Successfully happy?

Having taken both the dictionary definitions for success and happiness I am using the term “successfully happy” to refer to “the accomplishment of a state of well being and contentment”.

It often appears, however, in current culture, that success and happiness have become related to wealth or the spending of money. It seems we always want more. I’d like to think there’s a bit more to it all than this.

For many years I chased a career – higher earnings, increased status and responsibility. I used my income to invest in a better home, upgrade essentials of food and clothing and spend on leisure. In essence I did as most of us do – given the opportunity -  adjusting both spend and of course my ever changing definitions of want and need. It wasn’t particularly lavish but I was comfortable. The price I paid was increased work hours and associated stress. I have no regrets. I enjoyed my work (in the most part) but the chance to take a break and reflect leads to interesting deliberations.

I’m currently reading a book which looks at the relationship between wealth and happiness – it’s looking to determine what is “enough” in considering the work of a previous economist who predicted that by 2030 we would all work vastly reduced hours thereby increasing our leisure time and well being. While I’m only part way through two key points raised in trying to understand why this prediction failed to materialise are the satisfaction we now seem to derive from the workplace and the ever increasing and insatiable appetite for consumption.

As I travel my belongings have been greatly reduced and I certainly dream of returning to a lifestyle whereby I will not become entrenched on the treadmill that is life for so many. My head is churning the want and need debate much more. My mind feels sparky, full of ideas and opportunities. My heart feels open as I start to look at making these dreams my next reality. My challenge it still seems will be a break from all past behaviours as I plan what I may need to make this work. My return from earning is beyond monetary yet I am unsure quite how this will transpire. I’m aware my current position to travel has of course required cash.

It’s hard to break away from the norm. As individuals we just need to work out what makes us successfully happy. It’s when we just follow what we think people expect of us that we will feel discontent. The trick is honesty, with yourself and others regarding your definition.

Good luck and be happy.

Bungee

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

As we cycled through New Zealand it seemed there were opportunities to bungee at every bridge or skyline landmark. The land of adventure; a list of accomplishments.

Given I seem to have an ever increasing fear of heights this was a no, no for me, yet for many the thrill of leaping from a variety of platforms does, it seems, hold a great appeal. As I stood there watching these thrill seekers I couldn’t help but compare the act of bungee jumping with the process of change. Courage, fear, anticipation, excitement, relief. The levels at which these emotions are wrapped up can of course vary significantly on the decisions we are making.

We all have a different capacity for dealing with change. While some of us constantly seek something new there are many for whom a move from what is constant, stable and known to us is much harder. It’s easy to say but even when change is tough I have always tried to see the positives. We may not always be in control of what happens to us but we are in charge when we decide how we will react.

Making an active decision to jump off that cliff may be one of the toughest choices you ever have to make. For most people who bungee, despite stepping nervously, legs shaking and eyes confused between trying not to look while catching small glimpses of what’s to come, additional reassurance will come from safety records, from the harness they are attached to and of course the people supporting them to step off that edge.

It’s much easier to make changes and be in control than to act positively when others make decisions for you. So, get a harness, glimpse to the future and get folks around you but if you need to jump…..don’t put if off forever. That harness really will tie you in knots.

While I’m alive.

We cycled through Hokitika, on the West coast of New Zealand, a few days a go. On arrival we read of sculpture and driftwood artworks on the beach front and decided to take a look. Amongst what seemed to be remains of wood piles, next to the promenade, were half a dozen blackboards. Already painted with the words “before I die”, it was for visitors and passers by to complete the sentence with the chalk provided. I decided to take a look.

As ever with something so public the said passers by had chosen a variety of ways in which to respond. While some used it as an opportunity to state a more philosophical approach to life (be happy; make people smile), others used it as a chance to be more specific (cycle South America, run a marathon) and there were of course a few more churlish responses (have sex or try cocaine). Hey, we never know who writes these things so maybe even the latter two examples were, for their authors a bold departure from their current existence, yet I still couldn’t help walking away feeling something wasn’t quite right.

Firstly, I got the sense many people didn’t really know what to write though, after some contemplation and a continuation of my reading on lessons from those working in palliative care, I have finally decided the big problem lies with the start of the sentence.

While we all joke of the only real certainties in life being death and taxes we still live in a culture where we predominantly view death as an event so far in the future it should not concern us. Of course we do not want to live a morbid existence yet we chose to ignore or forget our mortality. One life, one opportunity has very much been the mantra of our cycle tour and with that in mind I couldn’t help wondering whether people would take more time to consider what they may do before they die if we bring the question back to a timeframe they accept more readily……the present.

The concept of what we wish to be remembered for and, going back to the original question, of accomplishments price to death is of course a concept we are hugely familiar with. Just don’t familiarity become flippancy. Don’t leave it too late.

So, what do you want to do right now; what do you yearn to do with your partner; what do you wish to achieve while you have your health; what real goals are you actively working towards?

What do you want to do while you’re alive?