Focus on Feelings

The question is not “what do I want to do?” or “what goal do I want to accomplish?”. The question is: “what do I want to feel?”

For example: “I want to eat a slice of pie.” But it’s not the pie I really want, it’s the feeling of sweet satisfaction that comes from the experience. Even if the pie was bland, consuming it should be enough – but it’s not. The flavor must align with my expectations, and I don’t want to be rushed and cram it down my throat, and I want a pleasant scent in the air so as not to interfere with the pie’s aroma. The pleasure of the pie comes from the feelings it inspires, not from an emptied plate.

In other words, external attainment is NOT the goal. The external world simply provides excuses to feel. We want to feel, but we also want something to justify those feelings. Bear in mind that “feelings” come from within, the external things aren’t the source – we simply like having something to look at while we feel, or having a narrative to follow. We know this is true because of all the fictional tales we consume in books and movies – these resources provide fodder for feeling despite their intangible nature. Even our imagination creates fantasies that draw out our emotions.

In other words, we don’t need to find specific external triggers for feelings. WE generate the feelings and choose where to apply them. For example, we can love a toy stuffed animal. The object isn’t the source of the emotion, it’s the canvas upon which we paint our feelings. There’s no need to pursue an exact external outcome, we just need to cultivate the feeling we want to feel (such as delight, wonder, accomplishment, appreciation).

Therefore, a more appropriate question might be: “what object or condition will allow me to easily apply my preferred emotion?”. In other words, I could lower my expectations while receiving the exact same feelings for less effort. This is efficiency. You SHOULD want to feel the best you can feel – why not? The point being: if you strain to attain, that’s your choice – it means you’re withholding your feelings, preventing them from being applied to the things readily around you – you’re being picky.

For example, it doesn’t take much to feel like a champion. Play a low-skill video game, watch a heroic movie in which the character triumphs, organize a kitchen drawer, tidy a room, lift some light weights, daydream about winning an award. Every feeling is within reach as long as you don’t get judgmental about it. Does it cheapen the experience of existence to keep lowering your expectations until you achieve satisfaction? No, that’s just good gamesmanship. And once you feel like a winner, perhaps the external world will start treating you like one.