We Americans are obsessed with happiness. Dozens of books are written on it. I even took an online assessment grading my “Happiness Quotient.” I was ultra depressed when I took the little test and scored a very happy person. Weird!
A few years ago I was on a flight when the person next to me asked the normal inane question, “So, tell me, what do you do?” (Ugh!) After very briefly explaining my career at the time, she then asked, “But are you happy?”
Huh? Am I happy? First, what business is it of hers? But even more important, I’m not even sure what she wants to know. Happy. What is it?
Maybe I’m confused because I don’t think happiness is our real issue. Sure, happiness is nice, but…
Happiness Really Isn’t Enough
Content or satisfied or excited, or an even better word is fulfilled. These are states of being that mean something. They’re significant. And they surpass mere “happiness.” They define a life worth living. As you know, I want my life to make a difference and if you are continuing to read these posts then I imagine you want the same thing.
My friend Lisa was an unusually successful composer of scores for movies in Hollywood when she was quite young (20 to early 30’s). But she found the business slimy—people stealing credit for her work, stupid and unrealistic deadlines. “Score” is one of the final pieces of a film and although she was contracted to have 3 weeks to compose a musical score, because of unplanned (although normal) delays she would have to compress her 3 week deadline to 3 days. Yes 3 pressure-filled, non-sleep days of hammering out music for a movie.
After becoming very successful and winning awards she had the chutzpah to say screw it and start a business in another creative field. She wasn’t happy. But even more exactly, she was discontented, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and unacceptably stressed out. The highwaymen of life robbed her of the joy she once found in writing music. So she took a different road. Today, in her new career, she is successful, challenged, learning, and contributing to the success of dozens of businesses and individuals by using her creative skills.
Do Something, Change Something, Fix Something
I love Lisa’s story. She refused to “settle.” I can relate. Can you? My first refusal to settle came to me as young as 7 years old when I quite literally ran away from a toxic home and went to live with (and eventually be adopted by) another family; in 1970 I quit college and a full athletic scholarship at UCLA to hitchhike across the US for 3 ½ months on $200; later on I blue-collared my way up to manage more than 100 people at a carpet mill, then I became a theologically trained minister and finally went into business as a strategic planner and executive coach.
Did my moves make me happy? Sure they did (for the most part). But much more than making me happy, I was doing something adventurous and daring; things that would end up giving me a sense of confidence and meaning and fulfillment.
I guess I don’t think “happy” is a very helpful word. I’d rather ask the questions, “Are you excited about what you are doing?” “Are you, in any way, an asset in the lives of other people – do you make them smile or contribute to their well-being?” “Are you growing personally and are you giving?” “Even in the smallest of ways, do you mean something on this planet?”
Mean Something to Others and Yourself
I have a challenge for you. Think about last week and consider the following questions:
- How did you help someone else?
- How did your activities benefit you?
- Where did you find joy or satisfaction or personal enrichment?
- What was toxic?
Remember you are here on this planet to make a difference and we at Right Things believe that you can do so by living with meaning, adventure and awe.
Now, consider the suggestions below:
- Continue to make a difference in the lives of other people. A simple smile or laugh counts.
- Compliment at least one person every single day.
- Do something at least twice a week that enriches you. Such “somethings” can include a movie, reading, taking a class, having a meal with a dear and trusted friend, or taking a nap. For me it is reading, writing, painting, time with friends and of course, movies—at least 2 per week.
- Finally, figure out a way to remove or mitigate that which is toxic. I know this is super-difficult because we’re often talking about family issues—a spouse or children or extended family. Or it’s also often all about work.
Personally I look at it this way. Life really is short and I’m the only one who is responsible for me, just as you are the only one responsible for you. So be intentional and make your Conscious Choices. All actions, however, require brutal and rigorously honest communication with yourself first.
So… are you happy? Who cares? The better question is “Are you doing SOMETHING than means something to you?” It’s your life. A sure-fired way to make your life great is to be a giver—to others as well as to yourself.
Man. I’d love to know what you do to make a difference. Fill up the comments section. Also, if you think I’m nuts, let me know.
Image courtesy of artur84>