The One Truth No One Told You About Happiness

How Working in China Got the Best of Me

My last job was inside a 30-people office on the 20th floor of a grey building in the Zhejiang province of China. After a year working in the import/export industry, it became clear my life needed change. I had let myself sunk into a whirlwind of negativity. I had fully destructed the spiritual sanity I had cultivated over the years and had submitted to a mechanical and disheartening lifestyle.

My emotions were controlled by the people I worked with and no matter the energy I started with at the beginning of each day, most of it would transform into frustration, anger and worthlessness by the end of it.

I was attaching high importance to unessential matters which I had little or no control over. This automatically led to even more hopelessness. By the end, I felt imprisoned in a destructive state of mind. My thoughts and actions were causing me pain, yet I was defenselessly allowing the same behavioral and emotional patterns to repeat over and over.

I had come to China to grow and make an impact; in reality, my skills and motivation progressively rusted; I could feel myself becoming smaller and smaller each day. I needed to know that I mattered, so I started craving gratification and social acceptance. I spent hours on my phone each day, searching for validation on social media. I became needy, I lost a lot of self-confidence, yet I turned more arrogant than ever and displayed a behavior that encouraged rejection over anything else.

I assume the degradation of my mental state happened because of isolation. China can do that to you… Because of restrictions in the use of digital communication tools, 7 hours of jet lag with Europe (13+ with America) and an immense cultural gap, it is sometimes hard to believe you are still part of the world you once belonged to.

As my contract ended, I packed all my belongings and ran away as fast as I could from the corporate epidemic that had robbed me from my sense of self.

Simplicity Brought Me Back to Peace

3 months have passed and I am writing this post from the heart of the Sri Lankan jungle. I feel more fulfilled than ever. I work as a volunteer for an organization that strives to equip children born in rural Sri Lanka with tools to have their shot at higher education and realize ambitious careers. I am an educator without a wage living in the house of a modest family I met a few weeks ago. I eat with my hands, sleep under a mosquito net and bath in rain water. I evolve around stray dogs, wild cows, tropical birds, turtles, monkeys, mongooses, crocodiles, snakes and elephants. I am serene and happy.

The change in environment I have undertaken has reignited a long-gone flame. Since my resignation from cubical-land, I have reopened some unfinished projects, reestablished connections with people I care for but had left out, started taking care of my body and resumed the spiritual practices that once brought much peace into my life. I am, once again.

You’re probably thinking that I am lucky; that, if only you had the money or the right opportunities, you too would raise your middle finger to everything that is a drag in your life. This is a limiting belief; in other words, a lie you have created in order to protect your comfort and security. If tomorrow you were to die with unexpressed ideas, unrealized talents and unlived ambitions, what really is there to protect then?

What’s Holding You Back from What You Truly Want?

Pure happiness is accessible to every one of us. The fundamental error we all make is to believe it happens in the future or has happened in the past. This is wrong. Future and past are constructs of the mind, they are not real. Happiness is and can only be delivered in the present moment, because that is all there has ever been. When has your life not been now?

Taking control of life means moving away from the effect side of things while identifying ourselves as the cause of our unhappiness. This is where we make the distinction between those that react to life and those that act on life. One who reacts to life can only find excuses and dissatisfaction, whereas one who acts on life is uncovering solutions and freedom.

Psychologists explain that even a woman enduring conjugal violence is at cause for her suffering. She’s not the at cause for the aggression demonstrated by her partner, but she is for remaining in a dysfunctional relationship. Only once she understands and accepts that can she proactively seek the help she needs to change her life situation and bring pleasure back into her life.

Although your mind will tell you otherwise, you have full control of your life situation. There are hundreds of limiting beliefs polluting your space every minute of every hour and they have you believe you can’t have what you want. Observe these beliefs and realize they only exist in your head.

What do you want in this life? Do you have it? Why not?

Fulfilment  Exercise

Before we part for today, I would like to suggest a quick exercise to anchor the concept explained above. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, and let’s go:

  • Write down 5 things you would like to attract in your life right now.
  • Write down 5 things you would like to change in your life right now (hint: most likely causing you pain or anxiety).
  • Draft a step-by-step action plan detailing how you will achieve these 10 changes from today to the end of the year.
  • Observe any limiting beliefs that arise during the process, write them down as well, and realize they can be turned around.

Thanks to David Goehring for the fantastic image featured in this post (visit his Flickr gallery).


One thought on “The One Truth No One Told You About Happiness

  1. Hey Benji !

    Your point of view is quite passionate I realise. It is true that doers are more happy in the process of everyday life than those who let routine and external factors act upon them, dragging them on the twisted path of Life. However, I believe that some environments are more prone to let you feel the present and dwell in it. For instance, new “off-road” experiences such as volunteering or smaller jobs in which people really need you and recognise you for your involvement more than your hard skills. Indeed, in these cases you have a wider range of learning possibilities, including personal development and soft skills without the pressure of awaited financial results of our overall capitalist society…

    As you have seen in China, some ways of life deplete your energy, no matter what you do to keep it alive, because of tight schedule, tasks unrelated to your true self, or cultural and mindset differences.
    Travelling sheds light on what you truly want, that’s a fact, but has a poor impact on how you deal with our fast paced society when getting “back to business”. Meditation or short travels on weekends might be a solution, as a short regular reminder of how you felt when being rooted in the present time.

    Also, over-planning can end up being stressful than relieving, one should strike a balance between reminding his own personal goals on the longterm, and leaving enough freedom in this frame to let life surprise you without fear.

    Anyway, this is a loop, and keeping it high all the time is an utopia, those true happy moments should serve as a tool to deal with sad and depressive moments!

    Cheers, Alex21


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