The Secret to Happiness: A Three Step Plan
Happiness is a state of mind and not a particular set of accomplishments but this simple three step plan will help each of us move closer to our own version of a happy life regardless of our unique interests.
Ask and you shall receive
When I was in college I had a professor who was in his 80s and was a retired priest. He was so wise, funny and seemed to really enjoy his life. I have always been one to ask life advice from the people I respect, so, I asked him what he felt is the secret to happiness? He gave me some of the best advice I have ever received and I’m going to pass that onto you.
Without skipping a beat, as if he had been holding in this secret to happiness and had been thinking about it for a long time, he said to me, “the secret to happiness is to find something you love to do, figure out a way to make money doing that, and live nearby where you work.”
That. Was. It.
I was very surprised about this response because it did not include anything about marrying the right person, or whether to have kids or not have kids, or if I should move to Bali. So, that little seed of how to make a happy life was planted and I kept on trucking.
As time went on and I gained more life experience his advice to me was confirmed again and again. I believe that aiming to achieve these goals puts us in a MUCH better position to live a happy life!
Why should we focus most on loving what we do?
If we accept that the average person works 50 hours a week and takes 2 weeks of vacation per year, that’s a total of 2,500 hours working a year. Lets say the average person goes to college and starts working full time at age 22 and retires at age 65, that’s 43 years of full time work with 2 weeks of vacation a year. That would total 107,500 hours of time working or 4,479 days or 12 whole years!
Let’s compare that to quality time with family. lets say you get 2 hours per day for 5 days and 8 hours per day for 2 days a week of quality time with family (this is generous because you still have chores, errands, personal care, etc.). That would be 26 hours a week quality time with family, so its about half of the time we spend working. So only 50,000 hours or 2,240 days or 6 years of our life.
When put into this perspective, it makes A LOT of sense as to why the first step in living a happy life is to focus on loving what you do for work. We spend so much of our lives at work, why would we want to spend even 1 moment of that time at a job/career that we did not truly feel useful/passionate/motivated by?
A caveat to this is that you can find love and joy in many things and sometimes that takes time to grow on us. Following areas that you are more naturally inclined towards, have the skill set already might be a great way to go and focus positive thinking so that you grow to love it.
But, you said income matters!
Yes, it does. If you are following your natural skill sets, your passions/interests AND figuring out career paths that will allow you to harness these into profits, then you are on the path to happiness! There are so many ways to make money in this world and figuring out how to monetize what you love and are good at (or would love to learn/grow into being) will provide you with a happier life overall.
Keeping in mind the fact that you will need to be able to make money from things you enjoy as you continue your studies or building your skill set will help you to know where you should focus your efforts. While solely pursuing passions is a romantic notion, when you have no retirement savings and are living paycheck to paycheck at 50, it won’t be very romantic anymore. If that is you, time to change it up and make some money.
Why should we live nearby where we work?
If you have a 1 hour commute each way to work, this might impede on your family time even more (perhaps you leave before kids are away and arrive when they are cranky and about to sleep or worse already asleep). That would cut your time with family in half!
Commuting time is also dead time, you’re not being paid for it, you’re not using that time typically for a side interest, to improve your physical, spiritual or intellectual health and usually you’re unable to sleep during your commute (unless you’re on an empty train).
On top of that, according to a Swedish study, longer commutes cause increased stress put on the body and mind. There is a reason working long hours and commuting far to work is called a grind, its exhausting. When you are not at your best health wise it is hard to be your best self at work and at home.
Also, you have the expense of wearing down your car, more repairs, more money, tolls, gas, the list goes on and on.
Think about it, someone making the same amount of money as you but does not have to travel as far to commute to work, has more money and more time. So can you.
Happiness Is Not A Destination But a Mindset
While you are working towards your career goals, are you constantly focusing on the negative aspects of the job or career? By redirecting our thoughts to the positive aspect that you enjoy and focusing on how one day you can avoid or get better at or make easier the things you don’t enjoy.
I remember my peers in law school constantly expressing how unhappy they were with the struggle. I was honestly just so appreciative to even be in Law School and pursuing my dream career that the hard work did not bother me and to this day I can say that I loved law school and love being a lawyer (and I had some pretty rough times on my journey post law school).
Remember why you are pursuing the path you are on. Keep that as your core focus and push through the tough stuff with your vision being progress and happiness.
If only we could all find something we love to do, figure out a way to make money from it and live nearby where we work, I think we would have a much happier life.