I’m not particularly happy right now. There are some problems at work, and I’m finding it increasingly hard to drag myself to the office every morning. It’s a hard thing to admit, because I’m doing what I love, and to a lot of my industry peers, this is a dream job. It makes me feel like I’m whinging for no apparent reason. Yet the feeling of unhappiness remains. Maybe that’s the problem. “More often than not, we just don’t know how to be happy. Instead we make ourselves miserable and let happiness occur seemingly at random. We have to learn to be happy.”
Here’s another one – “Count no man happy until he is dead” – Solon. According to this article, happiness isn’t a constant. It’s an accumulation of moments, so we have to keep seeking it, finding it, and re-seeking it when it lapses. To quote the article, “We like to think that continual happiness is something we can actually realize; who wouldn’t like to live life in perpetual bliss and joy, wandering around every day with a goofy smile on your face? Instead, it always seems as though it’s just out of reach and when we do achieve it, it proves to be all too fleeting and short-lived.”
A few days ago, I was offered an amazing opportunity. It was a side job that would pay double my monthly salary in less than two weeks. I turned it down because the terms and conditions were iffy. I would have to travel, which I don’t particularly enjoy, and I’d have to spend a potentially prolonged period ‘partying’ with people I don’t like. I’d have to be away from my princess, and I’d have to promote a product that I really, really detest. Plus, I didn’t like the attitude of the side-job boss. I figured the task was more trouble than it was worth.
I’m actually at peace with my decision, which bothers me, because nobody should be this comfortable about turning down that much money. Also, I got a half hour lecture and some silent treatment for – you know – turning down that much money. I’m always talking about how I want to earn more, but when someone offered it to me, I walked away because I didn’t like the delivery guy. It makes me worry that maybe I lack the mentality to be wealthy.
Refusing to do that side-job was a principled, emotional decision, and as far as I know, principles and emotions have no place in the business of getting rich. I often tell myself I don’t care about money – at least not in the abstract sense. I live a fairly simple life and am easily sated. That said, I do have expensive tastes. I like bacon and Converse sneakers and BMWs, all of which cost a lot of money. I feel suddenly sad thinking that if I want to own that X6 or that penthouse or that shoe-rack full of Converse, I might need to stop being so principled.
Last week, I wrote down a detailed game plan on how to get my salary doubled. This morning I stared at my desk in despair, because the game plan is deep, dark, convoluted, unnatural … and would involve a lot of sucking up. Somehow it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth it.
I suppose the real reason I’m unhappy is that I’m not where I thought I’d be at 32. I’ve convincingly argued that I’m actually not comparing myself to other people. I’m comparing myself to my vision. But when I really think about it, that vision was defined by … *dramatic sigh* … Lorelai Gilmore. In vaguely related news, my baby girl likes Nikki Minaj and One Direction. I know none of their songs, which means I am now officially this mom *pointing*at*the*video*down*there*pause*shudder*. She still loves me though, so yay!
In constructing this post, I bumped into a lot of articles about the true meaning of happiness. It’s the same things people always say – stop watching TV, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t sell out for a buck, be grateful for what you have. This article puts it quite nicely. It says if everyone could become a millionaire at 20 or win the Oscars, it wouldn’t be so remarkable. So we essentially compare ourselves to really rare things and end up stealing our own happiness.
The article suggests instead that you should focus on what you’ve done, not on how it compares to other people. Did you save up to buy your dream phone? Pass your driving test? Keep your job while others were retrenched? Write a popular blog post? Make an awesome drawing? Squeeze a compliment out of your grumpy boss? These are all cool things – and ironically, they’re things other people would love to achieve. Think about that for a second. “Take a look around your life. There’s a lot you should be proud of. Even if it seems silly or minor, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count.”
I’ve always wondered how to stop comparing myself to people, but when I look at it like that, accepting that I’m matching myself up against someone’s grandest achievement rather than their ordinary, everyday life, then it sounds really silly. I have lots of friends who get mad at me when I make genuine complaints about my life, because they want my life. And I didn’t even realize what that meant until a few months ago.
A friend of mine made a massive leap up the corporate ladder. Corner office, fancy title, social status, higher pay cheque, the works. Except he hates it. He misses his old job. I spent half an hour convincing him that the new job was a good thing, that he should make the most of it, that millions of people envy him – including me! And I didn’t realize till about five seconds ago that I was telling him to not to do the exact thing I’m doing right now. Sigh.
So I suppose that’s the place to start. Acknowledging that despite all the problems, I have a good job at a good firm [mostly] doing what I love and getting paid for it. Sure, there are parts of my job I detest, but maybe I can balance them out with the parts I enjoy. And maybe if I just train myself to focus on the gratitude, then it won’t be so hard to smile when I walk to my desk each morning.
Bottom line, don’t use others as a measure of your success, even if ‘others’ are Lorelai Gilmore. You don’t know what their life is like. “You’re comparing your raw footage to their highlights.” This – however – is no excuse for schadenfreude. Coz that’s just begging for bad karma. Also, non-comparison takes training. Lots and lots and lots of training.
The first lesson for me is that just because I feel powerless doesn’t mean I am. There’s always a step I can take, even a teeny, tiny baby one. I can’t control everything that happens, but I can control how I react, which is a good way of looking at things, since I’m such a control freak. A lot of my depressive episodes start when I feel like I’ve lost control of – well – everything. So this is a good lesson for me.
The article says positivity is a habit, and so is negativity. It suggests you take a positivity challenge, where you make a conscious choice to be positive about everything for 7 days. If you notice a lapse, even if it’s on day 6, start over. And you have to deliberately look for the bright side in everything, including yourself. You have to find the light at the end of the tunnel of your own faults and nasty character traits. Life really is all about perspective. I know this will be especially hard for me, given my history with depression, but I think it’s an experiment worth doing, and it could literally change my life, and yours as well.
Like the article says, “You have to be willing to think, ‘Yes, this sucks, but all will be well in the end. Life isn’t fair. Life just is. But you have a choice between guaranteed misery and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness isn’t something you’re given, it’s something you earn. If you want to be happy, you have to be willing to go out and create it. Shit happens. And when it does, you have a choice. Are you going to cowboy up and fight for a happier life, or just lay there and bleed?”
♫ Someday ♫ Nickelback ♫