The desire for happiness is essential to man. It is the motivator of all our acts. The most venerable, clearly understood, enlightnened, and reliable constant in the world is not only that we want to be happy, but that we want only to be so. Our very nature requires it of us. -Seneca
I remember once talking a man through his desire for a Jaguar. It went something like this.
Why do you want a Jaguar? I asked.
Because it’s quality and style, and I am a person who values both.
Why does being a person of quality and style matter to you?
Because I prefer well-made automobiles, and everything for that matter to junk, and I want my style to reflect that.
Why is it important that your style is reflected in your choice of car?
Because I want people to know the kind of person I am, I guess.
You want people to know that you are a Jaguar?
No, I want people to know that I value the finer things in life.
Do you want people to know also that you can afford the finer things in life?
Yes, I guess I do.
And why is that important to you?
I don’t know.
Let me ask another question then. How does it make you feel when you imagine people seeing you drive the Jaguar?
I feel confident and important. Like I accomplished something in life.
And at the end of the day as you go to bed, your Jaguar in the garage, how do you feel?
I feel like my life is a success.
Yes, that is what you are thinking, and what emotion does that thought evoke?
Happiness pretty much.
Happiness. That’s interesting. I want you to notice how that happiness feels in your body right now and tell me when you’ve got it.
(Pause) Okay, I’ve got it.
Now I want you to keep noticing this emotion of happiness, and consider the possibility that it is this feeling of happiness you most desire, and not the Jaguar.
Could that be a possibility?
I guess it could be.
But you still want the Jaguar, right?
Yes, but the desire isn’t quite as strong.
Okay. Because there’s nothing wrong with owning a Jaguar. But if it is happiness and inner confidence that you truly want, you don’t need to buy a Jaguar to get it. You don’t need to buy anything.
Hmm. That’s a different way of thinking. So what you’re saying is that if I can just figure out how to be happy, I can save myself a lot of cash.
And there my friends, is the multi-million dollar question. How do we let go of the inexhaustible desire for external things, to attain a steady state of inner fulfillment and joy? How do we attain kind of happiness that isn’t reliant on outward circumstances, or even the achievement of worthy goals? How do we discern the difference between the transient happiness of satisfying our whims, and the happiness that arises from the immutable simplicity of a good heart? I don’t have all the answers, but I am seeking. And I believe it is possible. Let me know what you think too, and what kind of car you’d love to see sitting in your driveway!