3. Why NOW? 4/5 – THE ILLUSION

The great illusion

The great illusion of conditional happiness is what the entire advertising industry and thus social media are only too happy to conjure up for us. And manipulated as we are, we constantly tell ourselves that we have to become an excellent person to achieve ultimate happiness. Or we need that one car, or the perfect figure.

Only then can and should we be happy.

A physically fit body can certainly help tremendously, but where it goes wrong is when we can no longer enjoy the process. Thinking we need to have achieved something first, or look a certain way, to feel fulfilled.

The truth is that working towards something in a happy way, and having ambition from a healthy foundation; from self-love, is doubly fulfilling. Growth from a strong core, is sustainable growth.

Because, if we cannot be happy now with what we have, or are, we will not be happy in the future with what we think we need. It will turn out to be an illusion. A very short-lived one. Because what we will miss is the healthy appreciation from a solid foundation.


If it suddenly falls away, or gets used again over time – and it always does to a greater or lesser extent; the law of habituation – the whole edifice collapses. You were trying to fill a void that can never be filled.

Striving for an ideal image inhibits your happiness. The pretty pictures we see make us crave perfection. What then gets in the way of our happiness is the suggestion that perfection is attainable. And also, that only then will we be happy.

We live in a world with a manipulated ideal image. Try to match that. We can also edit our own photos more easily than ever.

Seems fun, but it isn’t helping anyone.

You then start comparing your actual everyday appearance with that manipulated ideal image. Just as we compare our own realistic life, with all its quirks, with the filtered ideal images and highlights we are shown via social media.

In the mirror, you don’t see that radiant self-image from your edited photos. Which then leads to a much more negative body image. Time and again, studies show that people who spend a lot of time on social media are more dissatisfied than those who don’t.


Unplugging mentally, not physically

Checking out and going offline, or throwing that phone out the window?

That would be the easiest. Stopping completely sometimes seems clever and disciplined, and it is, but using occasionally – controlled, dosed – is even harder. This applies to snacking, but also to technology: games, series, social media…

And let’s acknowledge: there are good sides too. Countless. But it is difficult to keep the balance. The balance of using the many applications intelligently. Technology for us in a serving role, rather than the other way around.

Everyone is busy these days but on the flip side, we do not have a time management problem but the crux of these times lies in the management of attention. The challenge lies in making the switch from impulse and ad hoc, to focus and goals.

Saying ‘no’ to one thing is possible only if we have a bigger ‘YES’ for something else. And that requires a ‘hunger’ from within.

Therefore, a better solution: recognise that all this is a big issue and move from behaviour guided by external incentives – and thus driven by low values – to a life driven from within.

From high values. From your sincere, healthy and positive self. Not from fear or lack of something: neediness, but from an inner strength and drive. From the premise that you have something to give, rather than that you primarily need something and therefore come to get something.5

That’s simple to say, but not so easy to do.

It will not happen overnight; it is a process. After all, everyone needs attention, approval and acceptance. The craving for recognition and appreciation is human. It is woven into everything we do. That is why we are all so addicted to this.

Nevertheless, it is possible to learn to use the applications, which can give us that in the short term, in a healthy and smart way in the long term.

Awareness and recognition are the crucial starting point here. From there, anything is possible.

Stop being lived.

Live for yourself.

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