$1.56 million: that’s how much a scribbled note containing Einstein’s secret to happiness just sold for at an auction house in Jerusalem. Written in 1922, the note was given to a deliveryman when Einstein was short on a tip. It said:
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
As one of the smartest humans that ever lived, Einstein’s words are worth considering. They are particularly poignant in America, where the pursuit of success is highly valued and expected of everyone. Busy schedules and restlessness are the norm – but are we missing out on the calm, modest lives that bring true happiness?
Is Your Pursuit of Success Making You Happy?
We are told to reach for the stars, and many of us set lofty goals: write a bestselling book, buy a nice house, get married, get rich, get famous, conquer the stock market, travel to every country in the world. Maybe all of the above. But is it making us happy? Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you trying to force into being in your life right now? What would happen if you stopped?
- When you think about your biggest goal –– do you feel lighter or heavier? Do you feel excitement and energy, or anxiety and inertia?
- What if your biggest goal was completely taken off the table forever? What would your future look like? How would this change your day-to-day experience in the next month and the next year?
- Do you go through your days feeling mostly calm or mostly restless?
- Are you happy?
Find a Better Balance with Calmness & Chaos
If you suspect that your pursuit of success is making you unhappy, the solution isn’t to give up on all your goals. It’s to achieve a better balance. Life becomes unbalanced when we shift too much towards chaos or towards rigidity. If you are restlessly chasing success, then you probably lean towards too much rigidity. Find a better balance by pursuing calmness and allowing a little more chaos into your life.
- Press “pause” on the pursuit of one or more of your goals: for one day, one week, or one month – guilt-free. At the end of the set time period, reflect on how it felt to let go.
- Write down all your goals, both personal and professional. Read through the list slowly and think about every goal on its own. Notice how your body reacts to each item.
- Try tai chi. This Chinese practice teaches the value of restraint, which can help you appreciate the value of modest living.
- Plan a do-nothing day. Household chores, errands, and work are banned. How do you spend your free time – and how do you feel at the end of the day?
- Meditate. Learning to calm your mind is an integral part of leading a calm life.
Living a calm, modest life won’t land you on the cover of any magazines, make you filthy rich, or bring you the admiration of millions – but according to Einstein’s theory, it just might make you happy.
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein
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