Paradise Found—Building Your Own Little Slice of Heaven
The image of an ideal, perfect place where our every desire is met and every need fulfilled has long been part of the human psyche.
The idea seems simple. We all have desires—experiences we want, things we would like—that we want to feel happy. But part of what makes those things so special is the journey we take in making them a reality. If we were just given everything we want, it would have little meaning, and our “paradise” would be far from a paradise.
Traditional ideas about paradise
An idyllic place or condition exists in many religious and spiritual traditions. Some are vague and general, while others are described in great detail as part of a complex system of levels. Some describe it as a condition we can achieve while alive, while in others, it’s an after-life consequence of how we’ve lived our lives.
Many people believe that paradise can be found through the acquisition of wealth or fame or from not having to work anymore. They believe some threshold of wealth will do more than provide them with their material needs and remove any concerns related to money. They believe that living in luxury and comfort with first-class service will help them transcend the pain and suffering associated with life and bring them to a higher plane. Others believe that fame and the associated attention that it brings will be a substitute for genuine relationships and the need to be loved. They believe that being famous will somehow give their lives meaning. Many people in the working world know their retirement date for decades and believe that a well-earned life of leisure will provide the happiness and fulfillment that was missing from their working life.
I have nothing against heaven or enlightenment—or a big pile of money, for that matter—but I believe that we can achieve our personal paradise right here and right now.
Paradise doesn’t mean not having challenges
Why is the idea of paradise in the present so hard to grasp? One reason is that so many people equate paradise to not having any worries or challenges. Consider a life in which we never have challenges and don’t have to work for anything. Everything we want is ours, and every whim is satisfied. Paradise? I think most of us, if we lived this kind of life, would very quickly discover that it is not. A place where we get everything we want wouldn’t be heaven—it would actually be hell. We would immediately get bored, and our lives would have no meaning. Many rich people (Richard Branson and Bill Gates, for example) discover that the meaning and happiness in their lives doesn’t come from their material wealth—it actually comes from the positive influence they have on the world. Of course, many other rich people never come to this realization…
How to find your personal paradise
If we work to create lives in which we are open to discovery, acknowledge and are grateful for what we have, develop perspective on our challenges, and celebrate the people in our lives, paradise will be ours for the taking. We just have to recognize that it is paradise.
Every person will have a different vision of their own paradise, but I believe the following elements are necessary:
- A life of discovery
Keeping an open mind to seeing new things and learning new ideas can open up whole new worlds for you. This doesn’t have to be exploring jungles or climbing mountains—it can be as simple as looking more deeply at things you see every day, meeting and getting to know new people, and being open to new and different ways of thinking about things. With a sense of discovery, your life can be a constant source of excitement and fun.
- Fully experience our connections to people
We all have people in our lives that make it special—people we love, people who love us, and people who bring joy to our lives. But it’s important that we don’t limit our connections to people to only our current inner circle. Everyone we come across has the potential to bring us a little slice of paradise—we just have to be open to these connections and make the effort to fully experience them.
- Making gratitude a fundamental part of our lives
Gratitude is a simple thing, but it can make such an important difference in our perspective and outlook. Many people view gratitude merely as good manners, but it also, if done right, allows us to regularly take stock of our lives and recognize all the elements that are going well, that make us happy, and that give our lives meaning. It can also add much-needed perspective when we are faced with tragedies and challenges.
- Reinterpreting the ordinary and extraordinary
There is magic in every moment of our lives, but most of us are too preoccupied to notice it. Don’t ever let yourself get accustomed to the extraordinary. A bright blue sky on a sunny day, the genuine smile you see when people greet you, a soft spring breeze against your skin, the feeling of curling up in bed when you’re bone-tired, and ten thousand other simple pleasures; add them up, and you’ll find it’s paradise, pure and simple.
With the right outlook, we don’t have to go looking for our personal paradise—we’ll find that it was right there all along. If we don’t see it, we can work to identify the elements of our lives that are keeping us from paradise and make those elements better. But don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that paradise means living without worries or challenges—they are an integral part of our paradise and part of what makes life meaningful.
Don’t wait for paradise to find you—find the paradise inside of you.