Companies often talk about “outsourcing.” Certain activities are then outsourced to third parties. This has advantages, but also disadvantages. I was listening to a talk by Gen Kelsang Nyema the other day. She spoke about the dangers of outsourcing happiness. I thought the term “outsourcing” was nicely coined. It nicely illustrates how principles of business management also apply to self-management. This blog is about how outsourcing happiness makes you unhappier.
What is “outsourcing” of happiness?
Outsourcing happiness is an interesting play on words. For it says two things:
- you place the source of your happiness outside of you (“out”).
- you outsource your happiness to third parties.
You outsource your happiness when you let your happiness depend on other people or external circumstances. But outsourcing happiness makes you unhappy. Why? Because you can’t control other people and outer circumstances.
So you’re wasting a lot of power and energy on something that you can often do little about. It’s not effective. Therefore, outsourcing happiness makes you unhappy.
Why do we so often choose to outsource happiness?
Outsourcing seems to have certain advantages. When you place the source of happiness outside of you you no longer have to take responsibility for your situation, feelings and moods. For example, you are depressed. You think this is because of the corona crisis, the government, your boss. So the corona crisis, the government or your boss must change. They are the cause of your depression. As long as they don’t change you can’t be happy.
I don’t think we consciously choose to outsource happiness. Because there is usually an unconscious and automatic pattern. And this automatic pattern prompts us to start fighting with the “causes” of our depression. We get angry, take to the streets and protest the corona crisis or the government.
We expect to feel better if we change the circumstances outside of us. And when circumstances don’t change we become increasingly frustrated. You find that outsourcing happiness makes you unhappy. As a result, your frustration and despair increase.
Why outsourcing happiness makes you unhappy
“Outsourcing” happiness ultimately leads to unhappiness. When you outsource your happiness to external factors your happiness rests on a shaky foundation:
- outer circumstances are always changing
- change is the only constant factor in our lives
- we have very little control over external circumstances
This ties in nicely with what experts often consider the disadvantage of outsourcing business activities: you lose influence and control over them. Applied to self-management: if you outsource your happiness, you lose influence and control over your happiness. As a result, outsourcing happiness makes you unhappy
Outsourcing, fire and the volatility of life
I recently experienced this again myself. Some months after my blog “From the Stress of Moving to the Zen of Moving” I was peacefully sleeping in my new apartment. In the distance I heard a siren. This woke me up, but I quickly fell back asleep. Not long after, another siren. And another. I woke up again.
And I realized, ” this is really close”. So I got out of bed. To look out of the window. To my horror there were four large fire engines in front of my flat. And there were more and more. A cacophony of sirens from firemen, ambulances and police. The whole street was blocked off.
Soon I realized: ” my flat is on fire”. Fortunately, the fire department acted adequately. More than half of the flat was evacuated. I was able to stay in my flat. In the end, there were no deaths or serious injuries. But I realized how vulnerable life is. It could have ended very differently. And what is still a source of safety one day can go up in flames within minutes. That’s how volatile life is.
All day I felt the fragility of myself and of my flat. Right down to my bones. Only at the end of the day did this feeling subside somewhat.
I realized that I can’t let my happiness depend on my apartment. Because it could just go up in smoke in a few minutes. And then my happiness would be over.
By outsourcing your happiness you give away your strength
When you choose to outsource happiness you give away your power. You:
- become depressed
- feel powerless
- lose your connection with your environment
- don’t take responsibility for your actions and emotions
- blame other people and situations outside of you
- attribute power to other people and situations
- you are the plaything of people and circumstances
All this shows how outsourcing happiness makes you unhappier. Outsourcing happiness is a lot like what I have called “immature happiness.” You can read more about this in my blog “Mindfulness and Happiness“.
An alternative to outsourcing
Is there an alternative to outsourcing? I think so.
The first step is to recognize that your automatic patterns are prompting you to outsource happiness. After all, we all do this. After all, it is part of our humanity. If you don’t acknowledge something you can’t see it. And you can’t change it either.
The second step is to see how outsourcing happiness makes you unhappier. And when you take self-management seriously, you automatically become curious about change.
In my next blog, I will discuss how to move from outsourcing to insourcing happiness.