By Lynette Sowell
My front porch
My new “thing” this summer has been watching a few TED talks online. If you’re not familiar with TED talks, they’re not about a guy named Ted. TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design. The talks run the gamut from artificial intelligence, how to talk so people will listen, workplace leadership, and the arts. Talks can last anywhere from 10 to as much as 30 minutes.
I recently watched the talk “There’s more to life than being happy.” Now, that’s messin’ with a phrase from the Declaration of Independence and our Creator-bestowed rights, one of which is the pursuit of happiness. But what makes people happy?
People chase and pursue happiness, but I’ve seen that some people are never “happy” with what they gain, even if it’s something they longed for. That could be their own home, a good job, a spouse, good kids, decent health. But there inevitably comes a time when someone just isn’t “happy.”
What in the world is happiness, anyway? I feel happy with my first sip of coffee in the morning, but that’s not enough to carry me through my day. I feel happy after a conversation with a good friend and the laughs we share. I feel happy when spending time with my kids and grandkids.
The opposite of happiness, I believe, is discontentment. We might have obtained the things or the relationships we longed for. But what happens when the job doesn’t have the zing it once did, or the spouse isn’t that “perfect” person and the glow of first love is gone? What if it seems like someone else has a better deal, better house, better job, better outlook, better opportunities?
So the discontented one might believe a reboot is necessary. “Let me change my scenery, my home, my job, and (sometimes) my spouse. If I move, get a new job, get another man or woman, then I’ll be happy again.” That might work for a time, but like the old saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. Then, they’re right back in the same boat, discontented and making themselves and everyone around them miserable.
One of the elements of happiness, according to the “there’s more to life than being happy” way of thinking, is the reaching out beyond ourselves. Things and people won’t make us happy, not consistently. Satisfaction fades away and we’re left with that sense of discontentment, especially when we compare ourselves to someone else’s situation (see above).
How can we reach out beyond ourselves? We can look for someone to help. Is there a cause we can get behind? Visit a nursing home, deliver meals on wheels, volunteer at the animal shelter, work to make our community a better place to live. The possibilities are endless.
When we make our lives about ourselves and only what makes us happy, we deprive ourselves of the joy that comes from helping someone else, from being involved in something bigger than ourselves. Happiness, true happiness, isn’t about us, or for us.