Henry David Thoreau famously wrote, "The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation." What did he mean? What is a life of quiet desperation? I believe it's a life of discontent or envy, devoid of real achievement or contribution and lacking a patina of success.
Success is often measured by materialism and superficiality. But these external desires lead to desperation - they are, of course, never-ending, putting us on a hedonistic treadmill which builds in intensity as we need more and more to make us happy. Social theorist Gregg Easterbrook coined the term, 'abundance denial', a dissatisfaction with what we have and a desperate yearning for more.
In contrast, Thoreau focused on creating the deepest possible sentient experience of life. A positive, appreciative internal map of the world replaces desperation with contentment and satisfaction, two markers of success.
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs and becomes more starry and immortal, that is your success.”
His philosophy was to make the most of the ordinary and mundane, squeezing out as much juice and zest possible from daily life. He lived in the moment, filled with wonder, curiosity, respect and admiration for the world around him, and making the most of his time on earth rather than wishing things were different.
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, endeavor to live the life you have imagined, and you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
So how to avoid a life of quiet desperation? Like Thoreau, believe that everything is special.
“Nothing is cheap and coarse, neither dewdrops or snowflakes.” Find the things that make your heart sing and bring you joy and abundance, fulfillment and excitement. Live in the present, make the commonplace magical and every day magnificent and, in the words of Thoreau, "Do what you love."