Are You Happy? Is Not The Best Question
Back when I was a little too clever for my own good, I would ask people, “Are you happy?” Then, regardless of their answer, I would say, “It doesn’t matter. Life isn’t about whether or not you are happy.”
As we mature, sometimes we believe things quite similar to when we were younger, we just find better ways of expressing those beliefs.
I still believe life isn’t about happiness – not ultimately. Feel free to ask me what I do think it’s about, but that won’t be the point of this newsletter. You may think this newsletter is a review of my life, but I assure you, it’s really about you.
I want to challenge you to examine what you are pursuing. What life are you creating for yourself? Why are you making the choices you are on your journey?
You may be sick of the phrase “new normal.” I get it, but Coronavirus can provide an opportunity to reevaluate tendencies that have become ruts along your path. Use this strange period to quit assuming that the destination to your journey is inevitable. Ask: Is it time to reorient and chart a new direction?
I tell people I had three dreams as a child. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I read books about baseball and memorized all sorts of stats about the Big Red Machine (the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s). I attended baseball games. The one thing I neglected to do was to play organized baseball.
I wanted to be a Native American. Seriously. I read books about the unjust treatment of Indians and I identified with those injustices and wanted to help right them. Iron Eyes Cody was featured in anti-littering ads and I’ve never littered since. You can read the online debate about whether Iron Eyes Cody was even a Native American, but to me he was and I listened to his counsel.
I wanted to become a genius. Then my father told me that geniuses are born. I was smart enough to know what he meant. I wasn’t a genius. I read a lot of books about baseball and Native Americans, but I wasn’t any of the things I dreamed about being.
So, early in life I was 0 for 3 on my life goals. It was time to reorient.
Then in college an adult I respected said, “Julian, you are far too serious.” I realized my melancholy nature and natural discontentedness were leading me down a path toward a life I didn’t want to inhabit. I decided to follow the advice of Carole King in “Beautiful.” I got up with a smile on my face and found that people were happier to be around me.
This isn’t about me. It’s about you. I just know my story better than I know yours.
What are you pursuing in this life? When you take time to reflect on your life, if you ever slow down long enough to do so, I want to suggest one question for you to ponder: Are you pursuing goals worthy of a human life? Restated: If you got everything you are seeking to accomplish/acquire, would your life have been worth living?
You may guess at my answer to what life is about. I’ll give you a hint: Whatever it is, it has to be larger than you. No amount of money, no lake house in Michigan, no car, no McMansion or actual mansion, no fame, power, or influence will ever be enough.
Are you happy? Yes? That’s great. I’ll check back in a week, a month, a year to see if your happy answer remains unchanged. In the meantime, ask yourself: Am I pursuing goals worthy of my time on this planet? This may be the most important question to ponder as you battle the Coronavirus blues.
Dr. Stephen Julian is President of Julian Consulting, a firm specializing in team health, effective communication, and leadership development. He has worked with leaders and their teams for nearly 30 years in a variety of settings – including Africa, South and Central America.