On Happiness or Lack of It
This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on August 16, 2017.
Pursuit of happiness is a right given to us by the American constitution.
Is there any sane human being who does not yearn to be happy and continuously so?
Seeking and living a life of pleasure might make you happy in the short run but miserable in the long run. It is like sugar. Sweet and gratifying while consumed but with side effects when consumption is discontinued.
Drugs, sex without love, rich food, all have this short-term gratification outcome to be followed by a feeling of emptiness.
People that pursue happiness are takers. Take from life as much as possible in anyway that will gratify and as soon as possible. When the “ taking” stops the person feels like a baby who is pulled away from his mothers’ breast and not allowed to breast feed anymore.
So, what makes people happy in the long run?
A meaningful life.
People that have meaningful life are givers not takers. In the short run they might be miserable. Giving, sacrificing, is hard work but in the long run it fulfills. Take being a parent. It does not make you happy to have, for instance, a rebellious teenager but over time there will be moments of absolute happiness (Usually when the grandchildren arrive.)
So, pursuit of happiness through seeking pleasure is gratifying in the short run, miserable in the long run.
Pursuit of meaningful life is miserable in the short run, but gratifying in the long run.
This insight explains to me why people who had an active and productive life die soon after retiring. They feel useless. People who continue to contribute to society, continue to live longer.
Did you note those retired older people volunteering to be receptionists at hospitals or to direct people to the right elevator?
There appears to be a need to be needed.
And the longer you feel needed the longer you will live.
People that have a purpose in life behave as if possessed. They are. By the purpose of their life. They do not get annoyed by “little things” that drive those that seek real time happiness up the wall.
They have “bigger fish to fry”. Their eyes are focused on the horizon, not on the pebbles that might annoy their feet.
To live a meaningful life do not ask yourself WHY you exist. You won’t find the answer. Ask yourself WHAT FOR you live. There must be a purpose. To what are you dedicating your life to?
Be a giver. Give as a parent, worker, lover, son or daughter.
Give to the community. To the weak and needy. Give to art. To anything that needs you. That inspires you. Fill your life with a purpose beyond your own needs.
Have gratitude that life enables you to make others happy and in their happiness you find your own.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes