The Truth About Happiness: 5 Lessons Learned Along The Road Of Life
Happiness isn’t so Far Away
Before I launch into this potentially patronizing column, I think I had better explain to you my position in the world of happiness.
At the age of 48, on my second marriage, with 4 children and 2 grandchildren, I can honestly say I have a better relationship with happiness than I have ever had before.
That does not mean, however, that I am happy all the time.
What it means for me is that I have a better idea of where happiness is for me, and I am confident that I making the healthy choices that bring me happiness without unduly impacting others around me.
This article is not definitive
Like many, I am on a journey. I will never have all of the answers, and my insights change as my awareness and my experiences change—and change me. In this column, I am simply seeking to raise awareness.
I am lucky enough to be on my second career and one in which I continually learn about myself all the time. Prior to this incarnation, I had a really successful, national, award-winning career in sales and sales directorship.
Looking back at my career and my track record of driving myself and teams to success, a great deal of it was part of my search for happiness. Searching, I might add, in the wrong places.
Where was I searching for happiness?
I thought that being successful would make me happy, that earning the admiration of colleagues, bosses, and family would make me happy, and that the car, the house, the job title that came with my impressive CV and career would make me happy.
Of course, over time, I learned that they did not. I noticed my behavioral patterns and realized that each time I achieved something, I felt great but only for a time, and then I was on to craving and working towards the next milestone.
In other words, each time I succeeded, it did not bring me the happiness I thought it would, so I thought the next challenge would be the one, and so on.
Moments of insight
I was lucky. I lost my career as a result of a change process. It hurt at the time, but it was fortuitous for my physical and emotional health. It set me on a voyage of discovery.
Part of that discovery process was realizing that all the time I had been driving myself forwards, I was overlooking the very thing that could help me enjoy life and be happy, and that thing was… me!
To put it another way, I realized that intense drive and need to achieve was a self esteem issue. Each time I found success, I thought I also achieved respect, likeability, and love.
It is only looking back that I realize my family always loved me no matter what, my friends like me for who I am, not what I am, and that respect is something that comes from within.
Searching for happiness in the wrong places
Over the years, these are the places I have looked for happiness.
- Relationships – I’ll love you if you will love me. I’ll be your friend if you will be mine.
- Work – Obviously, all successful people are happy… right?
- Money – Of course, you can buy happiness… can’t you?
- Stuff – Money buys stuff, and you can never have too much stuff… true?
- Comparing myself to others – Not that I’m competitive, but measuring myself against others is a sure fire way to feel good about myself.
- Valuing others’ opinions of me – Of course if, you all affirm me as an awesome person it must be true… mustn’t it?
What have I Learned?
It’s my responsibility: I’ve learned that it is not others’ role in my life to respect me, love me, like me, and listen to me. The more I rely upon others for this, then the lower my sense of self is, and pretty soon my happiness is completely dependent upon the opinions of others. It’s as if my happiness and my life becomes one, where I am stuck in a nightmare reality game show where the ongoing votes of viewers into my life are what determine my level of happiness.
Stuff does not equal happiness: I’ve learnt that stuff and the endless accumulation of stuff does not make me happy. It is actually an addiction to dopamine which I get a shot of every time I achieve things. Once the dopamine fades away, what I am left with is not what I thought it was, and I’m off on the search for the next hit. The bigger house, the faster car, the higher promotion.
Money does not make you happy: It takes away a lot of fears, but it does not bring with it happiness. Have you ever said to yourself, “Just give me a lottery win, and I’ll be okay”? Have a look at stories of lottery winners and how happy they are in reality. The fact is, if you are unhappy, being poor becomes an excuse for your unhappiness. If the next day you win the lottery, you simply become a rich, unhappy person, all your excuses get taken away, and you are faced with your unhappy self. That’s a brutal and painful place to be.
It’s my gift to myself: The most important thing I have learned is that my happiness is the gift I can give myself, and no one else can do this for me. I have learned it is about my choices, the ones I make, and the ones I take responsibility for. It’s about being aware of my behaviors and having a healthy sense of self.
Most of all, I’ve learned that being happy with myself is essential to my happiness.
My three messages
- Don’t spend energy looking for happiness in the future—that’s a waste… The things we think will make us happy rarely do. Find your happiness now.
- Choose a career/occupation that either contributes to or makes you happy, and then try to make money from it. That way, if you don’t make money, you are still happy.
- By all means, have dreams, ambitions, and goals. Just do not bank your present and future happiness on them.
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