Investing in Happiness

“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

  • John Lennon

I’m sure a lot of the following is subjective to each individual; however, I would say that at least some of it applies to a large percentage of our fellow humans.

People, along with the relationships and interactions between each person, are the best and worst parts of our life.

Consider this: on the positive side of that statement, the first things we come to care about when we come into this world is our parents. We form bonds with them, we look to them for comfort, help, and to care for us while we are still developing. As we get older and our journey through life goes on we expand our social base. We form ties with our extended family, we make friends, we find romantic partners of which may become our significant other. Some of those relationships fade with time, and some people may accumulate more close ties than others. However, a decent amount of people usually have at least a handful of close relationships of one type or the other in their life. These are the people we count on for support. The ones we desire to spend our time with. Make memories with, confide in, share an exciting story or news in a life event with. I would also like to add that our animal family should be counted in this. However, for the purpose of staying on topic, I’ll only focus on people.

On the negative side, the loss of someone we care about is unmatched, almost without exception, in our journey through life. Not only the loss of someone through the end of a life, but also a betrayal of trust, abuse, neglect, or even parting ways.  

What about the other parts of life? Money, career, area you live in, social status, a great house or apartment, a nice car, or any of the other parts of life that people chase after? Should those things not count for anything or be sought after? Of course they should count and be sought after. We need money to live, and the other items can add value to our life. The caveat to this, I believe, is not to make these kind of things the sole focus of life to be happy.

If a person puts the desire for wealth or social status (or something similar) above the relationships he or she has with others, those relationships could suffer and possibly be severed and lost. Perhaps the person becomes wealthy, admired by peers or colleagues, achieves accolades and notoriety. But does that person become genuinely and sustainably happy for such achievements? Especially if the pursuit costs the positive relationship of those that he or she once had? These ancillary aspects of life certainly help and are important, but these things are indifferent to those who possess them. Would ten million dollars in the bank console you after a difficult life event? Does a large, luxurious house provide any more warmth on a cold night than a modest house? Does that same luxurious house provide sustainable happiness if its rooms are not occupied with loved ones? After retiring from a lifetime of career advancement ultimately mean anything if there is no one to share those accomplishments with?

Again, these things are important and they certainly help improve life. Yet, the quest for these things is a never ending one. A person seldom reaches a level of satisfaction after obtaining these items. The person ends up needing more. The shiny new car purchased two years ago loses the emotional value it gave the person shortly after obtaining it. Achieving one career goal provides a fleeting sense of accomplishment before it no longer means anything and a new goal is chased after and that cycle continues until a person reaches his or her top performance or competency level. What is left after that if that desire to keep moving up still exists?

In the end none of those things matter. We have an disproportionate investment in the things that actually bring us happiness. We focus on the things that are indifferent to our feelings and emotions. We so often take for granted the people in our lives that genuinely do bring value and happiness to us and we lose focus on what really matters in life.

Have you ever had a relationship with someone you loved end because they no longer feel for you what you feel for them? Have you ever lost a close family member, friend or pet? Most of us have. During those difficult times did you ever have a thought along the lines of “I would give anything to change this.”? Was your car, house, or bank account your primary focus at that time? Did those things seem that important? Probably not. Because in those moments of tragedy, the truly important things in life become very clear. If only for a moment. Unfortunately, the farther in time we get from those moments, we lose focus on what matters and our focus shifts and we become lost in fog once again.

Be kind, remember what matters and invest your time and efforts accordingly.

 

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No Man is an Island?

What is a friend? If one were to Google this exact term, the definition given would be as follows: “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” In other words a friend, a true friend mind you, is someone a person can confide in. As well, trust is a major factor. A friend is not an acquaintance. Many people use the term “friend” very frivolously.

In this age of social networking, many people seem to collect people to add to their friends list. But, just how many of these people are actually friends? Or for that matter, provide some benefit to enhance our lives down the road? Most likely, not many. In fact most people can only handle between 100 and 230 relationships, with around 150 being the most common. This is known as Dunbar’s Number. This is an excerpt of the article:

“Dunbar’s number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

Despite all those ornamental friends on our social networking Christmas tree, people are feeling more isolated and lonely. A study by the University of Chicago demonstrates this.

“…while Internet social networks may make us feel that we know hundreds of people, research is showing that we feel more isolated than ever before. A 2006 study published in American Sociological Review found that people in the U.S. had fewer friends than they’d had 20 years prior. In 1985, the average American claimed to have three close confidants (which could have included spouses or family members, in addition to friends), but by 2004, the average American had only two close confidants. One in four people reported having no one to talk to at all.”

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/friends-average-person-have

It is quite interesting that in this age, with virtually a limitless availability of communication methods, that people feel so isolated. Perhaps society took for granted going to visit friends out of the blue. Or actually calling someone to catch up on the latest events in each others lives; rather than reading the news feeds.