Because doing good feels good too.
Hedonists have been considered historically as being self-absorbed egotists who seek pleasure regardless of the pain it might cause others. But this is not the sort of attitude that wins friends and influences people. And life is much more fun with friends. So, I propose a different kind of lifestyle choice, design your life around the concept of being a Responsible Hedonist. Where feeling good is a top priority, not just for your own pleasure, but also for the pleasure, happiness and contentment in the lives of people around you.
It sounds a bit like a fairy tale doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Hedonism is really about living the life that you want, forgetting about social constructs and expectations and seeking the joy that life has to offer by actively pursuing happiness. Let go of your hang-ups. Ignore the calls from your social conditioning…. that urge to buy a house, to work in an office, to conform. Listen to your heart which screams what you want. You are responsible when it comes to pursing your life’s happiness. The most transformative thing you will ever learn is that the happiness of the people around you is just as important as your own pleasure. I am by no means an expert at this yet, but every day I try a little harder… a little longer and a little more pro-actively.
Feeling lost? Well, this is what responsible hedonism might look like in various areas of your life: Be a good lover. The best way to truly love someone else is to start by loving yourself. Go on, try it! Loving yourself is looked down upon these days… in fact we are encouraged to be self-deprecating martyrs and victims and each and every one of us falls into this trap (some more than others) and when you feel sorry for yourself, or feel your not worth it, or don’t value your own body/heart/soul – how can you possibly be a good lover?
This concept of filling your own cup first doesn’t have to be a selfish act. If you fulfill your own needs, your own desires then all the good is sure to overflow into the things you do and the people you are in relationship with. It’s not about getting what you want right now, it’s about getting what you want forever. Avoid short term pleasures that will lead to pain and always think of the long term goal of a hedonist lifestyle, you want a sustainable happiness for yourself and the world around you.
Explore the great beyond by leading with your heart. Focus your attention on doing good in the places that you visit. I spent years on the road, my whole life in my backpack. When I travel I always try to give something back to the communities that have been so welcoming to me. There are lots of ways you can give back that have nothing to do with money, but have to do with something so much more valuable – the gift of time. Consider visiting local orphanages, donating time to help with a harvest, recycling your unwanted belongings to impoverished societies who can use them (clothes, toys, books are always gratefully received). Take the time to listen, to experience and to appreciate every little thing that the communities have to offer – and you know what? You are guaranteed to get so much more than you give. Some of my most memorable experiences have been back bent, sweat dripping down my face in a rice field in remote Indonesia – or holding a damp sweaty baby in a dingy orphanage in Thailand only to have that same baby look up at me, grinning from ear to ear from the sheer joy of being held – or just sitting colouring in on the pavement with chalk with kids in an Indian slum. Work is not a dirty word, don’t be scared to roll up your sleeves and just dive in head first.
Think about what makes you feel amazing. What is it that gets your rocks off? What floats your boat? How can you take what you want and behave responsibly sharing that happiness and pleasure with the people around you? Take the time to really think not only about what you can get but consider what you can give. Life, love and your future. Think of it this way, when someone asks you to do something or you think you have a responsibility to behave a certain way, ask yourself first if you want to. Truly have this conversation with yourself (preferably in your head – but if you must out loud is also fine)… if the answer is yes! Great! Do it. If the answer is anything but yes, maybe, or I guess I should, I don’t want to but I will anyway… any of those answers are a No. So don’t do it.
Give yourself a break. If you think hard work means you have to suffer… let go a little bit. What is success if you’re not happy? What is experience without someone to share it with? Let out your own reigns, trust the good within you and behave responsibly but at the end of the day, get out there and do what you want with your life, because it’s yours and no one else’s. The only way to really live is to allow yourself to come alive by doing what you love… It’s not easy, our western society has trained us all to be miserable. We are taught that hard work means suffering, we are taught we should feel held-back by our relationships, we are taught to complain first and rejoice later. We are all more likely to share our woeful stories than our unrestrained joy, it’s sad but it’s true. It’s the tall poppy syndrome, we cut poeple down who succeed out of jealousy, resentment and fear. We are not taught to rest. I struggle with this every day – fighting myself to remain against the grain, fighting to challenge my own social conditioning.
I will continue to struggle because this little person who right now is giggling in her sleep wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets next to me has truly rocked my world. I am responsible for her, it is my job to help guide her, to help to shape her, to lead her in the right direction and ultimately to set her free. I want to teach her how to be happy and proud and joyful – how to find love and light even in the darkest of days. I want to show her that happiness comes from people not things and that true success has no dollar value. There is no way I can teach her these things if I don’t live them every single day of my life. Some days I fall flat, I doubt myself, I pity myself or I fall into the role of a victim. I wallow and then I pick myself up again… because tomorrow is a new day full of new opportunity and I can try again to be the person that I know I can be. For myself, for my daughter and for the world.
Do you think you can try it today? Even if you only get one hour of freedom before those voices in your head creep back in and tell you off for enjoying your life – that hour is going to be so worthwhile! Have fun. Laugh with your co-workers. Love easily. Forgive past mistakes. Give more than you take. Stop work and go home! Kiss your wife! Forgive your husband! Leave the washing unfolded, unwashed and uncared for. Eat what is delicious and gives you true pleasure. Play with your kids. It’s the little things today that turn into the big things in the future – don’t miss out on finding your bliss.
This is your life, if you’re not enjoying it, what are you doing? Follow your bliss and always remember that doing good feels good too!