A traveler is crossing the desert on foot and gets lost. There is nothing but sand that he can see in any direction he looks. The sun is blazing hot and burning him up. He has run out of food and water is very tired from walking around in the hot sun. Suddenly, he looks across the horizon and spots something shiny. It looks like a body of water, may a lake, or an oasis in the desert. He feels a jolt of excitement and energy in his tired body and runs towards the water. Upon reaching the place where he thought he had seen water, to his grave disappointment, he finds nothing but the vast expanse of desert sand.
What the traveler saw was a mirage. Science can easily explain why mirages appear – They are caused by refraction of light due to the difference in temperatures between layers of air near the ground and further up in the atmosphere. Google search gives the following definition of a mirage. “An optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions, especially the appearance of a sheet of water in a desert or on a hot road caused by the refraction of light from the sky by heated air.” Synonyms of mirage are listed as illusion, hallucination, delusion.
Why am I talking about mirage in the desert? It is a very apt analogy for how we pursue happiness. We buy into the illusion that happiness is achieved through possessions, money, fame, status. Or when we reach a milestone – graduating from college, getting a coveted job, getting a beach body, getting a promotion and on and on. Some of these possessions and milestones may be different for different people, but the common denominator is their relentless pursuit in search of elusive happiness.
When I was about 10 years old, my parents bought me my first bicycle. I was a really happy kid! I took my new bike all around the block and showed it to my friends. I kept riding it till late in the evening until I was really tired. Then I crashed into the bed, exhausted but very happy indeed. This joy of riding my new bicycle lasted a few days, maybe a few weeks and then it started tapering down. Finally, in a few month’s time, it wore off – almost completely! The bicycle collected dust in the garage except for an occasional ride now and then.
As I grew older, my “toys” were upgraded and went up in value. A few years later I got a two wheeled scooter, and then in a few more years, I had a small car, and then a larger luxury car many years later. All of these possessions made me happy – for a while – but eventually and inevitably, the happiness that they provided me diminished and wore off eventually.
Please answer these questions as they relate to your life.
- Do you make more money now then you made when you got your first job?
- Do you have a better (and probably a lot more expensive) car now as compared to a few years ago?
- How about your house? Your clothes? Your shoes? Your smartphone? Your electronic gadgets? Other “toys”?
I am sure you have had a similar experience in your life –
1. possessions and “toys” keep getting bigger and better with time. 2. They give temporary joy which eventually wears off.
2. They give temporary joy which eventually wears off.
And yet, like the lost traveler in the desert, we keep chasing this elusive mirage that possessions will make us happy. Am I saying that we should not wish or strive for more things in our life? Not at all!
To get the possessions, we often work hard and long hours. We may ignore or mistreat loved ones because of the stress of work. We may sacrifice our health to achieve success. We may miss out on spending time with spouse, family, and children – while they are growing up or growing old. In this relentless chase, we get tired, exhausted and life often passes us by. There is often a price to be paid for success.
A few years ago, there was a beautiful television advertisement by Mastercard. (You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDf751c1yiA.) Eager parents of a toddler buy so many things for her to play with. The commercial goes like this – Most popular toy for your toddler – $500, most popular stuffed animal for your toddler – $350, the Most popular picture book for your toddler – $60, Watching her play with the cardboard box instead? PRICELESS! And the tag line is – There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else – there is Mastercard!
Think about the times in your life, when you were really happy. There is a good chance it was when you spent time with spouse, children, parents, family or friends, pursuing a hobby, going for a walk or out in nature, exercising, helping a friend, playing with your pet, watching your favorite TV show, listening to music etc. These are the PRICELESS things that require no money at all and yet make us so happy.
To quote T.T. Rangarajan – “Success is in BIG things, HAPPINESS is in small things!”
Remember to cherish the countless and priceless moments of happiness in small things – along with your journey to success in acquiring big things!