05 Mar Stop trying to make other people happy
“External solutions for internal problems do not exist.”
Most of us have internalized this by now.
We know that a Porsche won’t fix our mid-life crisis.
And that an Oura ring won’t cure our weekday drinking habit.
But let’s streeeeeeeeeetch this logic a bit.
Stay with me now.
Every single human being has “internal problems.”
You have ’em. I def got ’em. So does your boss.
And yes, our spouses and loved ones.
Yet by that logic, “external solutions” cannot solve the “internal problems”… our loved ones.
Or said differently. There’s nothing you (i.e. “external solution”) can do to make your spouse happy.
Now, this doesn’t absolve you from loading the dishwasher. Or buying a thoughtful birthday gift.
You can (and should), create the environment to make your spouse happy.
You can be an empathetic listener.
You can be compassionate during trying times.
You can hug, love and comfort.
(And yes, you can load the dishwasher. In fact, you should.)
But ultimately – their happiness – anyone’s happiness, is subject to their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
You may be skeptical, but let’s use a Charlie Munger-style inversion.
Picture yourself having a bad day.
Maybe your boss yelled at you (because you eff’d up a client pitch).
Or you’re frustrated because you feel stuck in a dead end job (yet you don’t know what would make you happy).
Or in an extreme situation, you’re grieving the loss of a loved one.
Is there anything someone else could “do” to make you happy?
Personally, I can’t tell if this is ridiculously liberating… or terrifying.
So I’ll take a Doaist stance: It just is.
What does that mean?
Double down on the listening.
Do it until it hurts. Because you care SO MUCH.
But let go of the expectation, that you can control over the outcome.