Things that make me happy: skiing, spa days, dance, travel , and kisses from my kids – all the usual suspects. These are definitely a part of living my best life, but there’s more to it than that.
Lately, I’ve heard people say they’re going to “stop doing things that don’t make [them] happy”. Something about this didn’t sit well with me, and at first, I couldn’t figure out why. I’m certainly an advocate and example of happiness: I’m kind of like a walking episode of Glee, without the teenaged drama. So why the uneasy feeling about “doing what makes you happy?”
My grandfather died recently at the ripe old age of 95. He led a full and happy life, and although it was a sad day, it brought me joy to celebrate his life with my family. It was during the funeral (specifically, a Bible reading by my cousin, Ashley) that I heard the words that brought clarity: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” This nuance made all the difference for me.
Part 1: Be Happy and Do Good
Along with the idea of “doing what you makes you happy” is a trend towards self-care. There’s no question that I practice self-care (for example, I’m heading to the spa today), but even if I were to spend every day at the spa, there’s a slight emptiness to it all when I’m not pairing it with “doing good.” Lately, “doing good” in my life means volunteering at my church, and running a French club for my daughter and her friends. Sometimes, I’m disorganized and find I’m really not up for giving my time to others, but when I rally and actually do it, I truly find joy in it. For our family, another way we like to “do good” is with donation dollars. Our kids are young and we can’t be rushing out to save the world every day, but we can contribute to those who are. Everyone finds their own way of doing good.*
Part 2: Find Satisfaction in Your Toil
I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child (let’s not talk about the fact that I’m now non-practising). I knew there were things about it that I would like, but at no point did I think, “You know what would make me soooo happy? Reviewing contracts. How happy I would be, if only I could re-word documents all day.” I doubt I’d have even gone to law school if someone told me that’s what I would end up doing. And yet, when it became my reality, I loved it. I would have never quit, if not for a family move across the country. I found satisfaction in my toil, and I was happy there. It was work, and I didn’t always love it as much as I loved skiing or dancing, but no one was paying me to do those things, and I considered myself lucky to be doing work that allowed me those other pleasures. Now that I’m a stay-at-home parent, I have to find satisfaction in other “toils.” I doubt I’ll ever find satisfaction from cleaning a toilet (a task I avoided for more than ten years as a working person), but I do find satisfaction in what it helps accomplish: creating a space that my family and I can enjoy.
Can anything really make me happy?
At the end of the day, there isn’t much that’s going to make me happy, and I know myself well enough to know that I will miss out on opportunities if I limit myself to things I think will ensure my happiness. Instead, I can find satisfaction in my toil, which means finding happiness right where I am – which is great, because it would b impractical to live my life on the ski hill, while I floss like a boss. Spa (and French Club) today, toilets tomorrow, and travel next month. I won’t love them all equally, but they’re all part of living my best life!
I hope you find happiness in your own daily living!
*Time magazine did an excellent article on the topic of the benefits of “doing good”: http://time.com/4070299/secret-to-happiness/ )