Happiness of the Pursuit
Back in my stand-up comedy days, I’ve known many comics who put their happiness on hold. They had difficulty enjoying the process because they believed they wouldn’t be happy until they signed with HBO, got their own sitcom, or movie deal, or whatever it was they thought would make them happy. I know, because I was one of them.
Over the years I’ve seen close friends morph into bitter, jealous and resentful people who no longer enjoyed making people laugh. Without ever realizing what they were doing to themselves, they got caught up in their own quest to become a star, which in their minds was the only thing that would make them happy. The world of show business became their only business. Their total existence revolved around getting “discovered,” which was ironic because they had no idea how lost they really were. It was disheartening to see that they never allowed themselves the time to appreciate other aspects of themselves or life. Theirs was a shallow existence. They would perform from club to club and go from one audition to the next. Their lives were on automatic pilot as they strived for and waited for that big break, that day somewhere in the future when they would finally be happy.
For some people, it seems a virtue to defer happiness and enjoyment. I’m reminded of the phrase, “All good things come to those who wait.” Let’s discuss this nugget of wisdom, shall we? Granted, patience is a virtue. I understand that more often than not we have to wait to reap the fruits of our labor. But not at the expense of being happy! This phrase implies that you have to wait for happiness, that the end result is the only place where happiness resides. It completely ignores the fact that enjoyment can be experienced during the process. Hey folks, it takes a long time for fruit to grow. Why not pick a few wild berries while you wait?
There are far too many people, in business and in life, holding onto their precious ticket to Happy Land, waiting for the Good-time Express to arrive. Give me a break! Better yet, give yourself a break. This defies all logic. Why wait for the goal to be achieved to be happy? Why not enjoy the process towards the goal? If you do, you stand a better chance at succeeding. Studies have shown that when people are enjoying themselves during the process of whatever they are trying to achieve they are more creative, more productive, and able to bounce back faster from challenges and find solutions to problems a lot quicker. Why wait for good times? Why not have them now? In fact, now is the only place where good times can happen. They can’t happen in the past and they can’t happen in the future.
The point I’m making is that happiness can only be experienced in the present, in the moment of whatever it is that you are trying to achieve right now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t plan for the future, set goals, undergo your daily routine, deal with the unexpected and still make conscious choices to enjoy yourself while doing so. How? By focusing on what you have, rather than fixating on what you don’t have. By being grateful for the things that life has given you, rather than cursing what you claim life hasn’t given you. And by making daily choices to temporarily step away from those moments that are brining you down or stressing you out and engage in activities that bring you joy and lift your spirit. People who consistently make the choice (and it is a choice) to enjoy the process not only reap the benefits of achieving their goal, but they have a fond appreciation of how they earned it. In my view that is the ultimate success.
The good news is there are always fresh opportunities to be happy. Imagine life is like Grand Central Station where happy times arrive around the clock. The chances are the opportunity to be happy has already arrived. Sometimes it’s right in front of you. For whatever reason, you are unable to shift your focus to notice and appreciate it. Regardless of what is going on around you, you can feel happier, you can be productive, attract success, and enjoy yourself during the process. When you shift your focus and the way you think, your perspective changes. When shift happens, your life changes. So get your shift together.
Whether you’re at home cleaning out the garage, making cold sales calls, comparing prices of brands of peanut butter, or preparing a pitch to win more business for your company, it is your right to enjoy yourself. That may be one of the keys to attain happiness, understanding that happiness is your personal right, just like freedom of speech and being able to vote. It’s curious to me that we have laws in place to make sure no one infringes upon our right to happiness, yet we are so often a willing impediment to our own enjoyment of life. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” Maybe it should read “life, liberty and the happiness of the pursuit.”