Embrace the life you never planned
If things had worked out the way I wanted, I would have been Spider-Man by now. Unfortunately, radioactive spiders are to hard come by. Who knew?
Whether you’re 14 or 40, you’ve probably figured out that things don’t always go they way we want. I didn’t get the cool bike I wanted for Christmas when I was eight. I didn’t date the pretty poetess from drama class when I was sixteen. I wanted to have my first novel written by twenty-six. I wanted to be retired by now. Things didn’t work out, but this doesn’t mean I will stop wanting.
It’s good to want things. Buddhism says wanting leads to suffering. Duh. Wanting also brought the world vaccinations and the microchip. The good can’t exist without the bad. Helen Keller said it best, “The world is full of suffering, but it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
So here I am, not deliriously happy about my life, but then not unhappy either. I’m just kinda happy. That kinda happy limbo is where I find many people existing. We got some of the things we wanted, perhaps love, family, a decent job and good friends. Other things we didn’t get like becoming a superhero or a professional ballerina. So is our kinda happy limbo just the balance between the life we have and the life we think we should have?
Let’s step back and talk about having more in our life. I’m not talking about having things. I talking about the intangibles like having more meaningful relationships or having a greater sense of purpose. Having grows from being.
For example, there are people who found great job that fit them. They didn’t walk into a company and ask for a job. They learned skills. They might have gone to school. They developed a level of self-worth as protection in case, a company rejected them. First, they became someone that a company would hire.
It’s the same with friends. Relationships in our lives reflect who we are. Friends are those people who saw something in us that they liked and weren’t repulsed by the things they didn’t like. Levels of friendship are dependent on our willingness to communicate, ability to trust and capacity to connect. Having great friendships requires that we be someone who could have great friends. In order to have more than we have now, we need to be more than we are now.
People who play lotto are a great examples of this. If we want to have wealth in our life, we have to become a person who can be wealthy. That’s why half of all lottery winners lose everything within five years. They never learned to be someone who could have wealth.
That’s also why we’re kinda happy. We’re not kinda happy because of those things we wanted and didn’t get. It’s because of that person we wanted to become and didn’t quite reach yet. This goes back to Ideal Self. Our Ideal Self has that wonderful job and that once in a lifetime love. Our Ideal Self is the possibility of more than who we are now. Kinda happy means were kinda our Ideal Self.
If we stay in kinda happy mode long enough, we become unhappy because who in life plans to be kinda happy. To get from kinda happy to happy, INFPs need to move from kinda our Ideal Self to our Ideal Self. When we grow into our Ideal, we open our lives to new possibilities. It’s in this realm of possibilities where INFPs thrive.
I often hear, people should learn to be happy with who they are now. My response is, what if they suck? Should they be happy with that?
Being happy with the way we are, is the endpoint. We stop looking for the possibilities and opportunities to be more. Every time INFPs close a possibility from ourselves, we wilt a little inside. We can accept the way we are without saying I’m happy to have gotten this far at least and quitting. Accepting means taking responsibility for our current outcomes, the bad and the good.
The moment a person stops blaming things outside themselves—the system is evil, my boyfriend/girlfriend was jerk, it’s my parent’s fault—and takes responsibility, that is a new beginning. It’s the start of possibilities. It’s the start of becoming more. It’s brushing off the dirt from taking our much needed rest at the side of the road and continuing the journey to our Ideal Selves.
It’s okay to be unhappy with who you are now. That’s not a sign of failure. It’s not a sign of immaturity. As long as we take responsibility for our unhappiness, we can act towards making change. No one is ever completely unhappy with who they are, they’re just kinda happy with who they’ve become. Kinda happy doesn’t move you. All great changes a person makes starts because they were unhappy about something.
Feb 11, 2010
Thanks for posting these awesome articles! I am really digging them. I found your blog via personalitycafe.com 🙂
If you didn’t already know you can post your site in their directory to get free advertising…
That should help your blog out more. 🙂
Anyways I am looking forward to reading more of your articles!
Feb 12, 2010
Great reading. Thanks for taking the time to post and share so much of yourself. It’s enlightening and enjoyable to see and hear from others who are experiencing a lot of the same thoughts and feelings that I am.
Feb 12, 2010
Corin, I loved this post. I feel like it explains everything I’ve never been able to wriggle out. Why learn to be happy? Why settle?
I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m so varied in my interests. I don’t see it as a bad thing, just one more step to becoming a person I’m happy being.
February 13th, 2010 at 1:08 am
I think everyone is in a state of Becoming. We’re either becoming more like our Ideal Self which requires taking action towards our goals. Or we are becoming less like our Ideal Self which requires doing nothing, settling and letting entropy take its course.
Feb 13, 2010
Lately i’ve been wondering if one can ever be truly happy with themselves. Maybe happiness isn’t so much achieving your ideal self but accepting yourself and changing your outward situation so it fits your internal situation more.
February 14th, 2010 at 1:21 am
For me, happiness is in the journey not the destination. It’s not being my Ideal Self that will make me happy, it’s Becoming my Ideal Self.
Feb 16, 2010
nice articles, .. love reading this !
here are the thoughts of a canadian infp:
someday i feel completely satisfied of my doings, ideas are flowing well
the other i feel i have no dreams, no inspiration, no motivation
I work at home (lucky…or not?) in the computer business too, never been truly satisfied of the work done, computer stuff always has been some kind of irritant,.. project completion satisfaction are short..
afraid of changing, well mostly because i have NO idea what would passionate me as a job,…most of the time I feel drained. im that bird in a cage !!! cage is the body…. or the context maybe !
love traveling, but the Self is following and the sames feels come back after a while even in the most exotic place…so this aint’ the solution, nice hobby tho…
one of the hardest challenge is to truly express my infp inside world, most of the time, people they just don’t wanna know, look bored or can’t understand…
I know a forum would be a proper place for these writes ! so thanks for the inconvenience.
Feb 17, 2010
Hi – I’m new to this blog and I like what you write. As a fellow INFP, though, I’d like to clarify something about Buddhism and wants, though, which you go on to clarify without, perhaps, realizing it. Buddhism doesn’t state that “wanting” causes suffering – rather, desire, craving, clinging causes suffering if one fails to realize that these the object or thing craved is transient/temporary. In the case of “wanting” to find a vaccine or invent something, Buddhism would say this: “The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.” Wanting to make a vaccine is that sort of want – a wanting to be of service. Buddhism would say that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. I’m trying to learn this.
Feb 20, 2010
That’s odd, I was just on my blog finishing up a draft about Wants and Needs… lol
I liked your angle… reading your posts feels like getting the advice of the older INFP brother I never had…
Feb 22, 2010
Hey thanks for writing this 😀 you really seem to have a great way of viewing life, in my opinion. I hope to read more.
Apr 6, 2010
From what I understand, Buddhism does assert that wanting causes suffering. (desire, craving, clinging are synonyms of wanting, different perhaps in degree).
This is not a judgemental or subjective assertion and does not say you need to give up wanting if you don’t want to. It’s an objective statement: wanting/desire/craving leads to suffering.
Actually the Buddha said “life/the world is dukkha”. Dukkha is the quality of being unable to keep us satisfied, loosely translated as suffering. Why is the world dukkha? It is dukkha because we want/crave things which are subject to change and instability beyond our ability to control. Sometimes cravings are met, and we experience happiness for a while. Ultimately it changes and we experience dukkha.
It is correct that wanting led to the creation of vaccines and microchips, and that has led to an increase in quality of life for man. However vaccines and microchips do not lead to the complete extinguishing of dukkha. If you believe the Buddha, the complete extinguishing of wanting (the cause) leads to the complete extinguishing of dukkha.
April 6th, 2010 at 3:23 am
I don’t believe that the elimination of dukkha is a good thing which has always been my disagreement with Buddhism. Buddhism believes that extinguishing dukkha is good but it never explains why. Without dukkha would life be more harmonious, maybe even more bearable?
Being without dukkha, doesn’t make life easier. It doesn’t eliminate the necessity of eating or toiling at a field or an office cubicle to provide sustenance. Elimination of dukkha doesn’t give us agriculture. Elimination of dukkha doesn’t improve the quality of living. It only improves the quality of being.
The wanting of things does cause suffering. It causes insecurity. It causes doubts about self-worth and failure. However, it is in the pursuit of wants that a person finds happiness. Happiness is not the destination but the journey. Happiness doesn’t come from attaining our wants but in the process of achieving those wants. Without dukkha, there is no destination. Without destination, there is no journey, just aimless wandering through life.
Does the end of wanting and the elimination of craving make the getting up, taking a shower, going to work, eating, going to sleep and waking up to do it all over again day after day for all the years of our life any easier?
kheong sann Reply:
April 6th, 2010 at 10:20 pm
Dukkha encompasses all things that makes life unpleasant, unbearable, intolerable in all ranges from the mild to the extreme. Everything the worldly beings do, they do in an attempt to get away from dukkha, from running from preditors, to working, to scratching an itch.
It is not easy to discuss on the extinguishing of craving, because we don’t know life, except for life immersed in craving. So you can’t really say it’s like….such and such because it isn’t like anything we’ve experienced.
I could argue that extinguishing dukkha does eliminate the necessity of eating or toiling at a cubicle day in and out, but it probably would not sound very appealing because we are attached to the things that money buys and seek the gratification it brings, and we don’t know what it feels like to not want all these things. Wanting is like an itch that needs to be scratched. Scratching the itch is like satisfying the want. we are familiar with these. Accepting and acknowledging the itch without craving the satisfaction of scratching the itch, is something we are not familiar with and can’t easily relate to, but that is the end of craving, to accept the itch the way it is. We are used to craving, and scratching, not with not-craving.
When you don’t eat you feel hunger. For the arahant, that hunger does not create craving which is something that is not easy for worldly beings to relate to, because hunger naturally creates a reaction in the mind that tries to satisfy that hunger. But if that wanting or craving did not arise, it would be because the mind was satisfied with the hunger existing rather than craving “I need food!”
The answer to whether ending craving makes getting up and going to work every day any easier, is yes. We get up and go to work because of wanting/craving. Ending of craving means being content with what is rather than wanting what isn’t. The only reason worldly beings try to do anything, is because we are not satisfied with what is, and we want a certain change in the current situation.
Satisfying desire is different from eliminating dukkha (which is the same as getting enlightened). We can say that beings with cravings have something left undone, something that still needs to be done, and will always have something left unfinished, because craving is a bottomless pit, no matter how many are satisfied, there will always be something unsatisfied. Beings that have eliminated cravings have nothing left to acheive, to them things are already fine as they are.
Satisfying desires is one level of happiness that we are familiar with, and you describe it as a journey. It provides temporary relief from the dukkha that we experience. The Buddha tells us there is something else that we haven’t yet experienced: the permanant extinguishing of wants, and it provides permanant contentment, instead of temporary relief from dissatisfaction.
A legitimate question is what causes an arahant to do anything at all if they have no desire? They are motivated through compassion to help other beings extinguish craving. In one sense you could call that a want, it isn’t a desire in the usual sense of the word, ie: we feel something, find it unbearable and thereby act to change it in a way we find more bearable. That is not what motivates arahants. But they do act in a way to try to help others end dukkha, if that is their goal. If it isn’t that’s also fine.
April 6th, 2010 at 10:54 pm
But I’m talking about the first want/craving which can’t be eliminated. It’s wanting to live. This is first of all wants. Does this want create dukkha? And should that wanting to live be eliminated?
That is why we want to eat because we want to live. That is why we want to work. It is because we want to eat because we want live. If we eliminate the first want, then all those other wants that follow would also be eliminated.
Should the want to live be answered with not-wanting?
You say that ‘if that wanting or craving did not arise, it would be because the mind was satisfied with the hunger existing rather than craving “I need food!”’
Being satisfied with the hunger existing doesn’t eliminate the necessity of going through the act of eating. Eliminating craving doesn’t eliminate the physical act of eating. Eliminating craving doesn’t eliminate the physical act of attaining food (i.e. working in a cubicle in exchange for money which is exchanged for food). We still have to act.
Dukkha exists in the mind. However, the acts of living require external physical effort. Does dukkha reduce that physical effort in anyway? Eliminating desire doesn’t reduce the amount of work that goes into living. Agriculture did. Being sick and responding to the desire to be well with not-craving doesn’t shorten the physical process of recovery. Modern medicine does.
Does eliminating dukkha reduce the physical labor (the number of calories needed) for the acts of living?
kheong sann Reply:
April 10th, 2010 at 12:59 am
Although not easy, this first of all wants is also possible to be eliminated. This is what the arahants achieve.
Eliminating dukkha is the goal of every action we take. From working, to eating to changing the position of our body. These actions are taken because we experience dukkha, find it unbearable and try to effect a change away from it.
Sep 12, 2012
I am not a Buddhist, because I too have some issues with the idea of not wanting anything ever. But a thought just came to me. Perhaps eliminating the “first want” the want to live, happens when one accepts that there is no need to want, that existence is essential and we have nothing to fear. That running around like chickens with our heads cut off is not actually going to make us any more secure. Maybe there could be some differentiation between wants/desires and motivations. A very complex subject, and I am no expert by any means. But that is just a thought I had. Interesting reading. I enjoyed the blog post and the comments very much! Especially this >> “For me, happiness is in the journey not the destination. It’s not being my Ideal Self that will make me happy, it’s Becoming my Ideal Self.” How true! And maybe that’s the balance between wanting and not wanting. In some sense, you’ve eliminated the “desire” because you are happy on your journey. But you still have the motivation to press forward, and that is what gives you happiness.
Dec 26, 2012
thanks for great blog,It seems like what you saw what was in my heart.Please keep that INFP thoughts coming.