It’s a brilliant quote: “Happiness is victory, not pleasure.” I’m not sure who said it, but I attribute it to Dale Carnegie.
You can get a massage every day and live your life as a permanent vacation and still be unhappy because you have nothing to conquer. You can achieve great things while still young, then move into a 10 million dollar mansion in the tropics and slide into an addiction. The underlying causes may have always been there – maybe you were born with an obsessive and manic brain (like me), maybe you’ve never done anything in life half-ass (again, like me). But the catalyst is usually the inability to define a new struggle.
The unhappiest people in the world aren’t the ones who try hard and fail, but the ones who never try to achieve anything great in life. The gaping hole in their lives is their refusal to capitalize on their individuality. They complain that they can’t figure out how to relax, even on the beach. Why is Scott Disick constantly drinking and taking benzos? It’s not my intention to judge people in the media spotlight, but you know what I’m getting at.
Happiness requires victory, and victory requires struggle. There is no shortcut to happiness.
When you wake up in the morning feeling a sense of impending doom, the thread count in your sheets makes no difference. Struggle and victory come from inside of you. They don’t come from external things.
For the first few months after I quit drinking, I accepted it as my only mission. It was a tremendous struggle. Over time, I replaced it with a deeper array of new missions. The struggle continues in evolving forms.
My mission now is to help others get in shape, to motivate other people in recovery, and ultimately to create a growing stream of income by doing both of these things. I haven’t achieved everything I want to do yet – but that doesn’t matter. I’m happy today because I’m making progress, and I’m sober because I’m happy. What matters is the process, not the end result.
If you doubt this, do a Google search for Gerard Depardieu, the rich and famous French actor. A well-known alcoholic, he made the news for drunkenly pissing on a passenger in an airplane. This struck me as hilarious until I read deeper into his life. This was a man who had become a cultural icon, earned hundreds of millions of dollars, and counted Vladimir Putin as one of his friends.
Once a strapping alpha male, he now looks bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable, and almost deformed. He boasts about drinking fourteen bottles of wine per day and feeling “fresh as a daisy.” There are pictures of him being pushed around, half-asleep, in a wheelchair. He’s totally estranged from his son, who understandably can’t stand being around him. It’s obvious that the physical bliss he seeks is eluding him and that he’s suffering a slow, torturous death.
So much for my former illusion of having “a few drinks” after a long, successful career.
I know from experience what a secretly miserable alcoholic looks like. When I look at Gerard’s face, I think to myself: I don’t ever want to look like that, much less feel the way he must feel on a daily basis.
There are countless souls who once knew greatness, but who lost their sense of struggle. They lost their sense of victory, and their self-esteem collapsed. Their existence became, from their perspective, pointless. Many of them did not admit this to themselves until it was too late. But even for them, all is not lost: They can rebuild themselves by embracing the struggle created by their own collapse.
I know a few who have done exactly this. Whatever they once lost in dignity, they gained in authenticity – and in admiration from people close to them, who understood how hard their struggle was.
Even for people who will never know addiction, there seems to be a widespread temptation to banish risk and discomfort from life. People think that by reducing the scope of their lives to safe and easy tasks, they’re protecting themselves from chaos. In reality, they’re creating a sterile and bland life that invites boredom. They’re shunning the element of struggle that makes a person feel truly alive.
Pleasure is fleeting. Victory is cumulative. I can relax without alcohol these days, only because I allow myself to take pleasure in the small but important steps I’ve taken since I kicked the bottle.
There are struggles ahead for me. I drink too much coffee, which makes me fall asleep later than I’d like. I procrastinate instead of writing all of my thoughts down when I have them. I have personal and professional goals that will require bold and well-timed action to achieve.
If you’re not perfect, if you’re still working on projects that may or may not work out, this is a good sign. It means that you’re still alive.
Hit the gym today and feel even more alive.