Is the iPad going to make you happy? This certainly must be what all the die-hard fans believe who waited so faithfully in line overnight when the little gizmo was first released. But they may be deceiving themselves.
We all do it to from time to time—we run out and buy a new thing, thinking it will make us happy. For some, this may be the iPad, for others the newest release of Windows, or maybe a new dress, a new car.
And for some time, it does make us happy. Here is this new toy, a new sensation, which brings a level of excitement and freshness into our otherwise gray lives.
But this newness wears off quickly, and then we are left with the same old routine as before, dealing with the same problems from which we seek to escape; the brief happiness this object provided is gone and so we chase after the next thing to make us happy—the newest app, a different lover, a new life.
The problem, as I show in The Steps of Essence: How to Live Life Well and Authentically and Be True, Be Happy: Simple Secrets for a Happy and Meaningful Life", is that we often seek happiness and fulfillment from the outside. And that sets us up for failure. For all the outside can ever provide, as you can see in the case of the iPad, is just some kind of thing or device. You only think it will make you happy because, in this case, Apple’s clever marketing has forged it into a symbol for happiness and a better life. But after a while the symbol looses its power and you see it for what it really is: just another thing, destined to be put on the bookshelf next to the other former gizmos.
There really is nothing wrong with buying it, just have realistic expectations about what it will provide for you.
In The Steps of Essence and Be True, Be Happy I therefore lay out another way to happiness, which draws on your inside: you have to figure out what makes you intrinsically happy.
The key, as it’s always been, is to know yourself: you have to figure out exactly what matters to you and then align your life towards this.
Here are some ways from Step 3 in The Steps of Essence that can help you figure out what matters to you:
- Figure out what this gizmo really stands for in your life. Are there other ways in which you can get (or be) this?
- Crystallize your core interests. Buying a new toy, such as an iPad, often is only an expression of a deeper interest, for example connecting with friends, staying up to date, technology, etc. Working towards this interest, and thereby making it available to others as well, can be intrinsically rewarding (Steps of Essence, Exercise 3.20 )
- Look for activities that are so much fun to you that doing the activity is the reward in itself. A good indicator would be to be in flow with the activity and loosing track of all things around it (Steps of Essence, Exercise 3.21).
- Determine your core values, and then work towards these (Steps of Essence, Exercise 3.22 )
Once you know some of the things that matter to you, start bringing then into your life by being active in those areas. This does not have to be a huge change, but the experience itself will be rewarding to you and help you find more lasting happiness in the long run.
And let the iPad, or whatever gizmo you like, only be a tool that helps you in this endeavor.