“Life is easy. We humans make it complicated.”
I heard this for the first time from Dr. Glenn Matthews, a great American psychologist who retired in Bangkok, Thailand. It took me a while to fully grasp the depth of this statement.
I grew up in Germany, in a culture that seems to advocate retirement as the ultimate goal in life. We Germans go through a thorough education to get a good job, and then we work as hard as possible until we reach retirement at the age of sixty-something. Then real life starts, and only then. Before that it’s a struggle, and there is little time to enjoy life.
The problem is that once people reach the age of retirement, often they are physically no longer able to enjoy life as much as they wished. And of course many do not even reach this age. Like one of my classmates who died at the age of 29 in a bus accident.
My past seven years in Thailand turned out to be a great learning experience. Thai people live in the moment. It’s like the other extreme to my German roots. Often times when a Thai person encounters a problem at work, they will quit the job from one day to the other. They don’t worry much about the future, and their amazing networking capabilities ensure that someone always takes care of them, somehow.
Buddhist monks teach us how little we actually need to live. And in fact it’s no different in Christian believe: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.” -Matthew 6:26
If life is actually so easy, why do we humans make it so complicated?
Once I met a lady from Bhutan. I don’t know much about Bhutan, but I recalled that this country ranks highest on the global happiness index. I asked that lady why she thinks that is so. Her answer was as simple as it was stunning: “I think we desire less.” And that’s probably true. Isn’t the key to all suffering unfulfilled desires?
“Those who seek security chase it for a lifetime without ever finding it (…) Attachment to money and security only creates insecurity, no matter how much money we have in the bank,” writes Deepak Chopra in “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.”
I admit I am not a very spiritual person; years of education in natural science have perhaps contributed to that. However, the moment I understood Deepak Chopra’s concept of “detached involvement”, I fell in love with it and it broadened my mind. Nowadays I apply it successfully in my life as follows:
I am ambitious. I enjoy pursuing goals (for instance becoming the best coach I can possibly be and add immense value to my clients’ lives). But I have learned that happiness does not depend on achieving a specific outcome. Happiness comes from what you are doing while you are doing it.
If for example your objective is to achieve a certain goal in five years from now, and you allow yourself only to be happy once this specific outcome is achieved in all its details, then you practice attachment. You are setting yourself up for trouble. Perhaps throughout the next five years you will not be happy because your happiness depends on this goal that is not achieved yet. Worse than that, no matter how hard you work, chances are that your goal might not be achieved. Or you achieve it and you realize it is in fact not the source for happiness. Wouldn’t that be sad and a terrible waste of time? That’s how you make your actually easy life very complicated.
Find the source for your happiness and do what you need to do to be happy now. Explore Buddha’s middle path, be involved (act and do your best) while you practice detachment (be independent from a specific outcome).
Enjoy the journey and achieve happily instead of achieve in order to be happy.
This article has been previously published on ezinearticles.com