“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Over the last couple of years, I have devoted a significant portion of my waking hours reading articles about the pursuit of one’s passions and happiness.
Almost always, these articles explore the themes and concepts in life management commonly associated with the topics of my blog; such as being more open-minded and adventurous, establishing positive, healthy, and lasting relationships, and pursuing a line of work that one is highly passionate about.
While my psyche had greatly benefited from these articles, I soon came to realize that merely digesting the aforementioned concepts in these write-ups was not enough for me to lead the life that I had always wanted.
You see, prior to discovering the life-altering philosophy I’m about to discuss, I had struggled with a recurring imbalance that severely affected my emotional well-being.
I used to experience uncontrollable mood swings; days on which I was brimming with positivity had been often interrupted by taxing bouts of depression stemming from my boredom, various insecurities and other deep-rooted anxieties.
I needed to act with urgency; as this imbalance was starting to take its toll on my confidence, my most valued relationships, and my ability to relate and communicate with others. Most importantly, it was threatening to take away my capacity to, as Thoreau says, “suck the marrow out of life”.
I was getting desperate and I needed to find a solution to this emotionally-debilitating problem.
My progress was stunted. My goals were falling by the wayside. My life felt incomplete.
At first, I failed to see the correlation between the good days and the bad ones. After all, “It’s only normal for a person to have good and bad days, right?” For a while, I deluded myself by thinking that everyone went through the same emotional roller coaster, and I, was no different.
In due time, however, I realized that this was a fallacy.
After a period of reflection and intense research, I finally discovered what exactly was causing the imbalance: UNREALIZED IDEAS.
According to a core tenet theory of psychology, we human beings get a sense of gratification from any kind of self-affirmation. This sense of gratification is said to be on par with the feelings we get when we actually accomplish something.
For instance, when we read an article that confirms and reinforces something that we already know and believe, we feel satisfied and vindicated because someone of note agrees with us. I mean, how many times have we felt our hearts swell with pride while crying out “DAMN RIGHT, I agree!” to something we were reading or watching?
A similar situation occurs when we share or boast about our most recent brainstorms to our friends at a coffee shop or a watering hole. Do you notice that we often feel a warm, pleasant glow when these ideas get the approval of others?
In other words, we get an “endorphin high” from the satisfaction of knowing that our peers, or some expert or authority figure, validate our existence by agreeing with our ideas and opinions.
The problem, however, is that the “high” that we experience in these situations can actually HINDER our chances of bringing our brilliant ideas into fruition. Most often, our brains mistake “inspiration” and the feelings associated with idea validation for “actual success,” and we lose the interest and the motivation then fail to build upon our ideas.
Unfortunately, we often times have to go through so many of these “false” positives before we begin to realize that we have absolutely NOTHING to show for them.
This was the BANE of my existence.
I used to get so amped up over an idea’s potential to succeed that I often neglected to follow through with the necessary action plan to capitalize on it. I often behaved as if I had already hit the jackpot whenever I put down in writing an idea that I considered to be a potential goldmine.
If I had a dollar for every time I had daydreamed about the next Flappy Bird or the next “whale” in digital marketing, Forbes would have had to clear a spot for me in its top ten list of millionaires a long time ago.
Because of this failure on my part, I would start to resent myself for my inaction, then compare my inadequacy to the successes of other people who had the gumption to see their ideas through.
As good fortune would have it, I chanced upon an idea that explained perfectly why my best days radiated with positive energy, and why my bad ones were filled with overwhelming negativity.
Living by this philosophy has greatly improved the quality of my life as it has helped me adapt an attitude that attracted the things I desired the most.
The life-altering philosophy?
Slay the beast of passive consumption in you by creating value of your own!
Nowadays, most of us find ourselves deeply engrossed in the passive role of “consumer”.
For instance, a large number of people online are content to live life vicariously as they lurk around social media sites and message boards with no intention of contributing value to the exchange of information. This indifference causes us to lose out on opportunities for self-improvement as passive consumption always leaves us unchanged and uninspired.
The unhappiness of many people can often be traced to this apathy towards active participation.
The act of creation is empowering because it allows you to enrich your life as you transform your environment. The creative process molds you as a person, rarefies your sensibilities, sharpens your focus, and strengthens your character.
Things changed as soon as I immersed myself in the process of creation. The degree of pleasure I got from it intensified the minute I rekindled my passion and started creating with a burning desire. The days in which I create are amazingly fruitful, positive, light, airy, fun, and amazing. In contrast, the days spent doing nothing, binging, and passively consuming always leaves me in a state of depression.
So, how do we jumpstart our innate creativity and quell our desire to consume?
The first step is to understand the difference between creation and consumption.
Creating can assume many forms: creating in the workplace, building a life with your spouse, raising children, providing service to your community, engaging in hobbies such as gardening and sculpting, creating art and music, writing, blogging, inventing, and even actively participating in politics.
For me, I found immense satisfaction in building a business and going on epic, planned-out adventures. In essence, acts of creation allow us to develop holistically and enhance our ability to function in our environments.
Consumption, on the other hand, includes activities in which we absorb and process information. Obvious examples of such activities include watching TV, playing video games, surfing the net, and reading other people’s blogs and info products.
However, not all acts of consumption are as overwhelmingly passive as the previous examples. For instance, reading books, “hanging out” at the local coffee shop or bar and shopping are also considered acts of consumption.
The next step is becoming conscious of how much you consume in relation to how much you create, and how this affects you emotionally.
Start posting in the forums you now only read, do the actual planning of a weekend camping trip instead of just showing up, write a blog post, or talk to someone while in line at the coffee shop and create conversation; then, at the end of the day, take note of the value that you have created in doing these things and how it makes you feel.
At the same time, become conscious of what you consume on a daily basis.
For example, if you spend 90 minutes a day scrolling endlessly on Facebook or playing Candy Crush, take note of the activity and write how this act of consumption made you feel.
At the end of the day, I am sure that you will discover that the satisfaction you get from creating is far greater than the instant gratification you get from consuming.
It simply feels better in the long term to see yourself making an impact and building something significant. If you are reading my blog, I’d bet that you are in this for the long haul, so a high ratio of creation to consumption is a great start to a long term happiness plan.
By no means am I saying that you have to stop consuming; I am simply saying that true happiness comes when you fix the ratio at which you are consuming.
That’s why the last step is to be able to justify how much you consume with how much you create.
While passive consumption is often the main cause of arrested development, striking an ideal balance between consumption and creation allows you to effectively establish a purposeful identity based on what you consume and create. With increased self-awareness and capacity for pleasure, you stand to become happier on a more permanent basis.
Remember that is perfectly okay to consume; after all, we are social beings and our minds were built to seek out knowledge.
However, we are more importantly, creative beings, and the feeling of creating something beautiful and valuable has no substitute.
So go ahead and get started…. TODAY! Make sure you create often, and begin building something awesome!
Why don’t you give it a go right now and add value to the discussion by leaving a comment below? Are you having a hard time taming the beast of consumption in you? Have you had experiences like this before? What are you currently creating?
I would really love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and let’s talk!
My eBook “Top 7 Mistakes Newbies Make When Trying to Quit Their Job and Build a Business” is available for download for free. It’s the first of many guides I am sharing to help you make your own e-business so you can enjoy the freedom doing what you want, when you want.