When we think of the keys to happiness, what images come up?
If we look at the internet and other social media, the images of the keys to happiness presented to us are of relaxing vacations, sandy beaches, eating great food, drinking (well, at least for some) great wine.
The thing is, as a whole, we are accustomed to consumerism. We digest everything around us. We digest our food, our entertainment, and our other experiences. This is, of course, particularly the case during leisure time.
Here is the question: Are the keys to happiness really about such passive experiences where we simply sit back and consume them?
When we really think of the moments in our lives when we have truly been happy, or even blissful, has it not been when we have been doing way more than simply sitting back and consuming our experiences?
Haven’t we all noticed, that we are actually happiest when creating the events in our lives rather than just being consumers of experiences.
These events can be the creation of art, writing, making a dinner etc.
A powerful expression of the importance of creation is the Burning Man event. It is a week long festival of art (and other things) set in Nevada each year leading up to Labour Day weekend.
What anyone who has gone to Burning Man (or has witnessed people returning from Burning Man) will tell you is that once someone has participated in this event, they are forever changed as people. They often unlock their own keys to happiness.
Although the festival itself only lasts for 7 days, many people live and create the Burning Man lifestyle all year round. The idea of creation is brought to a whole new medium. It is creation for the purpose of creation. The burning man community is committed to what is described as a radically participatory ethic. Transformation, whether in the individual or in our society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. The whole idea is to achieve being through doing. Everyone at Burning Man is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. People are encouraged to participate, rather than just observe.
What about those folks who do not see themselves going to Burning Man (like me)?
What does creating our experiences, rather than being a consumer of our experiences, look like? How does that tie into our own keys to happiness?
When we look at our favourite memories have those moments not been when we have taken the effort to put energy into what we were doing and creating?
Don’t we remember that awesome hike in the woods because it took a little effort? What about the nice romantic dinner we made where we pulled out all the stops and made it special? Although we consumed the dinner in the end was it not the creation of making it beautiful, special, and out of the ordinary that made it awesome?
So, how does creating our experiences as one of the keys to happiness transfer to our every day lives?
We make dinner with our families instead of buying it and shoving it in. We read with our children rather than always passively watching television or a movie with them. Even if we are on Facebook, we might engage with others by commenting and posting thoughtful things from our hearts rather than just passively consuming our home feed.
We continually remind ourselves of the importance of creating our experiences and put the effort in.
For some of us it is hiking in the woods, learning something new, or contributing to others in a significant way. For others it is writing and sharing that work. For still others, it is making art.
None of these things are passive. They all require effort and creation.
Creating means creating each individual day, creating our relationships with the people that are important to us, and creating our work.
Of course this is all fine to say, but what if we are too darn tired to be this creative wizard when we come through our door at the end of a long and tiring workday?
We just want to “relax” and not do anything involving effort.
This is the case for so many of us.
What we can do is use this time to plan, or alternatively, carry out our creative experiences at a time when we do have energy.
For some, their creative time is in the early morning. For others, it is late in the day when the world seems to get a little quieter.
Everyone is different in terms of when they have the energy to create and do stuff. The point is not to squander the time in our day when we can be the most creative on passively consuming, whether that be consuming social media, movies, or other things.
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