That happiness thing

“Success is not the key to happiness,
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
Then you will be successful.”

I do not know the author of this quote, but we have it hanging as a beautiful banner in a hall. I believe it is important to be the best you can be at whatever endeavor you embark upon. But, it makes it far more rewarding if you enjoy what you are doing.

I am reminded of the successful producer of movies who, after closing on his beautiful home, realized this did not make him happy. He decided to make a documentary movie which he called “I Am,” about what makes people happy. After interviewing a number of sociologists, philosophers, doctors, religious leaders, etc., his conclusion was money did not buy happiness. But, the absence of money could cause unhappiness.

Using economic terms to describe this, as people earn money beyond funding basic needs of food, shelter and health, there is a “diminishing marginal utility” to having more. Once you have enough to survive with comfort, having more does not make you happier. This documentary reinforced doing something that gives you purpose.

Having said that, many of us cannot afford to do what we want. We have to do what we can to make ends meet. And, sometimes the ends don’t meet. So, find joy where you can be it work, volunteer work, helping friends and family, attending classes at the community college, hanging with your mates, practicing your faith, etc. Don’t let your job define you.

At almost 59 years of age, I can attest life can be hard. It can beat you up. So, laugh, sing and dance more and often. Be a friend and listen with both ears and help when needed. When times get rough, take it a day at a time and do what you can.

Billy Joel sang that it iseither sadness or euphoria” which defines our moments. I think we live most of our lives in between those two extremes. If we find ourselves leaning toward sadness, we need to change the scenery. When euphoric, we need to remember well those moments especially when the sad ones intervene. We should recognize euphoria is fleeting, so find contentment where and when we can.

In another old song, Bob Dylan offers the simplest advice to our complex challenges. Just “keep on keepin’ on.” It beats the alternative and helps us navigate those rough waters.


32 thoughts on “That happiness thing

  1. A wonderful post, Keith. The need of having more and more or meeting a certain level of “possession” in order to impress others or in order to belong puts such unnecessary pressure on us. That way, having less but therefore treasuring what we really have and being aware of all we really have makes us see how blessed we are. Yes, there will always be one who has more…. but for sure many who have less. So let’s be thankful!

  2. Interesting post. I don’t think I agree with this comment, however: “If we find ourselves leaning toward sadness, we need to change the scenery.” It seems to me that happiness, being a state of mind, demands that we change our way of looking at the scenery rather than the scenery itself. Too many people think that by moving somewhere else they will ipso facto be happy. Not true. They must alter their way of seeing the world around them. The Stoics taught us this long ago.

    • Hugh, you are correct. I use that term as a metaphor, although it has a physical aspect as well. I have heard therapists say if you are in an inward spiral, get up and do something to alter the scenario. If you are having “stinking thinking” challenge your thoughts and maybe go somewhere else. I recognize this oversimplifies a complex topic, and you are correct to point that out. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: Erika and my comments got me thinking about things that make me happy, not that we should keep score. Here are few odds and ends:
    – hearing my children laughing with their friends,
    – having a house that my kids feel comfortable bringing their friends to,
    – seeing my wife and kids doing something together in the kitchen,
    – impromptu affectionate hugs and/ or kisses with my wife,
    – walking with my wife while holding hands, especially at the beach,
    – and, so on.

    • Janis, many thanks. I have never been a clothes horse, car person or nouveau technology buyer. I have tended to buy what is needed and keep it. One car is ten years old and the other six. And, my iPhone and Laptop are five years old. They still work, knock on wood. I don’t need new ones to make me happy, so that is as good a current metaphor as I can find. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: The American founders were very careful in their definition of the overall rights of citizens – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Guaranteeing the right to happiness would have been a pipe dream. We should just do the best we can and find contentment where possible and treasure those moments of pure happiness or euphoria, using the term from Billy Joel’s song. Not ironically, the words come from his song called “Summer Highland Falls,” which is about surburban life and its numbing effect.

  5. Wise words, my friend. Over the years, as I gain the perspective that comes with life’s experiences, I have come to realize that, for me at least, ‘being happy’ is not the goal, but being content is much more achievable and satisfying. Perhaps it is simply a difference in how one defines happiness. But as an example, my friend H is constantly seeking something to make him happy. I argue that you cannot find “happy” from an external source, but rather it lies within, with learning to be content in your own world, content with the person you are. For me, I am ‘comfortable in my own skin’, though it took me some years to figure this out. I don’t seek euphoria, but am simply happy to be able to do what I do and be able to live with my conscience.

    Anyway … good post and definitely words of wisdom!

  6. Dear Keith,

    It is amazing to watch peoples with little having joy and happiness in their lives while there are rich folks who live in abject misery.

    Peoples with little (but above poverty levels) love doing many of the same things that rich folks do, like spending time in sharing a meal, playing games, telling stories with family and friends, or having adventures anywhere, or reading a great book, walking through a beautiful garden, blessing others. Having a lot of money takes lots of work and time to manage.

    Hugs, Gronda

  7. Good advice, as always, Keith. I think it is especially helpful to be a good friend and careful listener. That costs nothing but time…which can also be a commodity, but it reaps wonderful rewards.

  8. Great advice! I definitely agree with everything you said. Happiness it what keeps you going. Money doesn’t bring you happiness but not having money brings you unhappiness. I agree that to be successful you have to be happy.

  9. Great advice! I definitely agree with everything you said. To be successful you must be happy. Money doesn’t bring you happiness but not having money brings you unhappiness. I think people fail to realize how far you can go with your happiness.

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