Picture this scenario: You work in a job you hate. It takes all your energy, your effort and time. There are always fires to put out, people relying on you, deadlines to meet. The stress is constant and unending. You work more to climb the corporate ladder. To keep your job so no one with better, newer qualifications can swoop in. To play the game.
You spend less and less quality time with your family and when you do, you’re too tired. Too burnt out. Maybe you snap easily at them. Constantly argue with your partner. You’re not the same person you once were. You don’t remember the last time you had any real fun. You’ve forgotten what that was like. Who you really are.
You live for weeknights, the weekends and vacations once or twice a year. When you come home from work, you just want to unwind and relax in front of the tv. But you can’t. You’ve got to cook dinner, tidy the house, get the kids sorted, do laundry, wash dishes, etc. You have to put out fires at home, too.
Your health isn’t what it used to be either. You don’t have the time to workout. You eat whatever and whenever you get a chance. You’ve put on more weight than you’d care to acknowledge. You’ve not made yourself a priority in a long time. You can’t plan too far in the future, because you find it hard enough keeping up with the day-to-day. You wish you could win the lottery so you didn’t have to work.
Why do you do it? The money. Because it pays the bills. It provides security for you and your family. You have people depending on you. You’ve got a lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to, to maintain. It’s what everyone has to do, isn’t it?
Does this sound familiar. Maybe this is you. Maybe it’s someone you know.
People like this put up with dead-end jobs they hate because they’re stuck. Or they think they are. They rarely get a chance to do anything fun, or new or exciting. They don’t realise how much of their life and quality of life they are sacrificing to make money. When did money come before our health, our families, our relationships, our children, our happiness, experiencing life?
Pleasure. The Greatest Hits.
What makes these people happy? Time off. But what do they do with their time off? Shopping. Buying things they don’t need. Drinking. Socialising with like-minded people. Maybe drugs or gambling. These are the temporary hits of pleasure. The highs of society. They are quick sudden bursts of a thrill, enjoyment or satisfaction. But that feeling doesn’t last. So when you come down from that high, you want to do it some more.
This is how addiction starts. We’re so unhappy with our lives that we need little hits of pleasure to make us feel better about ourselves or our lives. This is the making of an alcoholic, shopaholic, gambler and drug user. The hits can’t mask the stress of a job you hate or a life you’re unhappy about. They can’t fill that void you feel.
Maybe you limit drinking to the weekends or just have the one glass or two every night with dinner. That’s where it starts. Next thing you know, you drink till you fall asleep every night and wonder why you’re never well rested which adds to your constant exhaustion. Or you find you overdo it socialising on weekends to make up for the shitty week you’ve had or to forget how unhappy you are.
Maybe you’re just the shopper. There’s nothing wrong with that surely? Less damage to your health. You buy things to make your house look nice or to feel better about yourself. A new pair of shoes, a new lipstick or handbag, a new outfit here and there. You’re not hurting anyone. Next thing you know you’ve got a few maxed out credit cards, are drowning in debt but still looking for that next hit. Maybe that new late night tv exercise machine that you won’t ever use, but this wine is making it seem so appealing. Do you still think being more and more in debt doesn’t affect your health?
Maybe it’s the things you buy that makes you feel better about your life. A status. Showing others what you have. Getting the latest trends in fashion or technology. Something to show that you’ve made it in the world and you’re better than your friends or neighbours. It becomes a competition. Who’s got the better stuff. Who can spend more on presents or has the fancier, new car. Trying to keep up with appearances. It’s a never ending cycle because there’s always something new out there to get, someone to outdo.
70% of people who win the lottery go bankrupt in a few years. That says a lot about how we deal with money. If we’ve worked all our lives and we suddenly get a flood load of money, what do we do? We quit our jobs. Then what? We do what makes us happy and all along, what’s made us happy is to spend money on things we don’t need, partying, socialising, gambling, drinking, drugs. We continue searching for those hits because that’s all we know.
You swap money for pleasure hits and society’s highs. That’s not sustainable living. We’ve been led into thinking that material things will make us happy. When you finally upgrade your house, win the lottery or get the latest model of car before your neighbour, you’ll be happy. It’s not a competition. Material satisfaction doesn’t last. That’s not happiness.
When we put our lives on hold for the day when we achieve something, gain that material gift to ourselves, get that raise or receive some accolade that proves we’re better than others, that’s us wasting our lives. Happiness is not a final destination to be waited for. What are we trying to prove? And to who? We have finite days to live and yet we’re wasting our time trying to attain false happiness. For what?
We can’t take our material goods or money with us when we die. What good is it being the richest, best, prettiest or most famous corpse in the cemetery? Sure, you’ll probably get a bangin’ headstone, but that’s not happiness.
It’s not something that you earn from being a good person or that you stumble on by being at the right place at the right time and it sure as hell isn’t waiting around for someone else to make you happy. That’s not happiness. Only YOU can make you happy.
What the Eff is it?
Happiness is made by you deciding to be happy first and foremost. It’s something that you decide to be. You can change your life just by changing your mind. Never forget that we each have control over how we feel at all times.
Happiness is not something to be forced or looked for external to ourselves, it’s something that you are, it’s inside you. It’s a state of being. So first of all, let’s decide to be happy. Make that the priority. Now let’s work on strengthening that happiness state in the world around us.
So you’ve made the decision to be happy, but it’s so hard to keep it going. If our lives are in turmoil or our world’s are crumbling around us, our convictions and beliefs can be shaken. That’s where our own personal values, passions and purpose comes in. We use these to help create a world around us that reinforces our happiness.
When you discover your passions and purpose it will lead you to your sustainable happiness. You’ll fill the hole in your life that’s been missing. You have all the tools you need to be happy right now, all you have to do is look inside yourself to discover them.
Once you know what they are, use them to influence your environment. Get that job you’ve always wanted. Focus on your goals, work towards something meaningful, something bigger than yourself.
We’ve seen it many times, people retire, they stop having goals, plans, things to look forward to. They get tired of chasing highs and give up. Their health deteriorates. They lose drive, enthusiasm, excitement for life. Sound familiar? This doesn’t mean that we should keep chasing highs. It means we should find something more long-lasting, more fulfilling, more worthwhile. Something to keep being happy about.
The best way I can think of to start being happy in your current life, is to spend more time doing things that you love to do. Get hobbies you can be passionate about, start side projects that lift you up, plan trips you can look forward to, get out and see and experience more of the world and get a job you love and that makes your heart sing. We spend so much of our time at work. Do what you love, then you won’t feel the need to chase highs.
Happiness is a state of being. When you’re in this state often enough, it results in fulfilling and renewable bliss. Your life becomes great. You feel amazing. Others around you notice and are infected by it. Opportunities pour in and problems no longer seem insurmountable. That’s what we should be chasing.
When you have a job that you love, it won’t seem like work. It’ll get you up and excited to start the day each morning. You’ll have the energy to spend more time with your family and friends. You’ll become someone that people will love to spend time with. They’ll be drawn to your energy. Lead by example. Show your kids that life is more than working your butt off in a job you hate.
Money might give you short bursts of pleasure, but it won’t give you happiness. It doesn’t mean money is evil and we shouldn’t consider it at all. Money gives you freedom. It gives you the opportunities to spend time, make memories and increase happiness for and with others.
The Bigger Picture
Money gives you the chance to help those that are in need. There’s nothing more satisfying or rewarding than helping someone who needs it or those less fortunate than ourselves. Too often we get bogged down in our own little worlds. We only see what’s right in front of us and worry and stress over the little things.
There are people who are in worse situations than you. The homeless, the starving, the human rights victims, the abused, the ill, the exploited, the neglected, the persecuted, for example. Then of course there are the animals who can’t fend for themselves and the environment that is deteriorating. The world needs help. Choose a cause to support and you’ll have something bigger than yourself to focus on and better perspective on the world and life in general.
We don’t need a lot of ‘things’ to be happy. Family, friends and loved ones is what it’s all about. Connections and relationships and moments and experiences with those we love, are worth more than gold.
But you can’t be happy if you’re in a place of pain. If you have nothing to look forward to; Nothing to live for. If you go to work in a job you hate and feel stressed all the time, you’re setting yourself up for failure and no amount of lipstick is going to change that.
Decide to be happy. Discover what happiness means to you i.e. look internally. Make the changes to help keep you there. Change your world then change someone else’s. That’s the secret to long term happiness.