When you’re feeling cynical, miserable, or pessimistic, you are likely to say words to this effect: “Life sucks, and then you die.” What causes this? Well, all life situations are a result of nature and nurture: so some of your life outlook is built in your genetics, and some of it comes as a result of your life experiences.
Clearly, if you had a series of losses and disappointments in life, you’re more likely to think it’s bad than if everything went your way. Also, if you have a chemical imbalance and suffer from depression, then you basically feel bad because of how your body works. So your life is determined by these factors you can’t control, right? Is it all just meaningless stuff happening until it’s over?
Well, there is a third factor: everything within your control. This includes your thoughts, beliefs, perceptions/attention, decisions, and actions. What people with the “sucks” opinion don’t realize is that they are stating an opinion as if it’s a fact. Everything is influenced by perception: there are people in the middle of the wilderness living by themselves and generally enjoying it, and there are miserable people living in mansions with children who hate them and failed relationships.
Here’s an interesting question for you: whose life sucks in that comparison? Most people in modern societies would say that the person in the wilderness has it worse because he or she is missing out on so many great life conveniences and advancements and that the wealthy person has it all and should be happy. But if you ask them whether money buys happiness, they’ll say no. What is going on here?!?!?!?!
The truth is that you can take people who thinks life sucks because of X reason and find people who love it despite being in the same situation or being miserable despite not having that issue. The only thing that’s true is that everyone dies, but every movie, ride, adventure, day, etc. ends, and that doesn’t make them terrible. So what is the truth that people who think this way aren’t seeing or caring about? This is the big question.
The truth is that nothing is inherently good or bad, but thinking makes it so. The truth is that your beliefs shape how good or bad something is for you. The truth is that what you choose to perceive or place your attention on will affect how you feel about your situation. The truth is that how you choose to think and act will determine whether you think your life is great or terrible. So the people who think, “Life sucks, and then you die,” are right because they choose to believe that and, therefore, that’s all they see in their reality.
A fire can cook your food or burn you to death. A fire can kill an evil person or a good person. A father abandoning you could’ve saved you decades of abuse. A missed job opportunity could mean that you avoided a company that was just a bad fit for you. The only thing causing someone to think that these things “suck” is their beliefs surrounding the situation.
And the people choosing to see all of the bad things are deliberately focusing their attention on bad things and feeling bad about them. They are, in essence, causing their own misery. The bad genetics affect you until you account for them: you use stools if you’re short; you wear makeup or date someone of similar attractiveness if your face isn’t symmetrical; you don’t become a champion long-distance runner if you don’t have the natural lung capacity or weight necessary to win. The bad situations affect you until you address them: you pick a different school if one rejects you; you get a different job if the one you wanted isn’t available. Any additional spent time paying attention to those things is time you choose to spend being miserable instead of focusing on better things.
And, here’s what people with a pessimistic view miss out on: people have invented vaccines and saved millions—no, billions—of lives; if you live near the tropics, you get to live in warm, sunny weather for most of the year; if you don’t, heating and air conditioning advances allow you to live comfortably year-round at affordable costs for most of the world (and the rest will be there soon). Life is amazing. You get to do what you want in today’s society: write music, play sports, cook, etc. You can choose what you do as a profession to contribute to society, and in doing that get the benefits of thousands of products you probably consume every year because others made choices to do what they do well/best that benefits you. There are parties, beaches, holidays, forests, video games, books, people who like what you like, delicious meals, movies, and rainbows out there to enjoy.
Which brings us to the philosophical part of this post: life is about the experiences. If you don’t like the experiences you’re having now, find ones you like more/better. If you’re not having experiences you like, why not? You might have children or need to keep a roof over your head, yes, but there are still so many things that you can control to enjoy more of your life. Find something you’d prefer to do while working at a job you don’t; find ways to educate your kids and give them more autonomy if you need more time to yourself to rest. Even if you’re in prison, you can read books, learn something new, and find games to enjoy while you’re there. It’s called “making the best/most of the situation” for a reason: any situation just is, and you can find ways to make it interesting or enjoyable through your thoughts, beliefs, perceptions/attention, decisions, and actions.
So, does life suck and then you die? Well, you’ll definitely die one day…but life sucking in the long term is almost completely up to you. If you disagree, I just have one question: would you rather be miserable and right…or wrong and happy? I can’t answer that for you, but if you’re the cynical type then I’ll respond to you with the cynical point of, “If nothing matters in life, then why do you care if you’re right if it makes you miserable? It seems like you value truth in life…and that you’re choosing a truth that justifies your misery rather than an equally valid truth that would mean that you didn’t have to be.”
No matter where you are in life, just remember one word: better. If your life sucks, you can make it better; even if it were great, though, you’d still be focused on making it better. Better is what it’s all about—not “great” or “sucks”.