You live in a bipolar world.
On the one hand, you are told “Sleep less, dream more.”
And on the other hand, “Relax and enjoy the present moment.”
In the end, you don’t know which is the right way.
A- Go to the Himalayas and become a Buddhist monk.
B- listen to Alec Baldwin (every time he interrupts your favorite YouTube videos with his eToro commercial) and invest in cryptocurrencies.
Everyone wants to sell you their magic recipe for happiness. The only thing that changes is the narrative.
That’s why in today’s article I’m going to tell you about a man who didn’t want to sell us anything.
A hardened pessimist who described reality with his particular black humor through phrases like these three:
- “Happiness is only the absence of pain.”
- “Life is only death postponed.”
- “Man has made the Earth a hell for animals.”
Today we will speak of a German philosopher, avowed atheist, and standard-bearer of profound pessimism.
Today we will talk about the one and only Arthur Schopenhauer.
And we will share three of his main rules for life, collected in the book The Wisdom of Life.
Let´s jump in.
-I+I. Arthur Schopenhauer Express Biography
- 1788 Arthur Schopenhauer is born on February 22 in Danzig (today’s Gdansk).
- 1793 Danzig passes into Prussian hands, and Arthur moves with his family to Hamburg.
- 1798 He lives two years in France training as a businessman, at the wish of his father.
- 1803 During this year, he travels with his parents to England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Austria.
- 1805 His father dies, and Arthur puts aside his career as a merchant and becomes interested in music, art, and literature.
- 1809 He studies Plato and Kant at the University of Gottingen.
- 1811 Attends Fichte’s lectures at the University of Berlin.
- 1813 He receives his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Jena with the thesis On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
- 1814 His relationship with Goethe becomes closer. He is interested in Hindu philosophy. After an argument with his mother, he leaves Weimar to live in Dresden.
- 1816 Publishes On Vision and Colors.
- 1819 Publishes The World as Will and Representation. He travels to Italy and visits Rome and Naples.
- 1820 Schopenhauer is appointed Privatdozent at the University of Berlin. He decides to compete with Hegel. He places his lectures at the same time as Hegel, but no one attends.
- 1822 He travels to Italy and spends two years idle.
- 1825 Translates Gracian’s Manual Oracle into German.
- 1831 He settles in Frankfurt. Lives in an austere and discreet manner.
- 1836 Publishes On the Will in Nature.
- 1841 Publishes The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics.
- 1851 Publishes his last work: Parerga and Paralipomena.
- 1857 Schopenhauer’s thought begins to be known by the European universities.
- 1860 He dies on September 21 in Frankfurt. As a result of a cardiorespiratory arrest, reclining on a sofa and with a gentle smile.
If Schopenhauer’s rules worked for them, for you too.
I. Quit looking for happiness sold to you on TV
We enter the world full of aspirations to happiness and enjoyment and retain the foolish hope of realizing them, until fate rudely catches us and shows us that nothing is ours, but that everything is his, since he not only has an indisputable right over all our possessions but also over our arms and legs, our eyes and ears, even over the nose in the middle of our face.
— Arthur Schopenhauer.
Arthur wants to warn us not to fall into the trap of false happiness. As Aristotle said,
“The prudent person does not aspire to pleasure, but to the absence of pain.”
This seems somewhat conformist and counter-intuitive in this day and age. But if you think about it carefully, he is absolutely right.
Remember Robin Williams?
Robin had it all: money, family, fame, recognition, etc. And he committed suicide.
Williams led a life full of excesses. And ended up suffering from a degenerative mental illness. A tragic disease that made him suffer until he could not take it anymore.
What good did his money do him?
Nothing. No money could stop Robin from suffering, and he got out of the way.
How to apply it to your life
Society, our family, and our professional environment tell us that we have to constantly move forward to be happy.
Move forward to where?
If the ultimate destiny of every human being is the same: death.
Why are we in such a hurry to grow up?
Why are we in such a hurry to get married?
Why are we in such a hurry to have children?
Why are we in such a hurry to retire?
Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the journey instead of getting anxious at every step?
According to Schopenhauer, the best thing to being found in the world is a painless, peaceful, and bearable present.
If you already have it, you are already reasonably happy. You just haven’t realized it.
That is the key.
It’s not about being a conformist. It’s about being practical.
And if you don’t have it, look for a realistic future where you can live, as far as possible, free of anguish, worry, and suffering.
Think about how you feel on each of the following days
- You sleep eight hours.
- You eat well.
- You avoid conflict with others.
- You exercise.
- You don’t get enough sleep.
- You eat junk food.
- You argue with everyone.
- You spend all your time in front of the computer.
On which day are you happiest?
A- Calm day
B- Busy day
Me in the first one: sleeping well, eating well, and not arguing. But I used to have days like the second type, and those days were supposed to lead to success. Wrong.
Success is not working tirelessly, eating poorly, and watching your hair fall out from stress.
Success is feeling good, even if that means giving up your dream of being Elon Musk.
Be yourself. Success is defined by you, not by society.
Aspiring to such a future is much more attainable than aspiring to have a mansion with a garden.
Happiness is keeping suffering out of your life as much as you can.
I guess they took different kinds of substances because they made them feel good. But they ended up feeling worse. So why take them in the first place?
The trap of alcohol and drugs is always the same. Makes you feel good in the beginning but end up leaving you feeling worse than you were.
Remember Arthur’s advice and seek to avoid the pain by living a healthier and happier life.
Stop chasing fictitious happiness that never ends up coming and makes you live with anxiety.
II. Value what you have before you lose it
“When we look at everything we do not possess, we often think: «What would it be like if that were mine?» and so we come to feel the lack. Instead, when faced with the things we possess, we should often think, «What would it be like if I lost this?».”
— Arthur Schopenhauer.
Desire is the cause of suffering, according to Buddhists.
They are right. Not having what we long for robs us of sleep, and worst of all, it causes us to neglect what we do have.
We live unsatisfied without stopping to think about the things we already have. Only when we lose them, we give them the value they deserve.
This is clearly seen in youth. When we are young we think we will live forever and lead a messy life full of excesses.
Only when the ailments of age begin to set in that, we start to take care of ourselves. It is when we lose our health that we value it.
The same happens with all the good things that life has given us. We do not take care of it. We are blindly chasing chimeras.
We want to be rich without realizing that true wealth is: having a loving family, supportive friends, and health to enjoy it.
How to apply it to your life
Listen to Schopenhauer and ask yourself every day what you are grateful for: it could be for your job, your family, your friends, etc. be creative, I’ll share the one I wrote today.
My list of beautiful things that I am grateful for
- 1 The bubbles.
- 2 The contagious laughs.
- 3 The hugs.
- 4 The kisses.
- 5 The surprises (the good ones).
- 6 The pampering.
- 7 The gifts.
- 8 Go barefoot.
- 9 jump on the bed.
- 10 Sing in the shower.
- 11 Music.
- 12 The family.
- 13 Friends.
- 14 And you.
- 15 you.
- 16 you.
- ∞ You (Because thanks to you reading to me I keep writing).
Then ask yourself what your life would be like if you lost those things that make you so happy and for which you are so grateful.
I’m sure that by doing so, you will begin to realize that you have more good things than you thought. And since you don’t want to lose them, you will take more care of them. Investing more time in your personal relationships.
Consequently, you will be happier.
The most tragic thing in this world is that we do not realize how joyful we are until a misfortune snatches from us what we took for granted and did not value, but it did us so much good.
III. Take it easy and Keep it simple
“The surest means of not becoming unhappy is not to desire to become very happy, that is, to set the demands of pleasure, possessions, rank, honors, etc. at a very moderate level; for it is precisely the aspiration to happiness and the striving for it that attract great misfortunes.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer.
For Schopenhauer, moderation was a virtue. And he was right.
Think about it for a moment
Which is easier to be happy or to be unhappy?
To be unhappy.
So isn’t it wiser to be restrained in our aspirations?
Arthur thought that keeping our demands modest about the means and resources we possess allows us to be reasonably happy.
We see this most clearly with the following example:
Charles is 30 years old, earning 100k a year. Charles can never have enough, so he quickly moved up the corporate ladder. Now he works practically every day, but he is the boss.
In his personal life, he was also insatiable and has been divorced twice. And he has three children to support.
Charles has monthly expenses of 10k
He owns several houses. Still carrying debts from his two divorces. And has to pay a lot of money for the private schools his children attend.
A glance makes us realize that Charles can’t save. In fact, he is 20k in debt every year, since he earns 100k a year but spends 10k a month.
Peter the moderate
Peter is also 30 years old, he lives in Spain because he likes the weather. Peter is a street sweeper and works the night shift. He works 6 hours five days a week.
He has been married to the same woman for ten years. He doesn’t feel the same magic as he did at the beginning of their relationship. But he feels very comfortable and supported by his wife.
Peter and his wife Mary share expenses.
They have one house, one car, and two children. Peter earns 25k per year and his wife about the same.
Their monthly expenses total 2k. They dine out once a week, go on vacation twice a year, and try to save as much as possible.
Peter and his wife spend around 24k per year. And the remaining 26k is diversified in stocks and pension funds.
Who would you like to be?
A- Charles, the ambitious.
B- Peter, the moderate.
I would like to think that you have chosen option B (Peter the moderate), but we live like Charles. Always looking for more. Demanding more from life.
And the more we want, the more we need to be happy. The more we crave, the more we push our happiness away.
How to apply it to your life
Make a realistic list of mid-long-term goals. Calculate the costs. It doesn’t cost you the same for a seaside vacation as it does for a three-month trip to Japan.
Then, think about what things on that list you think can make you reasonably happy. And from all of them, choose the ones that have an affordable cost.
Remember that the cost is not only economic but also emotional and time.
Being moderate in your dreams allows you 3 things that people do not stop to think about.
- 1- Increase the percentage of times that you achieve a dream.
- 2- Decrease the time you spend to achieve it.
- 3- Increase the number of goals you fulfill.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? If your dreams are less complex, you achieve them sooner. And with fewer resources, so you have more resources and time to achieve more.
Listen to Arthur Schopenhauer and be moderate with your dreams.
You will be much happier.
What makes me happy doesn’t have to make you happy. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to follow fads and trends.
We think that by buying a new smartphone or a pair of sneakers, we will be happier. But we won’t be. It is advertising that makes us believe it will be so.
Chasing material things, we live unsatisfied, from purchase to purchase, until we die or run out of money to spend. Whichever comes first.
You have to find your own definition of happiness.
To find your own definition of happiness, look for what makes you feel good about yourself.
Remember what Aristotle said, “The prudent person does not aspire to pleasure, but the absence of pain.”
Remember those things you do have and be grateful for them. By doing so, you become aware of how fortunate you are to have people close to you who love and support you, and consequently, you will not neglect them.
Finally, don’t complicate your life. Being practical is not being a conformist. A practical person knows his strengths and weak points. knows what his limitations are and manages his resources well.
Don’t waste your time chasing chimeras.
Pursue simple dreams that make you happy, and you will be twice happy. Because you will have twice as much time to fulfill twice as many dreams.
If you have read to the end of the article, I want to thank you for your support. I hope this article has helped you. If so, let me know in the comments. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for reading.
Alberto García (Malafama1981).
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