Are You Happy?

21 Jul

No matter how well our lives are going none of us lives a perfectly happy life. There are always unfulfilled dreams, wishes, and promises. There are many times of frustrations. There are tensions. We suffer from the torment of living an insufficient life; there is no completion in this life. So how can you be happy?

This is the wrong question to ask. How about asking yourself: “Is my life meaningful?” Is there meaning in your life? Is there meaning in your job or occupation? Is there meaning in your marriage? Is there meaning in your relationships with your family and friends?

When you ask these questions happiness may exist or it may not. The attraction to pursue happiness becomes less. When you pursue meaning happiness may be unimportant.

We often fantasize what it would take for us to be happy. We want to live in a bubble so we would be free from pressures, tiredness, physical pain, relationship problems, financial worry, bad jobs, bad people. Pursuing happiness will superficially suggest that you will have everything perfect and that you will be content: perfect health, perfect spouse, completely fulfilled relationships, perfect job, no anxiety, no disappointments, all the money and time to enjoy the good life. But this will never happen. Happiness won’t stay very long when any of these things happens for too long.

Meaning is happiness. A life that is pursued for meaning will sustain happiness. What is meaningful in your life? What area of your life are you striving to find meaning in?

A few evenings ago I was trying to study neurology (this is one of the better ways I find to unwind for a day…I know I need to get a life, someone told me that a few weeks ago). It was evening and I was watching a show on the History Channel. The episode was about a New York lawyer who did not feel successful after starting a law firm and having over 200 associates. He began selling phony hedge funds. He was selling millions of dollars of worthless paper but he was living the high life: boats, planes, exotic trips, you know, American happiness. When the market began dropping a few years ago, the hedge financiers came wanting their money and he didn’t have it so he began shifting money from one fund to another. The story ended with him sitting in jail for 20 years. All in the pursuit of happiness.

During the show I wasn’t really studying; I studied during commercials but I wasn’t really studying. I was intrigued by the show. But when it was over I realized I wasted a perfectly good hour that I should have been studying; I couldn’t take anything away. I should have been doing something that was meaningful. My daughter is taking a couple of summer classes and the next night I told her about what I experienced while she was watching TV and trying to study. She turned the TV off.

There will always be something more entertaining and distracting than what you think you need to be doing. You can’t pursue “happiness” without being disappointed — all happiness turns disappointing after awhile. Rather, living with meaning negates all happiness. Happiness isn’t really all that important when you pursue meaning. But you will add value to your life and the lives of those around you when you live it with meaning. Ask yourself: “What is important right now? What should I really be doing for my health, marriage, job, friends, kids? There can be deep meaning in something even if there isn’t happiness in the way we superficially conceive it.