The purpose of life is happiness.

If we are not happy, we cannot think of making others happy. A win-win situation is when we are happy and others are happy. If we are unhappy while making other happy, it is a lose-win situation. Being unhappy and making others unhappy is totally a lose-lose scenario.

Happiness is a result of satisfying our needs.

Selfish Needs

We begin our quest for happiness by satisfying self-centric needs. We focus on our personal needs – food, clothing, shelter, security. These needs do not need interaction with other human beings.

The next level of self-centric needs requires interacting with a select group of people. These are the need for love, affection and membership of a group. The need to belong to a group also helps satisfy security needs. When these needs are satisfied, we feel happy.

All the above are self-oriented, and we keep moving from one to the other, since these keep changing.

This is also a win-lose relationship, as our need fulfilment MAY be contingent on others’ unhappiness.

Symbiotic Needs

We realise that to satisfy some needs, we also have to give something in return. The relationship moves from ‘taking’ to ‘give-and-take’, and a negotiation happens whether both parties in a relationship are giving equally. This is a matter of perception, and if one party feels he is not getting enough, then there are issues.  We are buying the satisfaction of our needs by giving something of worth to the other person. This may seem like a barter, as there is no common currency and the valuation of the relationship is subjective.

By the way, ‘relationships’ do not just mean emotional couples, but include other one-to-one (boss – subordinate) and one-to-many relationships (member’s relationship with the group). If the relationship is based on symbiotic needs, then the perception of what one gets from this relationship determines the quality of the relationship.

This agreement is still selfish, and such a relationship and resulting happiness is short-lived, if one person feels he is being short-changed or his needs will be better satisfied elsewhere. We start looking for happiness with another person, another boss, another job and another group.

The need of one person in the relationship can become so selfish, that he/she holds on to the relationship with both hands, suffocating the relationship and the other person. This creates unhappiness and results in alienation. Again, this can happen in couples, in jobs and in families. There is no free will and can become exploitative, if  one person depends on the other.

Unselfish needs

If I loved a  bird, my first instinct is to keep it in a cage. I am happy, the bird may not be. We may rationalise this situation by saying that the bird’s needs for food and shelter are being satisfied. We assume that these are the only needs.

If I release the bird, two things can happen.

  • The bird flies away, never to return or
  • the bird returns and stays with me out of free will.

Either way, the bird is happy.

To really give someone happiness and therefore achieve true happiness, we need to free the bird.

Fear of exploitation

While discussing this philosophy with friends, one friend said,

“I am sure even Mother Teresa would have felt bad when she would have seen someone buying liquor with the money given to him for Food !!”

Yes, it is true that we feel disappointed when people exploit us. I have a few thoughts on that.

  1. A drunkard is a victim, not a villain. He did not willingly become a drunkard, in order to face social stigma. He now has needs, psychological and physiological, and he believes these can be satisfied by liquor. We are judging from our frame of reference, which says that food is more important, and our money should be used as WE deem fit.
    This is conditional giving, not free giving. Once we give the alcoholic the money, we have relinquished our hold on the act of giving. If we were so convinced that food was more relevant, we could have offered food instead of money.
    Such people are entitled to compassion, not judgement
  2. How many friends do we have, and how many have exploited us? If the number is low, should we change our attitude and become cynical, to the detriment of our positivity and therefore impacting our other relationships?
  3. Does this cynicism mean that we are still in symbiotic need fulfilment stage? Does it mean that we are disappointed that we are not getting enough in return – our need to feel wanted, of gratitude, or expiation of some guilt?

I know that is is difficult in this materialistic world to be truly altruistic, and we will succumb to selfish and symbiotic need fulfilment. I just wish that we do this knowingly, with the understanding that this happiness is short-lived.

Another friend questioned if I was doing the right thing by offering coaching sessions for free.

I have moved to that stage of life when selfishness has no value. Yes, I will always need money for sustenance, but not by exploiting someone who has an immediate need and who is asking for help. The business of coaching requires a client to engage in a long term relationship, to develop skills that are helpful in preventing the recurrence of a current problem. Refusing to give first-aid without payment is inhuman.

Please do comment on this article. You comments help me in improving my blog posts and make them more relevant.

  1. August 6, 2012

    A well written article which forces you to think on what exactly the purpose of life is. loved the bird example.

    I was wondering that if it is true that Happiness is the result of satisfying needs? Happiness to me is ‘Just actions and no results, no expectations’. Satisfying needs is a result. the question is Can you satisfy your needs? The most happy people I have ever seen is in 2 movies- Life is beautiful (the Jewish protagonist) and the dude in ‘gods must be crazy’. Both were happy till the time they start running after their needs. Sorry my life resolves around movies!!

    • August 6, 2012
      Chandra Kant

      I completely agree with you that unfulfilled expectations and needs create negative emotions of anger, depression and fear. No expectations means no needs. We are beyond even self actualisation. There is no question of satisfying needs as there are none. And if there are no needs, there is only equanimity and peace.
      The issue then is what motivates us? The pursuit of happiness is our path. Right now, happiness comes out of satisfying needs. When we go beyond needs, we do things for others out of love and affection, not an expectation of return. Then we are truly happy.

      “Life is beautiful” is about reframing situations in a positive light. This is a big lesson. For the protagonist, life was always a glass half full.

  2. August 6, 2012
    Yogesh Jadhav

    I could nt explaine my view in that comment probably ,continueing with same example of drunkard I am not at all blaming him for Drinking but there still can be a win-win situation.where this drunkard could have found another drunkard ,who could understand his need of alchol over food and still would have helped ….now in this case helping hands are also happy !!……my whole point of this arguement is there is a opportunity cost associated with every help may be because of the lesser helping hands and higher demand so its very important to find a perfect match for achieving win-win situation .
    Regarding Conditional giving & Free giving ……..Money can never be a Free giving …there is always a condition associated with it e.g Even while giving a rupee to a beggar we have a concious or subconcious thought process of utilization of that rupee by beggar .So does that mean we should never help someone by means of money ??


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