The L.A. Times (those nutty left-wing liberal media, Birkenstock wearing, hemp loving, peace and granola eating kooks that they are) had a crazy notion yesterday in the Booster Shots section of their Web site: using 2010 to focus on being… get ready for it… happy. Yup, good ol’ happiness.
During my drive into work this morning, I was thinking this one over. My morning drive used to be music or sports talk radio to speed myself along during the drive. However, over the last month or two of work, I have instituted the “quiet drive” where I don’t put on any music and just use those 20 minutes or so to think.
My thought from this morning was pretty simple: I truly believe that the overarching goal of almost any human being is to seek out happiness. That’s it. Numero uno. The trick is what approach we each take to get there because obviously, not everyone is happy in this world.
So if you work from my assumption that everyone has happiness as their #1 goal in life (whether consciously or unconsciously), why are so many people missing that target? Are you just out of your mind Kuzia?
The answer to the second question is a clear and emphatic, yes I am. For the first question, I think it’s because the paths we each choose to attain happiness either cause us an undue amount of distraction from our final goal or they put off present-state happiness for the magical goal of happiness on the horizon.
Think of a high-powered business executive or doctor or lawyer. Why do they spend 60, 70 and 80 hours a week in their jobs with all of the stress and pressure? It could be because they love what they do, but that’s not going to be everyone (and I would assert not even the majority). So if it’s not for love of the job, it’s for what the job would enable them to do. The money that allows them to put their kids through private schools or college or save for retirement. Each of those goals would be some form of happiness. “If my child goes to a great college, then that’s going to make me happy.” OK, they might not think of it in such direct terms, but you get the idea. It’s always a question of sacrifice for some longer term goal on the idea that the present anguish will yield results that will make those sacrifices worth it.
But does that really happen? Is it really worth it if you are plugging away for years in something you don’t enjoy? If you are doing all of this to provide for something for your family (big house, nice vacation, expensive college, etc.) but you are miserable to be around all the time, is that really helping your family out?
Or on the distraction notion. This is one I know I fall into all the time. You want to achieve X goal and think you are doing the right things to get there… except you are busy all the time and get pulled into focusing on a lot of separate things in life which may or may not be important. Then you lift your head up 6 months later, see you are no closer to your happiness goal, make a few snazzy lists and then put your head down again and go through the same cycle.
All of this would seem to suggest that happiness as a goal is a goofy pursuit… that it’s either far too nebulous or achieving it is more a matter of luck. Poppycock. It’s neither of those things.
Happiness is a worthwhile goal, but you need to do more to be happy in the present moment (God forbid) while you are pursuing your goals for long-term happiness. Believe me – I am not at all the kind of guy who does not see the value in near-term sacrifice for long-term gain. That’s a big part of my life… but does that really and truly mean you have to be in a murky gray sky limbo until you reach that horizon place? And even worse, think about how any horizon is… it’s never a reachable spot. Run at it as hard as you want… it always stays the same distance away.
OK, not a perfect analogy if you have a goal as a fixed thing, but you see my point. It’s really easy to keep putting off any kind of present joy for a never-ending series of horizon happiness points. And I should know… I do it too.