Pleasure Sells but Peace is Free

There is no such thing as perfect. So why are we always struggling to achieve it?

When was the last time you went down the self-help aisle of the bookstore? Hopefully, it’s been a while because lately, standing toe-to-toe with the overwhelming array of self-help resources, one might think our entire economic system can be broken into two halves:

  1. Products and services that bring pleasure (desserts, magazines with photoshopped models, alcohol, cigarettes) and
  2. Products and services that make you feel better about your pleasure withdrawal (diet foods and supplements, self-help books, counseling, personal training, Advil, Nicorette gum, etc.)

We buy what we are convinced will make us happy, what will make life more ‘perfect.’ Then, when the initial joy wears off, or we overindulge, we turn once again to Mastercard to enable our relief. If I could gear up like Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz and do away with this perpetual cycle, I would… but it’s far too complex.

First, the forces that sell this perfection are not to blame. Our economy is one of supply and demand: we demand products and services that make life “perfect” and so it is supplied. Then, we demand things to alleviate the guilt of our initial demands and are adequately soothed. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseam. As consumers, we are in control; this means there is no bad guy against which we can battle.

Second, perfection does not exist. It’s created inside of each person’s mind and is stored as a part of his or her personal belief system. Each person has their own unique idea of what is “perfect” We go bankrupt, spiritually and financially, as we struggle to purchase something that simply can not be bought (or achieved or created or accidentally tripped over). In other words, the victim is also the perpetrator.

Third, happiness is temporary. It’s an emotion created by external factors and your reaction to them. If you’re looking for a lasting sense of well-being, happiness won’t do the job. What you’re looking for is peace.

Finally, we all forget that peace is free. No coupons, no low monthly payments, no interest fees. You don’t need to buy books or yoga bricks or zen water fountains to experience it. It comes in, natural as the tide, when we take a moment to breathe and accept our life as it is… honestly… right now.

Feeling overwhelmed or inadequate? Take a deep breath and enjoy some peace today. (This round is on me.)

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Gautama Siddharta