There’s no shortcut to happiness

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that I am always looking for a shortcut to feeling happy.

We all are, right? Booze, drugs, social media ‘likes’ — anything to give us a quick hit of dopamine or a way to dull the pain.

My vices aren’t obvious. I guess I’d categorize them as a mix of intellectual hubris and laziness. It’s like I think that if I can figure out the secret to a happy life, then I can just be “done.” I meditate once and then I think, “Cool, that was amazing, I get it now — now don’t need to meditate anymore.”

“I exercised, I’m fit now.”


Let’s think about the word “shortcut.” My first association is with driving. When I’m driving around town, finding a shortcut is a coup: “I did it! I outsmarted the traffic! I am a god!”

Then there are keyboard shortcuts, which are a mark of efficiency, cleverness. “I know a smarter way to do a thing! I got it done faster!”

But there’s no outsmarting life. No way to be so clever as to avoid living.

And has capitalism so seeped  into my blood that my drive for efficiency must permeate even my search for joy?

Or is it perhaps that our consumerist society conditions me to be lazy? To want the easy answers that advertisers promise to be true?

The truth, of course, is that there are no shortcuts to real happiness.

Joy comes from how you choose to live. It comes from the practices that we embrace — of meditation, exercise, art-making, being kind to ourselves…whatever practices are meaningful for you.

What baffles me is how much I fight against embracing the practices that make me happy. You’d think that the first time I meditated and felt wonderful, I’d want to meditate constantly. But no. I still look for the easy way out.

I don’t know why that is. Part of the mystery of life, I guess.

The irony is that in seeking the easy way out, I avoid doing the thing that actually makes me happy, which in the end is terrifically inefficient.

Just do the thing.

Despite our instincts, conditioned as they may be by this fast-moving culture of ours, in most cases, it’s slowing down, not moving faster, that lets us experience more joy. Efficiency may feel victorious in our ongoing pursuit of that elusive control, but I don’t know that it actually makes us happier.

Shortcuts, it turns out, are good for traffic and typing and not much else.


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