Blaise Pascal, a famous scientist and philosopher, wrote in 1654, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
This is worth pondering, as it links to why our search for happiness always ends in failure.
As toddlers, we had no cares in the world. Yes we needed food and the occasional cleaning. But our lives were not driven second-by-second in the pursuit of some big goal. The goal itself is not the cause of anxiety, as much as our expectation that when we achieve the goal, the world will take notice and offer us something in return. This by definition is a fool’s errand, because it is impossible to change the world. All we can change is ourselves.
In several spiritual camps in India, it is a requirement that one spend a day or two in complete solitude. A room with no electronics, no books, no outlet and no one else. A plate of food will be slid under the door from time to time. The exercise helps build inner strength, although many participants quit well before halfway.
Happiness comes from being content with who we are. Material success on the other hand springs from dissatisfaction. While these are separate things for the realized masters, it is hard to distinguish for normal people like me. That is why I need to keep reminding myself at every step, “I’m driven to achieve my goal. But no matter the outcome, I’m already enjoying every step of the process.”