Most likely, like other savvy urban dwellers who spend swathes of their day confined in the internet, you’ve been bludgeoned with generic advice like – “smile, it costs nothing”. It’s good guidance of course, but like most information on the internet, it’s half baked. Thing is, smiling may cost you nothing, but smiling for no reason makes you appear a tad peculiar. So when one embarks on the noble pursuit of happiness, just smiling vacuously may (should) not be the end goal. The rub then, is to smile genuinely. To give yourself that feeling of actual happiness, having endorphins and dopamine streaming through your body….and you’ll never have endorphin release by smiling blankly, you aren’t that stupid and neither is your nervous system (which controls endorphin release).
Trouble is though, that having genuine reasons to smile are few and far in modern day existence. We’ve all known actual happiness, and remember the time we basked in its wholesome goodness. Like the time the love of your life loved you back, or even the time you rode your bike for the first time so boundless and free or when you achieved that impossible goal you set yourself. Good trip down memory lane wasn’t it? Back to reality though, where the love your life has long left you, your bike lies forgotten in some dreary corner of a garage (not even your garage!) and in these jaded times just having personal goals is a black swan event, let alone their achievement. Hence, your nervous system is starved of catalysts for endorphin release, and you are stuck between smiling blankly or not at all. Pause though and think if the options are indeed only binary. Look back at your genuinely happy moments – is there anything in common? There should be – the sense of achievement resulting in validation. Sure, the branches of the happiness tree are different, but the roots are same.
One is inclined to rebut that sense of achievements themselves are impossibly hard to find. But are they really? If you notice, the sense of validation, is a sense of belonging – a sense of having justified why you are here in the first place, of having met some decade(s) long longing. Go back to your childhood dreams – the ones before the corner offices (yuck!) or an interview in forbes (turn back now!) – no, the ones you had before the world told you who you should be. Astronaut? Pilot? Pirate (cool!!)? Space Pirate (very cool!!!)? Mountain climber? Tomb raider? Ever wondered why they all seem(ed) so appealing – my guess is because they met the singular desire that unites all mankind – of being discoverers. We all want to stand at edge of the line of what we know, and move that line just a bit forward. Our evergreen love for magic is just that isn’t it? A sense of awe from the re-imagination of what is possible. Somewhere, we all have a primordial urge to being explorers. Perhaps the sense of existential ennui actually comes simply from not indulging the Indian Jones (or Captain Jack Sparrow) that resides in all of us.
What’s strange is that there was no real good reason for us to have stopped said indulgence. Yes, one grows older and is burdened with horrible boulders like responsibility, schedules and timelines. But that’s just more reason to rid yourself of the burden and get out every now and then. Despite what people tell you, the world hasn’t gotten any smaller – it’s still massive, and gorgeous and full of possibility and discovery – and you haven’t changed either. The discoverer hasn’t died.
Discover the unabashed mastery of nature at Yosemite, stand amazed as a herd of tuskers pass you by at the Rift Valley or the magic of the mirror grounds at Salar de Uyuni, discover what pristine blue looks like in the waters of Maldives, stand at the Great Wall, breathe in the grandeur of the Plaza del Campo or be humbled by the enormity of the ambition that is the Sistine Chapel. Go to new lands, go to new seas but most of all, discoverer, go! The world is truly your oyster, and you should savour its every drop…and there when you stand, in lands unknown and afar – you’ve just pushed the line of what’s possible and what you know that little bit further – there your world has just expanded and there the discoverer in you stands validated. There you’ll find yourself smiling genuinely…enjoy the view, enjoy the new learnings and enjoy the flood of endorphins!