Happiness . . .doesn’t all of our interest in being successful really mean that we are simply chasing the dream of being truly happy?
For many of us, our minds say “I will be happy when ….”
For me, I know I used think I would be there once I reached whatever goal I was working on. Then I would accomplish that goal and move onto the next without even stopping to take note. "Okay. I did it. I said I'd be happy when. I'm here now. Am I Happy?" This is what the “Joneses” do.
I realized that as I pursued more and more of the trappings (emphasis on the word “trap”) of what it means to be successful, I was completely missing the essence of what true contentment actually means.
As a goal and success oriented person, every time I accomplished a major goal (like getting my honors’ degree), I would not even pause or breathe before I moved on to accomplish the next goal (getting my master’s degree) and then the next (becoming a lawyer) and the next (buying a house), and so on. This relentless pursuit has persisted throughout my adult life. All of this success was at the expense of my sense of real happiness. I was putting living my life with true meaning on hold. My well-being suffered. I thought I created a life of deliberate living when, in fact, what I was doing was simply deliberately chasing goal after goal and doing so relentlessly. I was missing the whole point of having authentic happiness.
I had been experiencing a life full of the clutter of mortgage payments, bill payments, stuff, appointments, clients, staff, and all the work that goes in supporting those obligations. I had lost touch about the ways I could live more simply.
I have spent years being busy, really busy, pursuing success in all sorts of ways. I have been continuously driven to succeed not pausing for a moment to see that I was embroiled in a race of what western society has defined as success. I was involved in a race where the finish line was always set beyond my grasp.
I have been working full time running from one commitment to another. The whole time I was emailing, phoning (and now texting too - who doesn't love texting?). I would end my days, finally feeling like I could relax, by watching a not too mind taxing television show or movie, often not even pausing to think about where my day went, and only to get up the next day to do it all over again.
In my pursuit of success I never really took a pause to breathe and truly ask myself what authentic happiness meant for me. I thought it was something that would occur when I accomplished the next goal or the next. I am now looking for and remembering simple living ideas and the ways I can get there. There was always a hurdle placed in front of me (strategically placed in front of me by me of course and nobody else – such hurdles totally supported by our cultural expectations).
I did not stop this relentless pursuit until my body, marriage and being crashed. And I mean really crashed. It all caught up with me. In the summer of 2012 I was diagnosed with adrenal gland burnout and severe depression. I gained 35 pounds out of nowhere and was devastatingly sad. I could not stop crying or pull it together to do my professional work. I could only describe myself as “broken.”
Being success oriented, I did not pause and understand that real happiness is a way of being and it was not a goal or destination.
Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that we do not have to engage in this relentless rat race or “hamster wheel." Think simplicity.
Oh, and the really big key to making it all work, is to be in service, service to others and to our planet.
The bad news is that this process is challenging at times because it requires that you go to against the norms set out in our culture. It continues to amaze me how strongly other people will react when we try to do something “different.”
The other piece of bad news (at least for some) is that there is no quick fix when doing away with your inner Jones. It is a process that takes time, not only for the external realities in your life to change, but your internal reality to change also.
Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional