's needs over yours, take one for the team, let something go to save a friendship, or submit to an authority and a higher power than you at some point, or you will end up on that path that leads to destruction. (if you think you are your own god, then God I feel sorry for you)

I know that I go through bouts of both, when I've had guilt it's been due to a selfish act, and when I've laid my head on my pillow with a warm glow, and a good feeling, it's been due to a truly selfless act. (That or I ingested too much NyQuil) That's just my experience. 

My value system that tries to put others first in many situations (although I fail miserably sometimes) is something I learned by being brought up with a belief in God. The thinking that life is more than spinning around on this planet for 70 years or so, just pleasing yourself,  and that there is something better out there, is the mindset that makes me think twice before I step all over someone just to get my way. The realization that we are not only flesh and blood, but also spiritual beings, helps me keep my flesh and blood needs in some sort of control most of the time. That is what is supposed to make us better than the rest of the animals in the first place.

That may not answer all of life's mysteries, but if you work on being less selfish, you may find more happiness. It's easy to justify why you are acting a certain way or taking a certain action, but at the end of the day it's either selfish or it's not.  Few of us are all of one or the other, it's an ebb and flow, but if you push yourself towards the better of the two, things tend to work out better for you in the end. 

It's long term thinking, an investment in the future, but it does pay off. 

Or at least it has for me, and hopefully it will continue to...

That’s just my Slanted View….

Go Patriots and God Bless!!

 

 

...That’s just My Slanted View!!