Apr 26th, 2013 - London, England
I’ve been asking myself this question since day one, and ever since reading Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy, I’ve been trying to figure out a puzzle. In his book, he divides happiness into three sections:
- Natural and Necessary: Friends, Freedom, Thought, Food, Shelter, Security
- Natural but Unnecessary: Big house, Private baths, Banquets, Servants
- Un-natural and Unnecessary: Fame, Power, Material Possessions
We have a natural hierarchy of needs, but because we are such suggestible creatures, our hierarchies have been skewed (ehm* advertising). So he offers these examples:
- It may be a Jeep we end up buying, but it was… freedom we were looking for
- It may be the Apertif we purchase, but it was… friendship we were after
- It may be fine bathing accoutrements we acquire, but it was… thought that would have brought us calm
And so I created a puzzle for myself:
It may be the plane ticket that I bought, but it was (fill in the blank) that I was looking for.
I was trying to get away from the city life and naively assumed that immediately jumping onto a plane would solve everything, but soon as I touched down in Iceland, I wasn’t jumping for joy like I expected. Then I realized, that ESCAPE is not the solution, it is only part of the solution.
So what is this BLANK?
A multitude of things. FREEDOM, THOUGHT, CLARITY. Sometimes you just have to take a step back to see things clearly, even if that means having to leave the comforts of home.
Before I went on this trip, I was feeling stuck. I was feeling like I wasn’t reaching my fullest potential in life, that I still had so much to see, so much to learn, and so much more I needed to grow. Most importantly, I felt like what I was doing was not helping the world in anyway.
At the end of the day, this is about living a fulfilling life. How would I define a fulfilling life? One that revolves around delivering happiness by doing what you love, which brings me to some insightful quotes:
"There’s nothing more important that you’ll ever do than spread positive, upbeat, energetic, passionate vibes. You’ll feel better for it. And, crucially, those around you will respond in a positive manner." - Andy Cope
"To receive trust, you must give trust. To receive love, you must give love. To receive happiness, you must give happiness." - Unknown
And so it may be the plane ticket that I bought, but it was FREEDOM, THOUGHT, and CLARITY that I was looking for… in order to answer an even more profound question...
"How many people can we influence in a positive way? How many can we inspire?"
I think we have it all backwards. We place so much emphasis on the ACT of pursuing our dreams, instead of taking a step back and first figuring out the POSITIVE IMPACT we would like to have on the world, and then finding the ACTION most appropriate in achieving that result. Because our thinking is backwards, we have generations of talented young people doing a lot, but achieving very little. We are lost.
I’ve been spending my days thinking about what it is I can pursue professionally that can also benefit those around me. We all have that ONE THING that we’re supposed to be really good at right? The reality is, I don’t have that ONE THING that I absolutely must do, because that ONE THING that I care about isn’t so much WHAT I’m doing.
"It’s about the journey - mine and yours - and the lives we can touch, the legacy we can leave, and the world we can change for the better" - Tony Dungy
I love music, I love dance, I love photography. I can choose to do any one of these things and call it "following my dreams," but the ACTION is only part of the dream. Ultimately, it’s not about what we’re doing, but about how what it is that we do is a means of doing more.
I think the question to ask our children is not, “What do you want to be or do when you grow up?” but “What positive influence would you like to have on the world?”
In this way, we have direction and a higher purpose that goes beyond the self.
If I chose to pursue photography, it wouldn’t be so much about the act of photography, but about how photography can be a means of doing more. That somehow, the photos that I take wouldn’t just provide individual fulfillment, but would transcend all boundaries, and despite our differences, somehow bring us all closer together.
And so here comes the possible answer to the BLANK… and thus the answer to why I am traveling:
It may be the plane ticket that I bought, but it was FREEDOM, THOUGHT, and CLARITY that I was looking for in order to gain enough SELF-KNOWLEDGE to know WHO I am, discover WHAT to pursue and HOW this can be a positive influence on the world.
"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world" - Joel A. Barker
by Jason Lam