Thought #1: Looking at the big picture.

If you’re like most people, life very often throws mud in your direction. The emotions this mud provokes can range from minor irritation to despair. Perhaps your car breaks on your way to work. Or a person you love doesn’t love you back. Or after years of strenuous effort, you fail your studies or lose your job.

Unfortunately, life often isn’t kind to us.

Even if nothing in particular has gone wrong, you might nevertheless find yourself to be suffering from the niggling unpleasant feelings so common in our modern age. Perhaps your life seems to be stagnating. Your days are repetitive, without any sense of progress or direction. You aren’t exactly unhappy, but you aren’t exactly happy either. You’re like a ship drifting at sea without a rudder. And if you suffer from depression, it can feel like your life will never regain meaning and you’ll never be happy again.

a man looking troubled
No one likes problems – big or small – but everyone has to deal with them once in a while.

Believing in an Eternal Blissful Life offers some relief from these feelings by putting everything in perspective and allowing you to view your problems in a different light. After all, do you really think that whatever bothers you right now will even remotely matter in 1,000 years during your Eternal Blissful Life? Do you think you’ll still be annoyed that your car broke down in 2018? Still troubled because you lost your job?

Sure – these are genuine problems, and burying your head under the sand like an ostrich certainly isn’t the solution. Misfortunes will probably add stress and tedium to your Current Life. But you’ll survive them. An Eastern monarch, to remind himself of the ephemerality of human affairs, is said to have inscribed on his ring the consoling phrase: “This too shall pass”. The sentiment is all the more forceful given the possibility of an Eternal Blissful Life. In 1,000 years, you’ll be laughing about your former grievances in your spaceship, en route to some distant star. And that’s if you even remember losing your job.

Feel miserable because your cruel spouse left you for someone else? Undeniably, this feeling is valid and rejection does hurt. But it’s at least some consolation to know that such feelings won’t last forever. Any sadness you feel in your Current Life will be dwarfed by the enormity of your Eternal Blissful Life. Your present sadness will soon be a flicker in time.

Are you depressed, and feel like you’ll never be happy again? Misery itself can seem eternal to those afflicted with depression or anxiety – but to paraphrase the great Stephen Fry, the sun does come out again eventually. You might not know when the clouds will part, but you know that they will part. You will be happy again. This is probably true even in your Current Life; and you can be absolutely certain that it’ll be true of your Eternal Blissful Life.

Thinking about your current problems within the greater context of an Eternal Blissful Life makes you realize how small and insignificant all hardships truly are. Sure, they might be genuinely difficult to cope with right now. But your Eternal Blissful Life won’t be affected by them. By way of analogy, think about how often as a young child you thought the world was falling apart because of something that you couldn’t care less about now. You were only a child, with a child’s limited perspective. In the same way, many of us now suffer from the limited perspective imposed by our fragile Current Life.

Normally, when people think about their life, they see something like this:

a graph depicting your current life

But actually, it helps a lot to view it more like this:

your current and eternal blissful life visualized

You are still at chapter one, remember? Most stories don’t begin with “they were born and lived happily ever after.” So don’t fret too much about the little dips in that green part. You wouldn’t complain grimly about your awful holiday when you’ve only just started packing for it. In the same way, it’s wrong to judge your life by its first and least blissful phase.

For me, realizing that I’ll have an Eternal Blissful Life was something like being in an intense dream and suddenly realizing I was only dreaming. The progression of the dream continues as before, but you’re able to take a step back and view everything less seriously. After all – it’s only a dream! If the dream is pleasant, you can continue to enjoy it. If it’s a nightmare, you can endure it calmly until you wake up. The same is true for your Current Life. Nothing really matters – and when this series of apparently significant triumphs and disasters is over, you’ll “wake up” and find that the truly significant period has only just begun. Your Eternal Blissful Life – by far the longest and happiest part of your existence – will have arrived at last.

By the way: in the graphic above I placed the end of your Current Life at <122 years, because that’s the longest a person has ever been known to live. I also want to note that the difference in well-being between your Current Life and your Eternal Blissful Life is difficult to determine in advance, and might not really be as dramatic as depicted. If you’re already deeply content with your Current Life, then your levels of well-being in your Eternal Blissful Life may only hover slightly above the green line’s peak. And even during your Eternal Blissful Life, you might still experience unpleasant things every now and then. The purple line has dips, too! But your baseline well-being will be higher, and your future struggles will never be severe enough to adversely affect your overall happiness. Eventually, you might barely remember what serious distress actually feels like. Consider that next time you’re upset about something!

Believing in an Eternal Blissful Life will give you the calming assurance that everything will be OK in the end. Even if you’re struggling right now, there’ll come a time when nothing will seriously bother you. For me, this is the perfect reason to keep fighting, to stay motivated, and to avoid slipping into helpless despair when things feel overwhelming. When I feel depressed, I know that life won’t go on like this forever. I’m always aware that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. What a cop out it would be, to lie down inside the tunnel and give up!

a dark tunnel with light at the end
Even if the tunnel seems dark, there’s light at the end!

This way of thinking can even be taken a step further: From a very minimalistic viewpoint, all you really need to do in your Current Life is survive. This may sound like a rather extreme deduction – but I think there’s a very liberating truth hidden here. Even if you fail at everything, it will all be OK in the end. Let’s say you achieve nothing with your life: you don’t find a good job; you don’t make friends; you end up living on the street; you become the “perfect loser”. Even if all these things happen, you can recover from them as long as you hold on for long enough without getting killed. Let that sink in for a moment:

To end up with an Eternal Blissful life, all you need to do is to survive. Even if you fail at everything, it will still turn out alright eventually.

And surviving is easy – especially when you live in the developed world. All you need to do is keep breathing, keep eating, and keep protecting your body. You don’t need to conquer the world. You don’t need a perfectly happy marriage. You don’t need to be the best possible version of yourself. You don’t even need to be happy in your Current Life.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should quit your job right now and start living on the street. You Current Life might not be as crucial as you used to think, but it still holds value. You should make every effort to turn your Current Life into something worthwhile. You should strive to avoid hardships; take precautions; meet disasters with a steady gaze; give 100% to your relationships; search for a satisfying job; and aim for the highest possible levels of well-being. You should try to achieve the things that are important to you. But in the back of your mind, you can draw solace and encouragement from the fact that all of these things are ultimately optional. If success in any of these enterprises escapes your grasp, it’s not the end of the world. A healthy and fulfilled Current Life merely increases your chances of attaining an Eternal Blissful Life.

Note how similar the above lines are to the following quote from this book about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

There is nothing in the world that can change your worth as a human being. Your worth as a human being is certainly not dependent on your achievements. Nor is it dependent on the approval you get from others. You also don’t need romantic love. All of these things are nice to have, but they are optional. You don’t need them in order to be happy.

It’s not healthy, psychologically, to care too much about your external circumstances. It leaves you prone to despondency when things don’t go your way. So if believing in an Eternal Blissful Life helps you retain perspective and composure in times of trouble, then all the better.

When Hamlet famously asked himself: “To be or not to be?”, he was trying to decide whether it’s worthwhile to continue living when life contains so many hardships. Or is it “nobler in the mind”, he wondered, to “take arms against a sea of troubles”, and bring an end to life itself?

I have found a clear answer to this question: life is absolutely worth it. Because no matter how relentless our sea of troubles might be, in the end we’ll be able to enjoy an Eternal Blissful Life that’ll overshadow any previous horrible experiences we might have endured.

a man looking at a beautiful landscape
Time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture!