Telling yourself you have to be happy mainly results in being disappointed when you aren’t. A far better idea is to focus on what you are doing and experiencing, says German professor and author Wilhelm Schmid, and to let go more. Below you can read a preview of the article in issue 13.

A framework provides you with a clear structure for your life: On Sunday you go to church, on Friday you eat fish and so on. You know what is allowed and what isn’t. We modern people have to find our own framework for life. You can only do that by reflecting and asking questions again and again, so that you become aware of what is important to you. And so that you realize what you truly want to achieve. Our time also has its conventions, of course. For example, the idea that you have to be successful, or happy. The philosophers say: Question that. Is it wise to tell yourself you have to be happy? If you do so, and then a bit later you are feeling sad, you will suffer for it. But if you tell yourself it is not important in life to be happy, and then a bit later, you are a little bit happy, then that’s already great.

And yet we think about life a low nowadays; we worry about almost everything
Reflection is something else than worrying or constantly trying to fix things. It means thinking about what is important to you, but with a certain remoteness, so that you don’t keep focusing on the problems that are occurring now. What can help a great deal is getting out of your daily environment. For example, by reading books from antiquity. This creates a distance to the now, and that distance makes reflection far easier. You get the same effect when you travel and walk around in an unknown city. Anything that gives you more distance to your current situation is good for reflection. If you spend all your time in the here and now, you will never find yourself in a situation where you can reflect on your life.

Text Sjoukje van de Kolk Illustrations Valerie McKeehan