Mental Floss: The pursuit of unhappiness

Use your phone to help reach your goals, not dictate your dreams


One early Monday morning, while dropping my kids off at school, a parent burst out to me that he hated his everyday life.

Look at the big picture
Although I can relate to the fact that Monday mornings are perhaps not the favourite time of the week for most of us, I couldn’t quite grasp his anguish. I suppose things can seem pointless at times if we are caught up in a situation that doesn’t fulfil us, and we have to do it over and over.

Whether it is day-to-day life with small children who have to be brought to school with appropriate clothes and a sensible lunchbox, yet another day at the office, or whatever rat race you at times may feel you are in, it can help to take a step back and have a look at the larger picture.

What are you doing in your life that you think is worthwhile? Do you have a sense of purpose, and can you remind yourself of it when the going gets tough?


Adjust your expectations
If we don’t stop and have a look at the larger picture every once in a while, it is easy to lose our sense of direction. We can get caught up in minor stressors that may seem overwhelming, just like the dad who was dropping off his kids.

Our expectations may in fact have to be adjusted, simply because we can’t be happy all the time – life doesn’t work that way. In fact, true happiness comes in tiny glimpses, so consider yourself lucky if you catch them. Being generally satisfied in life is already a great thing, and hopes and dreams are a bonus.

But why aren’t we relying more on ourselves to decide which direction we’re headed; why do so many of us feel like we’re not doing what we want? Perhaps people are getting lazy. Or they feel helpless and let others decide for them. After all, it would mean taking responsibility here and now, and that doesn’t sound like that much fun either.

Find your compass
It’s easier to just walk around with our phone in front of us, letting it dictate what we are thinking about. It seems like a lot of people are doing exactly that these days. Almost as if the phone were a compass like the one Jack Sparrow has, which shows you in which direction the thing you want the most lies. But instead of going in the direction of what we want, we procrastinate and allow ourselves to become bombarded with visual garbage, while jumping from one social media to another.

Don’t get me wrong, technology in itself is a great thing. It is how you use it that matters. If you are checking your phone like a Pavlovian dog whenever it makes a sound, then you are not in charge anymore. Think about what you want, bring focus back, and have a bigger picture of where you are going and what steps you need to take in order to get there. It can be useful to have small reminders of your sense of purpose around you. Or just putting your phone on silent can of course help.

Choose what it is you are interested in, use technology to reach your goals, and let the trivial things become exactly that: trivial.