What is it that we’re after, really?
A house in the Hamptons? A perfect boyfriend? A TV series? Fame?
Or might it be the corresponding feelings we think (and are incorrectly taught) that we’ll experience once we get those things that make us desire them so much?
Once I get that fill-in-the-blank, I’ll finally be happy.
Let’s be clear on one thing, there’s nothing wrong with desires.
Without them, we probably wouldn’t be here.
But with the advent of material things and a material-based culture, we’ve lost connection with the knowledge that joy (or love or fulfillment or compassion or hope) is born from inside. And we are here to simply experience the physical embodiment of the energy equivalent of joy (or love or fulfillment or compassion or hope) with the world. But we mistake that our happiness is derived from things.
It’s a state of being. It doesn’t lie in a thing. It’s already part of our inherent spirit (and genetic make-up). We all have access to it. Not through titles or jobs or awards but through self-expression. And often, because we’re so affected by outward appearances—and make our happiness dependent upon them—it’s also about a choice.
We can choose to be happy.
When I was eight or nine years old, I wanted this Fisher-Price farm set with every possible attachment, accessory, and animal that came with it. One Christmas, I got what I wanted. I loved it. I played with it for hours. But eventually, I got bored. It wasn’t enough to have every animal Fisher-Price made for that farm—I mean, how many cows could I have? I found myself starting to add dinosaurs to my set (to eat the cows). And my “Star Wars” figures. And my brother’s G.I. Joe and my sister’s Barbies—whose glamour never bored me, but that’s another story!
Eventually, the entire farm set sat in the corner of my room, collecting dust. Then it became part of our garage sale. We get used to things. We get bored. Science calls it “hedonic adaptation” which suggests we have a “happiness set point” that is encoded in our genes. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky recently stated in the NY Times that our happiness set point rises when something good happens and then falls if something bad happens but eventually will return to its normal set point.
But perhaps an element that isn’t being taught because it’s not understood is that our set point can be raised if we became a little more conscious of the actual feeling that is derived while in the process of creating. Because that’s the real reason we’re doing anything in the first place, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
The inner wants to be filled by the inner. Not the outer.
Have fun with the outer. Experience the outer. Celebrate the outer victories. But don’t let them replace where it all originates from: the inner.
Anthony Meindl is an award-winning writer, director, producer, and Artistic Director of Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop (AMAW) with studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Vancouver. It was voted the Best Acting Studio in Los Angeles by Backstage in 2011 and 2012 (Best Scene Study and Best Cold Read).
Meindl's first feature film, “Birds of a Feather,” won the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2012 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, and he won Best Director at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Love, Backstage, and various spirituality podcasts. He has been featured in ABC News, Daily Variety, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and the CW KTLA. He is also the author of the new best-selling book, “At Left Brain Turn Right,” which helps artists of all kinds unleash their creative genius within. Check out Meindl's free smartphone app on iTunes. 'Follow Meindl on Twitter @AnthonyMeindl.