“You seek escape from pain, we seek achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment; we exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid but life that we wish to live.” –Atlas Shrugged
Modern man seems to continuously be on the quest for the meaning of life, while the treasure he seeks lay just beyond his reach. Most think that such an important question must have a complicated answer that should be explained to them by the intellectuals or latest guru. That only opens the door to being led astray as ideal solutions tend to be irrational. What should be isn’t always the case and human nature must be understood before any answers to psychological or philosophical questions can be truly found.
The question can’t be based on a false premise. As in, what’s the meaning of life for society’s ideal moral man when that man does not exist so any subsequent answer won’t work for real people. Ideology only creates insecurity since no one can be anything other than that which they are. Only a rational assessment of human nature will produce the answers people seek as a biased or irrational assessor will skew the data to fit his/her beliefs.
Society teaches people that pride and ambition are evil aspects of an imperfect being that must be repressed at all costs. What they neglect to explain is the differences in the definition of each characteristic in a rational versus irrational analysis. What they describe as “pride” and “ambition” are the irrational, thus, evil forms that people should avoid; where pride is the equivalent of arrogance or extreme stubbornness that isn’t earned and prevents progress. Ambition then becomes doing anything to move forward, including destroying others. Society is correct in labeling both as evil with such a definition since arrogance and irrational stubbornness are the results of an insecure person, while one who will injure others to move forward has a sinister mindset.
There is no discussion on rational pride and ambition, however, which forces people to ignorantly repress positive traits. Rational pride is the equivalent of self-respect that is earned by one who achieves one’s goals, never compromises one’s values nor claims more than one has earned. It’s said best by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen in their essay called “Life, Teleology, And Eudemonia In The Ethics Of Ayn Rand” when they say, “we take pride in ourselves when we recognize that our accomplishments are the result of our own choice to purposefully seek to achieve our highest potential.” And since rational ambition is the motivation which pushes one to achieve one’s highest potential, high self-esteem can’t be accomplished without an embracing of both traits. No one can be happy unless they love themselves since “The man who does not value himself cannot value anything or anyone,” as the late Ayn Rand said.
To satisfy one’s psyche, one must have a specific and rational ultimate goal that describes the life one wants based on who that person is as an individual. That doesn’t mean the life society, religious leaders and someone’s parents believe one should have but rather the life one wants based on one’s beliefs and needs. The ultimate goal must then be broken down into milestones that form a direct path leading to the desired end and self-discipline keeps one on the direct path without detour. Ambition keeps one motivated to persevere despite constant adversity and pride allows one to value one’s self for achieving each milestone along the way. Achieving this ultimate goal is becoming successful, or what Aristotle called “eudemonia”. Since every person has a different ultimate goal, success will be defined differently by each and can’t be limited to a financial status as that is only part of one’s ultimate goal.
The remaining aspect of this ultimate goal is to have one’s needs met, where achieving the desired financial position only partly satisfies this, leaving other aspects unquenched. Needs come in two forms: physical and psychological. The former is satisfied by oxygen, food, sleep, shelter, release, water, etc. The latter, by establishing healthy relationships, high self-esteem, a rational cognitive process, individualism, true love and an adequate/balanced pleasure reward system for the celebration of life as well as achievement. Although financial status and sex can satisfy parts of both components, they are only two pieces of the puzzle so the ultimate goal must be built with the purpose of fulfilling all needs; where needs must be clearly distinguished from wants. One may want to be a billionaire but doesn’t need to be in order to be happy. While, if one is incapable of becoming one, such an ultimate goal is established on a delusional foundation that will never be achieved, bringing misery. At the same time, needs must be balanced as too much of anything is unhealthy.
Once the ultimate goal and milestones are in place, it becomes time to set out on your journey. Nature, being the absolute unbiased checks and balances system, will do everything in its power to prevent you from succeeding. That guarantees that the few who achieved their ultimate goal actually earned it, becoming entitled to experience all that everyone else longs for but couldn’t earn. It’s that feeling of achieving your highest potential and satisfying your needs that’s something a welfare state can’t hand out. The search for that feeling is mankind’s purpose, where achievement of it is absolute bliss. The journey will be difficult but that only increases the achievement’s value. Happiness will be felt if one chooses to embrace one’s quest, feeling honored that one has been given the opportunity to earn the ultimate achievement. When you get knocked down, keep fighting or else you don’t deserve to experience happiness. Live, fight, achieve…