Why Leaving a Legacy is Overrated: How to Actually Be Happy

how to be happy

When my father passed away, my life changed.

I had multiple realizations that shifted my attitude towards life.

The cliche ones were certainly there: Life is short; you never know when you’re going to die, so you better make the most of it, etc.

But the biggest realization that I had is the most shocking.

It takes about two weeks until people move on.

When he passed away, the week of his service was chaotic. He was very influential in his community and was the most loved teacher at the school he taught at, and I don’t just say that because he was my stepdad. He won a Teacher of the Year award his second year, which was unprecedented, but the more telling sign was that his classroom would be the hangout spot for students when the bell rang.

He would weave stories about his travels together with the latest gossip about the Kardashian family. He was as knowledgeable about medieval Europe as he was about pop culture. He was the “cool” teacher.

Nevertheless, after his funeral a week following his death, people still sent their condolences, but I could tell that the mourning was coming to a halt. At the end of the second week, the mourning period was over.

That’s when I realized how little of a sentimental impact death has on people’s lives. Feelings of sadness are steadily replaced by day-to-day activities and the busyness of daily life.

When I realized that people don’t really care about your life, this was the most liberating idea for me.

I realized that we are insignificant beings in a grand universe, and that’s OK.

I realized that other people’s judgments and expectations of us bear little importance on our lives.

I realized that there is no objective meaning or metric to a “good” or “successful” life.

So many of us are desperate to give our lives meaning, but, ultimately, that doesn’t really matter.

When you die, your expectation of sentiment is much higher than the reality.

And once you come to accept how small and insignificant you are in the universe and allow this notion to humble you, then you allow yourself the chance to be happy without ego and relying on anything external for your happiness.

If you’re able to be happy when everything is stripped away (i.e. money, relationships, exercise, etc), then you attain true internal fulfillment.

This is only attainable if you are egoless and present.

However, in this state where you don’t need anything or anyone to be happy, this is when you begin living a life of pure inspiration and gratitude.

Everything that you do is done out of pure desire, not expectation or obligation. You aren’t talking to someone with the expectation of trying to get something from them.

Instead, whenever you receive a dollar, meet a new potential partner, finish an energizing workout, everything is a bonus because you’d be happy without any of those things.

Thus, you receive without expectation and with pure gratitude. You’re truly thankful because these things that you’re receiving are unexpected bonuses.

Furthermore, whenever you talk to someone, you’re purely giving value because you aren’t obligated or expected to talk to that person. Instead, since you’re already internally fulfilled, you aren’t seeking a certain reaction or response from them that will make you happy. Instead, you’re just socializing out of pure inspiration and desire.

So in order to live a truly inspired life, accept the fact that no one cares about whether your life has meaning–then experience the freedom to create meaning for yourself.

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