How selfish roots bore happy fruits
I am selfish by nature. While I’ve read and believe this is at the root of alcoholism, I’ve become convinced it is the baser root of all human nature.
Copernicus discovered heliocentricity 473 years ago.
I discovered an other-centric life, a life of service to others, 7 years ago. But the discovery is like the explorers who discovered the Arctic. I don’t exactly live there, although I’m free to visit from time to time. And upon visiting, I trip over a few Eskimos to realize that I didn’t really discover anything new.
How I flipped my selfish script
If you are selfish AND insecure, as I often am, think about this. The way you are constantly thinking about yourself is the way others are constantly thinking about themselves. People are far more concerned with themselves than with you. I was put at ease to realize that people aren’t obsessing over me the way I obsess over myself.
This may seem a silly realization to have as an adult, and it most likely is. But this is where my happiness began.
I have felt great joy in helping others, which I do professionally as a teacher and coach. It is immensely fulfilling. I’ve experienced the bliss of helping others through their addiction too. I do my best as a husband to think of my wife’s needs, and as a father, my children’s.
It has brought me true happiness—not that ignorance is bliss stuff, or taking a vacation to lie at the beach, or that rush when a post is shared or our thought re-tweeted—I’m talking about that deep-rooted contentment and satisfaction.
When University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson hooked up 256 sensors to Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard’s brain, the happy part of his brain lit up like a Christmas tree.
I am by no means a monk or advocating cloistered life. What I want to share with anyone who reads this is that
I have tasted what it feels like to be selfless and that alone has made me happier than I have ever been in my life.
I have discovered a new peace. Much like the “discoverers” of the Arctic, I don’t stay there, and there is an indigenous population like Ricard who call it home. But when I need it, I know I’ve travelled there—explored it.
I would recommend the same for anyone suffering from alcoholism, addiction, depression, or even a mean case of the Mondays. To quote one of my favorite musicians Alexi Murdoch, “My salvation lies in your love. Oh brother, oh sister.”
If it is as simple as that, why aren’t I happy more often? If the key to life fits into a common lock, why aren’t more copies being made? It is because it is HARD.
We would all feel better if we ate broccoli in every meal and skipped dessert, or if we sacrificed some time on the couch to exercise. There is a simple paradox that proves (to me) there is a benevolent creator and a higher-order of justice in this life:
What feels good often makes us miserable. Doing good is what brings us happiness.
This is a truism I only learned in experience: I am happier when I give than when I receive.