Pursuing “the happy.” Being content, emotionally satisfied, and joyful. It’s a common goal, right? “The Pursuit of Happyness” was an endearing movie starring Will Smith, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” became a runaway hit song from Bobby McFerrin, and the happy face emoji lights up the screens of our smartphones. So, why can’t any of us seem to find our happy place? Or, have we found it and just don’t realize we’re there already?
Busy, Busy Lives
At first, I just wrote the subheading as “busy lives,” but then I realized life is getting even busier for most people. Just when you think more can’t be added onto the day, there’s another task at the office or one more email to send. Oh, and did you remember to phone Jackie or fill out the form for the school trip for your child next week?
So, yes, we’re busy. And it’s come with a price.
Lack of Connection
People are looking at their smartphones more than at one another’s faces while rushing to and from appointments. There isn’t the same level of intimacy between people anymore.
True, I’m generalizing, I know it. Not everyone is this way. But the last time I was sitting at Tim Hortons, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of people eating while staring at their phones rather than talking to the person on the other side of the table.
Where Does the Time Go?
Family demands are juggled with work and daily chores. Many people feel there is not enough time in the day for all of the tasks that need to be accomplished. I used to joke that there should be 25 hours in a day. Now I realize that the extra hour would be spent with more activities rather than being spent relaxing. More time just means filling it with more stuff from a bigger to-do list.
Oh, the to-do list! It grows regularly. Moreover, so many of the tasks are a high priority. Add in the healthcare professionals that explain regular exercise and a healthy diet will help people live longer, and the list grows even more. Now you have to remember to get to the gym and eat right too! Sleep deprivation is becoming an unhealthy trend.
Speeding Toward… Where, Exactly?
The speed race is moving toward being happier or more content, right? Or is it? The busy day ends, only to start over the next morning when you wake up. Again it’s a mix of family-related tasks, work, and household chores that you peck at with a fury, trying to get them completed in the shortest amount of time. Once those tasks are done, move to the next set of priorities. The cycle continues.
So, along with feelings of being very busy, people often feel they are peddling without getting anywhere. Picture a bicycle on the wrong speed attempting an uphill climb; the pedals move quickly while making minimal progress. Perhaps there is little advancement at least partially because of how busy everyone else is today; there are fewer people with time to help one another complete their lists.
Consider, for example, someone working in an office where the supervisor is too busy with his or her own schedule to notice that individual’s accomplishment on the latest marketing project. While the project is important to that person, it may have little or no impression in the speed race that peddles the supervisor’s day. The boss is caught up in the revolving door of tasks to be completed in his or her own pursuit of happiness. In the process, the boss overlooks the employee. Relationships dissolve or lose their strength.
Yet the employee continues to work at that office. Why? One reason is the money earned by working there, which translates into the ability to pay bills. The job also plays a role in larger career goals. Perhaps the employee thinks, “If I work hard now, it will pay off in the future.” The vision of the happy future. What makes the future “happy” is based on personal preferences.
Deciding on What is Happy
“Happy” often gets lost when people are caught up in their daily activities. They forget the bigger picture. Life is too short not to be happy NOW, regardless of whether the dishes are washed or all the papers on the office desk have been sorted. Rather than enjoying what people have NOW and what they have accomplished in their lives, they often focus on the future instead. They look toward what they will acquire or do in the future. They are in pursuit of happiness in a speed race going nowhere.
If they stopped peddling, I wonder if they would see that they already have many things to be happy for? Would there be a moment to breathe and re-evaluate the joyful moment of the present?
Often people look at future activities as increasing their levels of happiness, without enjoying where they are right now in life. I propose slowing down the speed on the race. And even stopping altogether sometimes to see what’s on the side of the road you’ve peddling down. Each person has that power. Realize there is happiness in the present, and watch levels of stress decline.
Put down the cell phone; it will still be there in an hour.