Friday, July 20, 2012

Being Happy

A few years ago, I worked as a secretary to a young businessman. He had a good job, a secure position, a wonderful wife and three young sons. My boss decided to quit his job, sell his house and move his family an hour's drive away to be closer to his family.

This seemingly drastic relocation caused the rest of the staff to question its wisdom. The result meant that his family was undergoing several changes at the same time and caused ripples on many fronts. In the years since, I also left that job and had lost track of the young man.

Recently I ran into one of my fellow co-workers from that office. After chatting for a few minutes, the name of my former boss came up in conversation.

"Say, how is Mr. X doing?" I asked.

"Oh, he's very successful. Has generated a lot of business. They built a new house. Two of his sons are in college now and making good grades," was the reply.

I paused. "No, I was wondering about Mr. X. Do you think he is happy?"

My friend stared at me blankly. "Happy? I don't know. Who IS happy these days?"

Obviously this conversation was going nowhere. My friend and I chatted on casually and soon went our separate ways.

I suppose the reason that I included happiness as a means of evaluation is that I consider happiness to be the ultimate goal in life.

Being happy is something that everyone can control. It doesn't cost anything and doesn't require bulky equipment or the consumption of medication or other substances. Being happy means different things to different people. As the saying goes, you can choose to be happy or unhappy. It sounds simplistic, but I believe that is true.

To some, happiness means being in charge of their own life. That can include not having a nagging spouse or demanding children, a micro-managing boss or burdening debt. It might mean enjoying good health. Perhaps it means pursuing a task/job/hobby that is significant and provides stimulation and reward. Happiness is something we value and usually the result of small moments of contentment.

It might be hard to find two people with the same definition of happiness. To desert nomads, it might mean finding unspoiled surroundings in which to spend time. To hungry travelers, it might mean finding a good restaurant after a long drive. To someone undergoing a financial setback, it might mean locating work with a decent wage. It's all subjective.

It seems to be a term often used rather carelessly. "Oh, that makes me happy" is a phrase a young mother might use when her infant eats his veggies. We laugh at a funny movie if it provokes a smile or chuckle. That is the same response given when receiving a much-anticipated Christmas gift. It might mean the delight found in cutting into Mom's chocolate cake. Each of these actions can make us happy and yet they are not similar.

Life seems tenuous at best. We tend to get caught up in arriving and leaving on time, achieving results at home and at work and purchasing items we don't need. Such rather unimportant tasks absorb and dominate many hours of time, leaving little opportunity for the things that really matter. Sometimes retirement provides the necessary time. But there are people who never know that makes them happy and they fail to recognize happiness at any age.

Each of us should learn to understand what makes us happy. Then we need to find and spend time doing what we like. Like my shirt from the "Life is Good" store says: "Do what you like. Like what you do."

It's rather simple really. Be happy.

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