Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Secret of (Occasional) Happiness

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." This quote is often attributed to Confucius but a minimum of googling will reveal that it's impossible to accurately credit anyone for it. However, I would argue that the truth of this particular adage is obvious. 

Unfortunately, reality is often a poor substitute for what should be. Life is indeed what happens to us while we make other plans. Rather than choosing a job we love, most of us are destined to choose the best job we can get. 

Then, once we have it, we have to decide if we're going to hang around or try and find a different one, a better one. And then, that the bright and shiny new job we get may ultimately turn out to suck sweaty socks. Oh well, at least it (hopefully) pays better. Hmmm, now what should I do, make the best of it or should I start looking for another job? If I...

[For the love of my higher power! exclaims Dana (I'm beginning to think it's not political correctness after all, that some organizations 12 step program is at work, but of course, it's none of my business), would it be asking too much to ask if this is going somewhere?]

Point taken. OK, let me put it this way. Getting paid to do a job we love is the ideal job. At this level you're actually getting paid to do your work, not a job. Your work is those one or two things that you would keep getting out of bed for if was revealed to you that (without a doubt) you only had a relatively limited amount of time left and that once you died, that was it, there was nothing coming next. I'm not claiming it's possible to be certain of either of the two preceding statements. Hey, it's just a thought experiment. 

You're work, as I define it anyway, could be anything from what you're doing in that secret laboratory hidden under the garage that not even your snifficant other knows about --  trying to create the new millennial Frankensteen -- to an obsession with collecting football cards.

Much research has been done to determine what makes us happy and the official answer is, well, one of 'em anyway, earned success (there's even a TED Talk). While I agree that earned success does make people happy, as well as the well-researched reasons as to why it does, what about all the folks that in spite of their best efforts have had to settle for limited success (at best)?

Worse yet, what about the individuals that led exemplary lives, always gave more than they got, and died, often badly, still worrying about how they were going to get the car repaired?

Someone to love that loves you back (a dog will do) and interesting work is the secret of (occasional) happiness. 

Oh, and before I forget, the word occasional is very important in that the nature of reality, on the planet Earth at least, is that everything contains its opposite and that opposites are two sides of the same coin. That statement requires its own column but it must be mentioned because you have to always keep in mind that while being happy all the time is impossible, so is being unhappy all the time. Just wait it out and try and consider not making any important decisions or doing anything dumb until the dark clouds pass. Trust me on this...  

[Caveat: Freely acknowledging that I'm not a mental/emotional health professional and that some would argue that even the world amateur overstates my qualifications, if you're happy, or miserable, all the time, there may be something wrong. Please consider contacting a professional.]

Someone to love that loves you back (a dog will do) and interesting work is the secret of (occasional) happiness.

I'm writing a column, not a book, so please forgive me for jumping to a worse case scenario and ignoring the gray shades. The answer for living with an extreme case of discontent, or just bad luck, contains the answers needed for dealing with less extreme cases. 

"But I don't love anyone and no one loves me, not even a dog." Bonkercockie. The minute you give up on the notion that love will fill you will light, solve all your problems, and make you, Happy (the Hollywood version of love), the sooner the smoke will clear. You like at least one someone, probably more than one. There's at least one someone, probably more than one, that likes you. When you stop pursuing/waiting for the Hollywood version you'll dramatically increase the chances love will find you. While you're waiting -- like, be kind, and be likable.

"Interesting work? I'm just not that into anything, never have been." Bonkercockie. The  minute you give up the notion that you'll find, and/or follow, your bliss and then you will be filled with light, all of your problems will be solved, and you will be, Happy (Hollywood again...), the sooner the smoke will clear. The owner of a successful vacuum cleaner repair shop (who's not deeply in debt and has no trouble paying his/her bills) who is indifferent to vacuum cleaners, but never tires of making the perfect pint of ice cream in the back room, has interesting work.

Good dog! Where's that goofy cat...  

Have an OK day.


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©2016 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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