“What do you want to do when you leave university?”
I remember asking this question to a bunch of Oxford students a few years back. To my surprise, the majority replied simply, ‘I don’t want to do anything particularly, I just want to be happy. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?’
Unfortunately, the goal of happiness doesn’t deliver. We have a whole generation of people who’ve made happiness and comfort their goal and who are now feeling a deep disappointment with life and can’t put their finger on why. We’re like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, feeling restless and dissatisfied.
So what can we do to change this?
According to Jeff Goins, to make happiness and comfort the goal of your life will ensure that you will never be happy. If you are looking for happiness, you won’t find it.
“We’ve believed a lie. We’ve been told life is about us.”
Jeff’s answers for satisfaction in life seem crazy and upside-down:
- The secret to being happy is not seeking comfort, but doing things that make us uncomfortable.
- The secret to finding meaning in life is not to find yourself, but lose yourself.
He tells stories of people who got ‘wrecked’ – they encountered the brokenness and messiness of this world, and found that they couldn’t fix it. But rather than shy away from this, getting ‘wrecked’ is the thing that gives us meaning:
“The world is broken and remains that way, in spite of our efforts to help it. This is beautiful, in a way, because it breaks us of our self-dependency. In a world that refuses to be healed, we must face the fact that we are not the heroes of our stories. It teaches us to rely on something bigger than ourselves and teaches the source of true compassion.”
Doing good feels bad
I love the fact that he doesn’t offer easy solutions or glib generalisations of the world’s brokenness. So often we think, ‘if I contribute by doing some good and make a difference in someone’s life then I will feel good about myself and that will give me meaning and purpose.’ This is emphatically NOT what he is arguing. He’s pushing deeper than this.
In fact, he goes to great pains to point out that doing good, by and large, makes us feel bad, not good. People are not machines or maths equations, we are not easily ‘fixed’. That means that helping others and doing good can be a profoundly disheartening process.
How I got wrecked
I got wrecked when I went on mission to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. I went out there to make a difference, to do some good. When I arrived I was shocked by the extent of the poverty I saw, and more aware than ever of the futility and puniness of our involvement out there. I had thought that I could be useful by teaching English: when I arrived I realised that these orphaned boys would most likely never leave the country. They needed other things; things I could not give.
But I gave anyway. And it was a life-impacting, heart-changing experience.
Jeff’s book somehow manages to hold in tension the fact that we can’t fix the world, but we should still try. It is good to do good, even when it feels bad.
Here’s one of my favourite parts that expresses so well this experience of being ‘wrecked’:
“We return to a garden that was once beautiful and is now filled with briars and thistles. We plead for mercy. And we find ourselves in good company. Because there in the garden lies a man from Nazareth who sweats blood, already pleading on our behalf.
If we are to follow the Jesus who suffered with us and bled for us, we too must suffer”
I am someone who feels deeply for others, and at times feels overwhelmed by the needs of the world. It was comforting to read that even having that feeling is a good thing, and I felt encouraged once more to not ‘grow weary in doing good’ (Gal 6:9).
This is not your average self-help, motivational book, though it is both helpful and motivational. It causes you to reevaluate your preconceptions and priorities, and has a deep insight into the purpose of life and what drives people.
It’s also the most quotable book I’ve read in a long time. If I were a student I would have his quotes all over my wall. Jeff has a clear and compelling style, and I was hooked from the first page.
This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking book that has the potential to turn your life upside down. I suggest you buy it immediately.
Jeff is a speaker, author, and a phenomenal blogger, who has over 80,000 visitors to his site each month. His posts on writing and blogging are the most helpful ones you will find – by a clear mile.
If you buy his book this week, then you will get 6 free gifts worth $158. Find out more here.
(Jeff sent me an advance copy of the book to review. He said that I didn’t have to review it if I didn’t want to, but I could keep the book anyway as a gift. That’s the kind of guy he is.)
Over to you:
- Have you ever seen poverty so great or suffering so immense that you got ‘wrecked’ – you felt a compassion to want to help someone but you realised your inability to do so?