No Happier Than Our Ancestors
“Even though we are far more powerful than our ancient ancestors, we aren’t much happier. To translate power into happiness means the ability to live in the present moment.” – Yuval Noah Harari
I’ve just lately found Harari and his most impressive work surrounding humankind. One of his most recent and popular works is his book called ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’. I look forward to following him for years to come.
Though well-researched and understandable, his statement shocks me! It doesn’t seem right, fair or just to humanity! I protest! After all these years, decades, millennia, are we not better off than our ancient ancestors living in caves?? Wasn’t that the point of all the “work” we’ve done? Then why, after all the resources, structures, systems, comforts and technologies are we not happier than when these things didn’t exist?
I believe it’s because we haven’t placed enough value on the feeling of simple human fulfillment. That’s what living in the present moment means to me. Do you know what fulfillment feels like to you or are you just chasing achievement after achievement?
We’ve put plenty of attention on results and on the look of fulfillment. The feel and the actual experience of fulfillment seems to have been lost in translation.
I’m a huge fan of things like achievement, right competition, aggressiveness and drive. That’s why it’s shocking for me to realize that even with all the achievement, according to Harari, we’re still not any happier than our ancestors!? And that’s why I’m introducing Enoughness as the feeling of true fulfillment that also happens to include a fully expressed, and highly achieved life.
Briefly, Enoughness as I describe it, points to unprecedented fulfillment. This level of fulfillment includes recognizing and cultivating feelings of peace, contentment, empowerment and creative self-expression as well as achievement. Enoughness is an inner equilibrium to consciously choose and return to as well as a perpetual source of well-being. It can be both independent of circumstance as well as highly influential of circumstance.
Enoughness can feel brand new but the experience has always been there within each of us. It means recognizing your inherent value, no matter what your circumstances, successes or failures tell you. And recognizing fulfillment is a measure born within you as well. Experiencing and then applying this feeling of fulfillment to your work, your family and your life is an evolved source of motivation.
It’s like being able to recognize when you’ve eaten enough. If you don’t or can’t, you’d always eat too little and be undernourished or too much and over-stress your system.
If your focus has been so heavily on industry, productivity, economy and security for so many years, experiencing the actual freedoms and fulfillment that these works promise can be hard to recognize. Once your foot has been on the gas for so long, it may be hard to remember how to slow down or even stop and look around. The drive is always there, chronically pushing you to perform and move forward. But move forward toward what? At some point, confusion, frustration, resentment and stress sets in. And an unfulfilled life (and society!) is the result.
Yes, the industrialization of our species has mainly been for the good of all and many. It’s just that at this point in human history, I believe and support the notion that we need some help recognizing and feeling fulfillment – things like happiness and ease, peace and prosperity, good and grace. Things like inherent worth, value and potential. These are feelings and taking the time to feel them and recognize their value may actually contribute to success and achievement rather than distract from it.
Pointing it out so that you can personally recognize and repeat it within yourself is the aim of this ongoing conversation on Enoughness.
Enoughness keenly points to the sweet spot where inner peace and outer accomplishment come together for true fulfillment in life and work. As Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) describes it to Algren (Tom Cruise) in the movie The Last Samurai, “Life in every breath!”
Harari’s statement about ‘no happier than our ancestors’ suggests our sensational and accomplished industrial and economic development hasn’t actually given us the very thing it’s intended to provide: fulfillment and connection. And we ought to pay attention when we’re not feeling fulfilled and have some help in remembering slow down and tune into our inherent value and sense of fulfillment. And that’s the reminder Enoughness hopes to provide.