Whether we know it or not, each one of us runs on a program to alleviate suffering and maximize happiness.

Here are the most common programs:

  • I want things and more things, I want everything!
  • I want more friends, and stronger bonds with loved ones.
  • Me, give me more love and adulation!

The typical program 1 scenario goes something like this:

Bob likes to listen to high quality music, so he buys a hi-end sound system for his living room.

And then Bob lives happily ever after? No.

Maybe he finds some fulfillment for a short time, but then the program whispers in his mind, “Those are pretty unworthy shelves to display your awesome sound bro.”

So Bob goes to buy new shelves, but not only shelves, he buys noise-cancelling curtains. But not only curtains, he buys a projector to make a cinema out of his room. And before you know it, Bob has bought a brand new Mercedes Benz S with the surround sound system.

With no other possible things to buy, Bob’s program leaves him room for happiness.

But it is short-lived as Bob’s wife starts to nag at him, “You never spend any time with me, just on that stupid machine all day!”

Bob thinks that he can’t really help the fact that the hi-fi system sounds much more pleasant than his wife. So tension escalates in the house, to the point that the kids start crying.

Then the program whispers in his ear once again, “Bro, you deserve to be free.”

And before you know it, Bob has made a routine of taking 2 hours long trips to the supermarket for groceries 5 times per day.

This story shows the fundamental flaw in program 1: By seeking happiness from one’s external environment, any happiness found is short-lived. So we are made to go seek it again and again forming an unhealthy repetitive cycle.

Ultimately, we become reduced to mere expressions of our desires, which spirals out of control. This can be said for all 3 programs. Any program of that kind is reliant on external factors that we inherently have little control over, therefore, they are fundamentally unstable and can not bring us the happiness and well-being we truly want.

Photo by Caleb Lucas on Unsplash

So what is the alternative?

When the Dalai Lama arrived in Portugal, he witnessed the sight of rows after row of endless constructions. And he remarked, “Look, you are doing all these things, but isn’t it nice, also to build something within? Without that even if you get high-tech flat on the 100th floor of a super modern and comfortable building, if you are deeply unhappy within, all you are going to look for, is a window from which to jump.”

To obtain true happiness and fulfillment, we must realize that it comes from within. Thus, it only makes sense for us improve ourselves internally. And at the end we will discover that with a rich internal world, there will exist a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment underlying all of our other emotional states.

This can be achieved with one instrument and a simple habit: Whenever you want to remove an emotion or negative state of mind, actively observe it with your mind and trace it to the point of origin.The next time you are amidst anger, doubt, or discontentment: trace that thought of yours to their root cause. Do this and you will find that when spotlight of your mind’s awareness arrives at that place, the negative emotion you had will dissolve into nothingness.

If you can build this habit overtime, true happiness and well-being is not going to be far off.

By Gray, L