In my last article, I discussed how happiness is the space between what you have and what you need. In this article, I will share how you can reduce your needs.
Part 1 recap – your needs determine how happy you are
Imagine two people: person A, and person B.
A needs everything in her life to be perfect:
- Her spouse must be kind and caring.
- She must live in a big house.
- Her work must be enjoyable.
- Her health must be great.
B has much lower needs:
- Her spouse annoys her sometimes, and that’s OK.
- She is grateful to just have a roof over her head.
- She is fine with the occasional shit sandwiches at work.
- She is grateful to be alive, so being sick is a breeze.
B might have a less perfect life than A. But B is happier because her needs are so much lower. Happiness is just the difference between what you have and what you need:
Happiness = What I have – What I need
How to reduce your needs
Follow these three simple steps:
- Imagine your life without something you enjoy.
- Tell yourself calmly that you can be happy without it.
- Remind yourself that you do have it and feel gratitude for it.
For example, I might imagine an alternative reality where I end up paralyzed in a wheelchair for life. I would then tell myself:
“I don’t need my legs to be happy.”
“My happiness doesn’t depend on whether I can walk or not.”
“I can be happy without my legs.”
Finally, I would now open my eyes and realize that I do have my legs! Isn’t it amazing that I have this God-given ability to walk, jump, and run?!
Does this stuff really work?
You might think: “Duh. What’s the big deal? Why get excited that you can walk?”
Well, why get excited about anything? Let’s just decide that nothing is worth being happy about.
Win $100,000 lottery? Nah, no big deal.
Find your soul mate? So what?
Get promoted? Whatever.
You don’t have to be appreciate anything. But joy and gratitude are what make life worth living. There are just two ways to live your life:
A: Keep setting your needs higher: Stop appreciating most things after you get used to them. Search for the next thing to make you happy again. Repeat.
B: Keep your needs low: Keep appreciating things after you get them. Keep striving for even better things, but always stay happy with very little.
To keep appreciating what you have does not mean you stop striving. It means you strive satisfied. And you can do that by constantly imagining worse alternative realities and discovering that you actually can be happy with less.
Which person are you? A or B?