Written by Step Above Stigma's Vice President of Events & Initiatives, Jacob Shaddock.
I feel like I’m constantly bombarded by questions about what my goals and dreams are – as if my current situation is inadequate or lacking and that I should always be striving for more. That has really gotten into my head and I suspect it gets into a lot of our heads. We start to think the only way to be happy is to continuously achieve greater feats – whether it is to make more money, higher our education, or spend more time at the gym. And listen - setting goals and dreams can be helpful and serve as a great motivator for positive change - but it can bring a tide of self-pity and crush self-fulfillment if we struggle to reach our desired destination. Totally set goals for self-improvement but also learn to be okay with where you are.
Please do not mistake my message as suggesting that there is no point changing your current situation but rather learn to make the most of where you are. Learn to not be okay. Learn that actively pursuing happiness by attaining particular goals will never make you happy. The idea of happiness as something that can be achieved through certain actions is a falsehood of great tragedy. Free yourself by choosing to live in your moment and make the most of it.
Happiness is not an item at the store you can buy – it is a mindset. It is a mindset that takes practise by learning to stop judging yourself and others, helping yourself and others, enjoying the sunset and seeing the value in reading your course textbook. Happiness is something we learn not buy, achieve, or steal – and most importantly we need others to learn it. You can never truly be happy if you spend large parts of your day judging and hurting others because even though it feels like an attack against others it is really an attack against yourself. If we spend large parts of the day complaining about slow wifi or having work we will never be happy. Rather than complaining learn to be okay with little nuisances because one day you may miss them (such as your parents bugging you about your last night out). Evaluate the things in your life causing you stress and decide what needs to be removed such as a toxic friendship.
It is clear in this time that change is essential – it is okay to be angry and frustrated. Accept those feelings and allow them to motivate you. Remember that change does take time, as annoying as that is, but change is natural and how we grow as a society. However, do not fall into a psychological trap by equating happiness to change – when things change it will not give you happiness as a by-product. You must choose to make the most of your current situation, use it to grow, and learn to be happy rather than expect it to occur naturally.
Finally, stop being a dick. Learn to care about others because without them you will never be happy. Support your local BLM movement by educating yourself and raising black voices. Watch movies and Youtube videos by black creators, read books, and re-post on Instagram. Order food from a local black owned business – Uber Eats has made it very easy. Donate if you are able but most importantly listen. Listen without defense or reactivity but support. Trust me – being there for others will make you much happier than sitting in your own self-pity and guilt.