You’re being targeted and used.
Used by your culture as a tool for the fulfillment of its own misguided agenda.
You know that feeling? That listless, edgy, splinter-in-your-mind feeling?
That feeling of a background, pervasive hum of discontent each day, but we’re not sure why.
We’ve got no reason to be dissatisfied. We’ve got a good place to sleep, lots of food, enough income to pay expenses, a good group of friends and family.
So, why do we still feel unhappy?
It has everything to do with the toxic agenda that every culture attempts to force on us.
Here’s society’s little checklist for you:
- Be successful (work in an “important” job or business and earn lots of money)
- Be attractive and charismatic (and have an equally attractive partner)
- Be someone important (get famous, get awards, get continual recognition)
- Be extremely busy, be a “go-getter”
- Have lots of money, be a consumer, show off your amazing possessions
We could sum up society’s agenda as: Do Something, Have Something, Be Someone
How are you doing with those demands, so far? Are you measuring up? Shouldn’t be too hard, right?
The Stress of Dealing with a “To-do” List You Didn’t Ask For
Now, the above checklist is definitely not complete. There are a lot of other demands and expectations that your culture is shoving in your face every day.
Can you see how society’s invisible agenda creates stress, unhappiness, poor health, disconnection, competitiveness and constant, gnawing pressure?
You’re never good enough. Never smart enough. Never “special” enough. You need to prove yourself (to who, exactly?).
And even when you “succeed” at meeting these highly-pressurized goals, you’ve got new stresses:
Are people using you because you’re well-connected and wealthy? You’ve got an amazing house, your dream car, cash in the bank, but you still feel bored, lonely, and unhappy.
Many wealthy and successful people experience this. They got what they want but they still feel empty. It wasn’t enough. Maybe they just need more money, more recognition, more entertainment. Surely that would fix everything, right?
Freedom from Agendas
Imagine that you had a simple job that you didn’t mind and it covered your modest living expenses. Your life would be considered simple, basic and unglamorous. You would enjoy your free time immensely doing simple things but you don’t have any big accomplishments (except for maybe close, rewarding friendships).
You’ve become deeply content, free from society’s constant, infantile badgering.
I like that. It’s got a nice ring to it.
Could you be happy with minimal possessions, a modest income, no recognition and without much activity (or “doing”)?
If you can do this, then you’re already rich, successful and powerful. At least, internally.
Let’s take a look at the three core modalities we experience as humans: doing, having and being. I’ll also cover solutions for living outside of society’s whiny, incessant demands so that we can feel more confident, content, healthy and grounded.
There is a lot of busyness in life. And a lot of unneeded action and unneeded communication. We are a hyperactive, attention-deficit society.
Why is all this action not needed? Because a lot of our actions are based on ego and desire. And the more ego and desire someone has, the more unhealthy and unstable they will feel.
Our activity is often done as a distraction from our own emotional pain or discomfort of being alone with our thoughts.
A typical day for many of us: Wake up at 6am for 7am yoga class, zoom around in traffic to drop the kids off at 9am for school, followed by 7-8 hours at a frantic job (doing a gym workout on your lunch “break”). Oh, don’t forget your music class tonight that you need to squeeze in between dropping your kids off at swim lessons, and dammit, you’re also meeting a friend for coffee…you’ll fit that in there somewhere. Meanwhile, throughout the day, you’re busy in communication, reading and sending texts, emails, and phone calls. Dealing with problems, making decisions (and dealing with decision fatigue).
And it repeats like this, almost every day. Full. Of. Constant. Activity.
Life as a Hamster? No Thanks.
Some people do truly enjoy being busy and they are also happy, healthy and pleasant to be around. But I’ve observed that most people feel and act stressed out when they’re constantly rushing around all the time. Never resting, never having time alone or time to reflect (and make changes).
Being busy and constantly doing things doesn’t automatically mean that you’re living life to its fullest, it doesn’t make you wiser, doesn’t improve your sense of well-being.
A hamster running in its tiny little wheel is busy too.
How to Do Nothing
“Do nothing” means you feel content without needing anything special to happen. You don’t need to be entertaining yourself constantly (YouTube, movies, TV, socializing). You are relaxing into this moment, temporarily goal-less and not needing anything to be different.
“Do Nothing” for me is a state of non-desire. It could be resting on my bed for a few minutes while allowing my mind to be still, going for a casual walk with no destination, enjoying a mountain or sea view for a moment.
I’m not suggesting that you never do anything. Obviously, we need to take action each day. It is also important to have goals (and reaching our goals is the main focus of this site). The question is:
Are your actions energizing you? or are they draining your energy and stressing you out? Are you focused? or is your mind scattered?
To “do nothing”, we experience simple, mundane, common activities richly. We are no longer “being productive”, no longer chasing.
If you worked on a farm for a few weeks, and your only task during the day was to water the donkey, could you be completely ok with that completely minimal schedule? Could you feel content doing a simple, unglamorous task like this?
No to-do’s. Just take care of that ass. I mean, donkey.
In Non-doing, There is Freedom
We can still enjoy our activities, we can still have busy days occasionally.
Take time to reflect on whether constantly “doing” things is something you really enjoy or not. It may feel like you don’t have a choice… you’ve got work responsibilities, family and social obligations, daily chores, the list goes on…plus, you want to feel like you’ve got a life, so you’re busy taking classes, doing sports, going to entertainment events.
If you want to feel happier and free, you need to live outside of society’s expectations, demands and unwritten rules that only serve to bind you.
You do have a choice and obligations aren’t as obligatory as you might think.
This might mean not attending “obligatory” social events that you really don’t enjoy or get any benefit from. It could mean that you’re less available to reply to personal emails, texts and phone calls. Or maybe you live in a modest house and walk or bike everywhere.
If you’re like most of us, you could probably benefit from reducing your “busyness”, taking time to still your mind, taking time to be alone for periods of time.
Try doing less so that you can enjoy what you’re doing even more.
Stay tuned for the next parts in this series where we’ll look at “Have Nothing” and “Be Nothing”.
Do you feel like you do too much? Have you experimented with “non-doing”? How did it go? Leave a comment below or email me and I’ll do my best to reply to you personally.
Zen garden photo: Porbital from FreeDigitalPhotos.
For me this was your most engaging article so far. There’s been a lot written on this subject, but I feel that you’ve brought a depth, a clarity and a fullness to it that I’ve not necessarily seen elsewhere. I do look forward to more articles on this most vital to humankind topic.
Thanks Matt! Glad you enjoyed the article. That’s great that you thought the article had clarity and a unique perspective. Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment. Always good to hear your thoughts!