A happy life
Many people have a false expectation that a happy life means being happy all the time. But learning to expect, and even embrace, painful emotions is an important part of a happy life. This can make us resilient to the challenges that life throws at us.
Resilience is when you withstand stress and pressure, and then return to your normal self when the stress and pressure are lifted. That ability to bounce back from hardship is resilience.
Antifragility is the idea that you not only return to normal, but grow stronger than before when you are put under stress and pressure.
Our bodies do this naturally. When you exercise or lift heavy weights you put your muscles and cardiovascular system under stress. After a while, your body becomes stronger and bigger.
It is possible to do the same with our mental and emotional states.
So what conditions can we cultivate to increase the likelihood of growing stronger from hardships - to become antifragile?
What can you do to become antifragile?
An important thing to avoid is the paradox of happiness. Happiness is a good thing. But people that make happiness their goal and decide to pursue it, often end up less happy, even depressed. One way to resolve this paradox is to pursue happiness indirectly. Don’t stare at the sun to enjoy its light. Look at the rainbow, or enjoy the sun’s warmth. Happiness is the sun. Enjoy it indirectly by focusing on your wellbeing along these lines:
Find meaning in what you do. Wake up in the morning with a purpose. What is it that you are put on the earth to do? Practice and hone your craft everyday? Help humans explore the solar system? Raise compassionate, respectful, and resilient children? Identify your purpose. Keep in mind that purpose can change in different stages of life.
Eat nutritional foods. Move your body. Take care of your physical needs. And remember that mental stress is one of the biggest dangers to your physical wellbeing. Stress is part of life. Without stress there is no resilience. Not making the time and space to recover from stress is the problem.
It is important to cultivate curiosity. This can lead to intellectual fulfillment. Simply start by asking questions - to yourself and to others. As a side effect of showing interest in other people, you will be perceived as an interesting person yourself. Try to engage deeply with a topic, or a person. Soon, curiosity will become a habit.
Embracing painful emotions is critical. But the most important pleasurable emotion you can cultivate is that of gratitude. When you learn to intentionally appreciate the good in your life, you make room for more of it. Start by writing down at least one thing that you are grateful for every day. Stick it on the fridge for everyone to see. Doesn’t have to be something profound. It could simply be your morning cup of coffee.
Spend quality time with people you care about, and with people who care about you. This is an important condition you can put in place to increase the likelihood of becoming antifragile. The quality of your relationships matters a lot in helping you grow stronger through hardship.
Making happiness the goal and directly pursuing it often results in the opposite of the desired effect. Instead, cultivate the conditions that make it possible for you to become antifragile - someone who comes back stronger from hardships. This can help you enjoy happiness without having to chase it.