The Good Life, a philosophical topic that’s been around for millennia, focuses on uncovering the secret to happiness – Eudaimonia, as Aristotle called it. Many different theories attempt to define the nature of happiness – Hedonism, for instance, asserts that Pleasure is the key ingredient – but regardless of one’s take, how to lead a happier life is something we’d all love to figure out.
Outside of philosophical underpinnings, one standard piece of practical advice is, “Live every moment like it’s your last,” or “Live your life to the fullest.” These guidelines tell us to not sweat the stresses and unpleasant details we face in our every day lives, as in the long run they’re mostly trivial. Instead, we should look on the bright side of everything, and we’d find ourselves much happier.
I must say I agree with this sentiment. My commute to work, for instance, is markedly improved when I realize that it’s sunny out and the neighborhood I’m passing through is beautiful; rather than dwelling on the fact that I’m tired and would rather be in bed, I take in the fresh air and it actually puts me in a good mood.
The problem is that it’s impossible to be upbeat all the time. I imagine if you’re the Buddha, or maybe even a monk, you’ve potentially achieved some sort of enlightened state that allows you to sweep all your troubles under the emotional rug. For the rest of us, moments like my walk to work are the exception, not the rule. Your boss gets on your case, your boyfriend is an asshole, your team loses a big game, you’re stuck in traffic and already late – whatever the frustrations are, we usually give into them, and they make us unhappy.
So while it’s admirable to try to never take any moment for granted, I just don’t feel like it’s something we can realistically accomplish. Instead, what I want to submit in this BlogCat is a different, attainable, rarely-discussed way to get more happiness out of life.
Do your best to appreciate the good in every part of life, certainly, but if you can’t do it for each individual moment, at the very least, appreciate the End Games in life.
I started thinking of this whole concept a few years ago. My two friends and I didn’t have any plans, but were bored by lazing around inside, so we had a few beers at my apartment and took the Metro to a random bar. We were tired, so we weren’t really in a drinking mood. We all had girlfriends, so we weren’t looking to pick up women. We obviously didn’t consider dancing. There was nothing to do at the bar, then, but sit and talk, and we’d been doing that all day already. Bored out of our minds and with no solution or goal, we said our goodbyes and headed home.
The problem, I realized, was that we had no End Game – no event we were looking forward to, no activity we were excited about. It wasn’t merely that we weren’t especially into where we currently were. There was also nowhere, either physically or metaphorically, we were actively looking to be.
It sounds lame, and it was, but that’s okay, because that’s not always the case. It’s not like I ever have too many wild plans, but there are frequently things I’m eager for in my upcoming schedule. They can be big or small – a reunion weekend with the fellas, or the new Game of Thrones episode, or even just that feeling of finally sinking into bed after a long day – but whatever they are, I often feel like I cannot wait to get to those moments. Then, after some time passes, they finally happen.
Those are your End Games in life – after you’ve waited and waited, and then you finally reach the moment when you are exactly where you want to be.
What I would suggest to everyone is, don’t just put a positive spin on the negative – also acknowledge the positive for being incredible. When those End Games are happening, recognize them for what they are. We’re so often in not-so-fun situations – interviews, traffic, illnesses, et al – that it’s a shame to let those apexes, which are relatively few and fleeting, pass by without appreciating them as they occur.
When you take a step back during those glorious moments, you realize life is actually pretty sweet sometimes.
For those who are unfamiliar with the origins of this website’s name, it actually refers to a day, two days before graduating from Lafayette College, that this site’s five other editors and I went hiking in a nearby state park. The term “Bobcat Territory” serves as a nonsensical name for both that park and experience, and is just one of many inside jokes, some still remembered and some undoubtedly lost forever, that we came up with during that epic moment in our lives.
I bring this up because, though I didn’t have my term for it at the time, Bobcat Territory was the first time in my life I recognized an End Game as I was experiencing it. I was out in nature on a beautiful day, engaging in sublime banter with five of my best friends on Earth. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world; I was right where I wanted to be. Given that two days later my tenure as an undergrad would end, and the six of us would never all live together again, it was completely surreal. The day’s triumph was absolute, as it was easy to recognize it would be one of the greatest days of my life, but so was its finality; no matter how blissful it was, it wasn’t going to last forever. None of these End Games do. That’s life.
Not all End Games will be as memorable as that fateful day; in fact, inevitably, most of them will be forgotten. Even more reason to appreciate them all as they take place, because with so many other obligations in life, they just don’t happen all that often.