A great short video with Jordan Peterson explaining why life isn’t the pursuit of pleasure but rather pursuing the person you could be …
Video key parts:
@1:20 – Pursue who you could be.
@1:50 – Formulate the ‘highest good’ that you can and make it your aim.
. . . and then how to try to put it into practice so the responsibility is on you.
Jordan Peterson does hint at the conflict between personal goals and those which benefit the wider society. There’s also the theme of happiness throughout the video.
So what is happiness? Perhaps more importantly, what’s the difference between pleasure and happiness?
A simple and fun exercise
This is a simple and fun exercise. Try to list 100 reasons to be happy. However, try to discern between happiness and pleasure.
– Pleasure doesn’t last long and you return to your previous mental state afterwards.
– Happiness is more about your inner long-term fulfilment and benefiting others.
|Theme||Reason||Pleasure / Happiness|
|2||Music||Playing an instrument||P|
|4||Friends||Reason to get out||P|
|6||Family||Reason for a holiday||P|
Does ‘100 reasons’ seem rather a large number? The first time you may only find 20. That’s fine. Revisit the list after a few weeks or months and you may realize that you hadn’t thought of nearly 30 or 40 more. That’s over 50 in total! Were you grateful too?
Is it possible to move from Pleasure to Happiness?
How can you make something go from ‘Pleasure’ to ‘Happiness’? A simple example:
Having a ‘Curry’ is high on the list above. A local curry house does one particularly amazing dish. It’s definitely a pleasure. Break it down into the company you keep but also going to bed at night feeling ‘stuffed’ which would lead to unwanted weight gain.
Tom Kerridge (English Michelin-starred chef) did something similar to help him quit excessive drinking. Basically, the short-term pleasure of heavy drinking followed by the negative consequences was replaced by a short-term feeling of ‘missing out’ but the positive sides during the same evening and the following morning.
You can take this a bit further. Try going to bed a little bit hungry. Just enough to not wake up but enjoy a wholesome breakfast in the morning? This also means you actually enjoy food more! And what about enjoying the company and the experience of going out on a Friday night with friends? The same pleasure can be found in befriending a lonely neighbour.
The example above is a little trivial compared to the life-changing ambitions set in the video – but we all have to start somewhere!
It’s a Wonderful Life
Take a lesson from George in the classic film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. George gets fed up of his life. He’s been stuck in the same town all his life and ends up resenting everything. Towards the end of the film, he ends up stupidly trying to take his life. Only when an angel shows him how much he meant to others and how life would be so different without him – does he realize what he’s truly worth.
The angel says; ‘Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”