Two of the great American authors, Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) and Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse Five) were at a party hosted by a Billionaire. Vonnegut, admiring all of the worldly possessions of the host, quipped at Heller and asked, “How does it feel knowing this man makes more in a day than you will ever make in a lifetime with one of your novels?”
To which Heller replied, “I have one thing this man will never be able to have….enough.”.
You see, the funniest thing happened in the past hundred or so years; we were finally, for once and for all, allowed to be happy, or to search for happiness.
You don’t believe me do you?
Think back say as far 10,000 years ago. What did we have to think about?
Survival. That’s it. We needed food and shelter, and finding both was a constant struggle so it was all we could focus on or worry about. There was no time to be happy.
Okay, so a thousand years ago. Food and shelter. That’s it.
Even as little as 300 years ago when our country was being founded. Food and shelter and the beginnings of freedom. That’s it.
So if you think about it, when it comes to happiness and figuring out what exactly it means, we’re all pretty much amateurs when the full scope oh human history is taken into context. It is because, for thousands of years, our ancestors fought and scraped their way to survival, that we are now afforded the luxury of being happy.
So why spend your time being anything but?
Because what’s also happened in that process of scratching and clawing for survival, we now have an engrained fight or flight response woven into our DNA that makes us fearful of a lot. Except there’s one catch….
This fight or flight response is no longer based on survival, which means it makes us overly fearful and worrisome over things that simply do not require that level of care and concern.
It is this paradox that has formed, what for many, is a backwards equation to happiness.
Because we can get too caught up in what society thinks of us, what our parents want us to do, what the “right” path is for us, we often times treat our path to happiness like such:
DO GOOD WORK >>>>> HAVE SUCCESS >>>> BE HAPPY
And at first glance, this probably seems about right. But here’s the rub…
In this process of doing good work, being successful as a result, and then finding happiness as a byproduct, we defer the happiness part of it and go right back to the beginning.
What we tend to do when we have what I call “Sales Success” in life, which is success in the form of promotions, new and better jobs, more money, more money, more money, we inundate ourselves further and can become slaves to that success. We buy a second vacation home we never use because we’re working too much to pay for it, pay taxes on a boat that sits in storage, and naturally have to upgrade everything we can think of.
So in this process, by assuming happiness is a by product of the first two parts of the equation, we tend to prolong and put off happiness and end up in a vicious cycle.
If we take BE HAPPY off the end and move it to the front, we change the entire dynamic of the equation.
BE HAPPY >>>>>> DO AMAZING WORK >>>>>> HAVE MASSIVE SUCCESS
By putting your own happiness first, you end up doing even better work and are far more productive, (there is plenty of research to back this up), which means you end up doing AMAZING WORK. And naturally then once you begin doing AMAZING WORK, you end up having MASSIVE SUCCESS.
The key to all of this is changing your mindset. You need to always think back to these 4 words when pressed with an important, life impacting decision that can affect your happiness…
DO. IT. FOR. YOU.
To read more on the subject, check out the book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha0