Posted by & filed under Making Plans.

We live for shots of pleasure. Shots that brighten our life compared to the dull, everyday, of happiness.

Because happiness can be pretty boring, can’t it?

You’ve heard about it most often in love and relationships. That often, the exciting partner is not always the best one for you. The dull partner might instead be the one that’s the best in caring for you and providing a happy environment for you. But everyone seems to go for the exciting partner. We’re all seeking pleasure, not happiness.

But maybe you’re different? Probably not.

The best relationships are the ones that are stable. But stable is also boring. Unstable is exciting, full of sparks, always-on-your-feet excitement. We look for the thrilling loves that give us a rollercoaster ride of emotion. Don’t kid yourself, you’re hungering for excitement right now. You want sugar.

Happiness can seem pretty boring

I see it in Ramadhan, where I see my Muslim brothers and sisters looking for the next religious high. They go searching for the talks and the big gestures that validate themselves, that give them an endorphin rush, that tell them that this IS the right thing to do because of the rush it gives them. They want that sugar rush. They want sugar.

We, as a species, choose based on feelings and emotion, and emotion is “the moment”. In fact, over the past decade or so, there’s been a growing movement of people telling us to “live in the now”, and to embrace “the moment”. It’s a movement that most of us have understood as “take the sugar”.

6 years ago, I came across an article that called us the “experience generation”. We are a post-industrial society, where there’s so much stuff that we don’t want it anymore. When we buy stuff, we get bored of it almost immediately because something new comes out instantly. No. We want experiences.

We are the “experience generation”

We want the travels and the photographs, the theme parks and the conferences, the gatherings and the protests. We want to go and experience something. I’m pretty sure it’s why social movements have been doing so well recently.

Rather than because people actually have a passion for the movement, it’s probably because most of them are bored and want something better to do to feel included in a larger community and get an experience. Nothing wrong with that. Just saying.

Travel, movies, concerts, events, carnivals, talks, seminars, conferences, flash mobs, protests, movements. A lot of these are booming in popularity because we want those experiences. We want to feel something.

That’s fine.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that we’ve slowly stopped looking for long-term experiences, simply because they’re so stretched out that you don’t feel anything. After all that Hollywood drama you immerse yourself in, you want the experience of “Now” that can rock your boat and leave you gasping for breath.

They keep telling you to look for something that makes you passionate. Most people misunderstand. They think passion is just what the experience makes you feel in the moment. They think that passion is sugar.

We’re hungry for experiences, but we keep seeking out sugar instead of real foods. Then we wonder why we still feel empty inside.

Passion is NOT sugar. Passion is not momentary.

Because these one-off short term experiences are probably NOT what make you grow and change you into a better person. No. It’s long, hard work on whatever your passion is.

Are you going to talks? The talks are just sugar. Implementing what you learnt is the real food.

Going to concerts or movies with your friends? That’s just sugar. Sharing deeper things with friends and family is real food.

Joining a flash mob or protest? That’s just sugar. Doing the leg work to really help people on the ground is real food.

Building a school for people who live in the jungle isn’t easy work. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating. It’s not sugar. You’ll probably wake up every morning tired and bored, far away from civilization and friends. But one of my friends volunteered and did exactly that. He had a greater vision in mind that would help create happiness. And he did.

This kind of real food is what fulfills you, even if there’s no sugar in the moment.

Experiences that matter

It’s not that I’m saying we should avoid sugar. My favourite food is chocolate. But if that’s the only thing you’re having, it’s going to give you an unbalanced diet.

Similarly, you can’t just go for the high-energy, inspiring activities. They might inspire you, but you need to balance it out with activities that actually accomplish something.

Go for real food

That’s also how you can tell if it’s just sugar. After the whole thing is done, ask yourself, is the world a better place now because of what just happened? Or did it just inspire and only inspire somebody?

Sugar can’t fill you

Don’t stop at just having sugar. Go the extra mile. Sugar is great and all, but go out there and make a real meal.

So this is a call to action. Go do some real things. Don’t stop at inspiring talks, or flash mobs, or fancy protests.

Inspiring moments can’t give you happiness. And sugar can’t get you full.

8 Responses to “Are you pursuing happiness? Or just sugar?”

  1. Fitri Bdk HRD (@MH6_LittleBird)

    That’s true.. people tend to forget what they are suppose to do for themselves.. short term fun and excitement, but meaningless. that’s what I’ve been doing.. but where will this take me? no where.. and u’ll forget the fun..

    • Lutfi Torla

      Yeah. Although the excitement and sugar does taste good for a while, it’s always good to think like you and wonder where this will take me.

    • Lutfi Torla

      That’s true too. We’ve all gotta watch our sugar intake. Exciting is not always safe.
      Good to hear from you.

  2. L

    “In my field, I see these people…with big idealist visions of becoming the new leader that will create a better world. They enjoy the goal, but not the process…But the reality of it is that the true work of improving things is in the little achievements of the day. And that’s what you need to enjoy, just take my field….for example, I was working for this organization that helped villages in Mexico. And their concerns was how to get the pencils sent to the kid in these little country schools. It was not about big revolutionary ideas, it was about pencils!

    I see the people that do the real work and what’s really sad, in a way, is that…the people that are the most giving, hard working and capable of making this world better, usually don’t have the ego and ambition to be a leader.

    They don’t see the interest in superficial rewards, they don’t care if their name ever appear in the press, they actually enjoy the process of helping others,

    they’re in the moment!”

    The character Celine from the movie Before Sunset says the above. Your post reminded me of it. It’s true, most people do enjoy the rush of the nature of the work they’re doing rather than the work itself. Actually doing it, getting your hands dirty, keeping your head down for long periods and sometimes not seeing the results instantly can be frustrating.

    That’s what makes me admire the unknown people who plough on, regardless. I sometimes wonder how many unsung heroes are out there, living their lives in anonymity and yet doing something that’s worth 10 pages instead of the drivel that’s in our newspapers today. How do they continue without the rush? I suppose it’s because they don’t have notions of grandeur. They’re honest. They don’t look at what’s in it for them. And that’s because they perceive their work as real food instead of sugar.

    I have to admit, if my job didn’t have its moments of sugar highs, I’d have to rethink my career options. But the build-up to those sugar rush moments usually involve a lot of unglamorous, pure, hard work and labour (I categorise lugging bulky files up the courthouse stairs labour, haha), and that’s where I’ve learnt to appreciate that my sugar high isn’t something that’s borne out of something temporary. It’s the peak after a long climb. I guess that’s what makes it more long-lasting.

    Thought-provoking post as usual, Lutfi.

    We are the experience generation indeed. Same goes for how we prefer multitudes of information, no matter how irrelevant, over real knowledge. We know everything and know nothing. Also explains our short term attention span these days.

    And now I’m off to my next page (oh no!)

    • Lutfi Torla

      Yes!!! Exactly!

      There are definitely highs in any work that you choose, but it should happen when you get the result. You can enjoy both the daily work and the result, but often people just aim to enjoy the daily work, with no thought of what result they would get and whether it makes a difference.

      I like that line, “peak after a long climb”. The climb itself might be tiring, but a tiring climb is often the only way to get to the really amazing peaks.

      Thanks for the comment L. Deep as usual.

      Enjoy your next page! *grin*

  3. Nabz

    Ah the great rush of sugar high 😀 being passionate is one thing..knowing whats your passion is another! Great food for thought article there. Cheers 🙂

    • Lutfi Torla

      Thanks Nabz! It’s always enjoyable when I can make people think deeply. Btw, do I happen to know you in real life?