Happiness is a funny thing. It seems so eternally elusive to most people, and yet is usually so easily attainable.
I was thinking about this the other day, as I was driving home from working a near-minimum-wage shift in a local retail store, smiling, feeling utterly content. We all have ups and downs, of course, but on a daily average I’d say I feel happier now than I have been at any point in my past. This, despite that I’m also probably poorer now, struggling more financially, than I ever have been in my past. D and I live without a lot of luxuries, don’t eat out, rarely go see movies or attractions, don’t have cell phones or other technological gadgets.
In our first-world society we have a tendency to equate wealth – financial and/or material – with happiness. Without it we feel like we’re being deprived of things. And I won’t lie, I do sometimes feel that way. I’d love to be able to buy myself all the books on my to-read list, or plants for my garden, or even simply a new pair of hiking shoes when mine start getting worn.
But I’m not unhappy despite my inability to afford everything I’d like. And I attribute this to two things. First is that I spend a lot of my day doing things I enjoy. I write. I read. I walk with my dogs. I have tv shows I follow and love. I follow a great, friendly writing community. In the summer I garden, or nature-watch, or other pastimes/hobbies I enjoy. Not to mention living with a person and pets I love. Yes, I also spend some of my time doing stuff I’m not as crazy about: chores, work. But I’ve chosen to work fewer hours, make less money, and live more simply, so I can spend more time doing the things I want to be doing.
And the second thing is I’m using some of that freed time to pursue one of those things I love – writing – and work at it enough, practice it enough, become good enough at it, to turn it into a source of income. And I am in control of my destiny here: if I put in the work, if I constantly strive to improve, and I keep sending my stuff out into the industry, I know eventually someone will want to pay me for it. It’s just a matter of time. And I’m a patient person.
And so I’m happy. I spend my days doing things that I love, with a focus on a particular something that I love, and a feeling of making progress toward something I want. The proximity of the finish line isn’t important – I’m headed there, and I’m enjoying the drive.
Happiness isn’t about what we do with our money; it’s about what we do with our time. Time is a finite resource just like wealth. Make sure you spend yours on the things you love.
ETA: More thoughts on creating happiness, while I was making dinner:
Happiness is partly a mindset. It’s about learning to live more simply and enjoy simply living. It’s about learning to enjoy life’s smaller pleasures, and learning not to fret over life’s smaller problems. Learning to put yourself first, doing what you want to do, not what others want or expect you to do. To enjoy what you have, not yearn for what you don’t. To appreciate what’s given to you, not resent what’s withheld. To see change as opened windows, not closed doors. It’s about learning to work hard for the future, but be content with the present.