Adam Grant ends his book Originals with the statement:
“Becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.”
Similarly, Seth Godin preaches “‘do what you love’ is for amateurs. ‘Love what you do’ is the mantra for professionals.”
During adolescence, we learn about the significance of the order of operations when performing mathematics equations. However, we never learn about the significance of the order of operations that pertains to our beliefs, thoughts, words, and habits.
Just like 4(3+6) is not the same as 4×3+6, the pursuit of happiness is not the same as the happiness of pursuit.
Happiness is a feeling state, like hunger, satiation, excitement, or remorse. Therefore, to pursue happiness for happiness alone, lacks fulfillment and purpose, because feelings, while important, are fleeting and less controllable than practices of belief and behavior. Whereas, when we start with purpose, there are plenty of opportunities to experience happiness along the way, and this happiness is a byproduct of a larger commitment, as opposed to being the sole commitment in and of itself.
Once we become aware of how our mindsets are influenced by the order of operations of our language, we can start seeing how our language has caused us to focus on and prioritize the wrong things, which has led to unsustainable habits of improved wellbeing and performance.
Another order of operations flaw that many of us fall prey to is, “once I become more confident, then I will take action.” However, the cultivation of confidence requires you to ACT AS IF you already have confidence… “You are more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action,” (Dr. Jerome Bruner).
This is a hard reality to accept and definitely feels counterintuitive. The good news is we have a lot more control over our actions than our feelings and, more often than we think, what we perceive to be feeling is just our brain’s best guess based on its sampling of sense data. For example, are you really sad or are you just sleep deprived and fighting off an oncoming cold?
Our feelings are important, relevant, and informative; however, our ability to be less attached to them and capable of behaving in spite of them is the hallmark of psychological flexibility, resiliency, and shipping our work!