Reexamine Your Idea of Happiness. Is It Actually Yours? — OLADC#7

Sometimes it feels like my life is falling apart because I have so many things I want to do and take care of but it seems like I never have the time to do any of them.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of life I want to live in my 20s. I want to set myself up for a better future, so my top priority is to learn how to live well, physically and mentally, and to learn how to be a good person.

Those are pretty broad statements; while they initially sound pleasing to hear and easy to say, they present problems that I never asked myself before.

What does it mean to live well? By whose standard can I be judged to be seen as living a good life?

When I sat down to think about what a life well lived would mean for me, I was genuinely troubled: I never really thought about I considered to be a good life. The preconceptions that I had of the “good life”, the luxury cars, prestigious job, big homes, six-figure salary — were they really mine? My life started unraveling as I started reexamining my beliefs.

If I get to where everyone else says I should go, would I be happy and find meaning in my life? I realized that my perception of happiness was never really self-conceived — I bought into what everyone else told me happiness was supposed to be.

I realized that I wasn’t allowing myself to be happy with what I have now because I held my happiness in captivity.

“I cannot be happy until I have XYZ. I must keep striving for something so that other people will acknowledge my success.”

I realized that I was attaching my self-worth with the material goods that I had and the company names that I acquired on my resume. If I couldn’t get into a certain prestigious company or have a baseline salary of X amount or more or wear the brands that everyone else had, I could not be content.

When you’re around a group of people who are all fixated on this idea of happiness, you can’t help but think the same and compare yourself to them. You start resenting your friends’ achievements. You start making shady moves behind others’ backs to get ahead. You seek out relationships only to benefit yourself instead of actually trying to get to know the other person.

I’m tired of living like that. I love to read and write and create. I realized that I find joy in helping others with my writing. It isn’t the most lucrative job out there, but most days I genuinely enjoy the process of conceptualizing an idea or lesson I’ve learned. I find that it helps me figure out who I am or might be at a given time, and I find that it is a great outlet for my creativity that I might not be able to find anywhere else.

What does it mean to be happy? What does it mean to find work meaningful? I don’t think humans should live lives without work — work is where we find purpose. We dream about retiring and sitting on a beautiful tropical island or traveling the world until we die, but I believe we will soon grow tired of these short bursts of exciting experiences.

I believe we all have childhood passions that might have been suppressed or abandoned because of other priorities and obligations. Maybe we could rediscover what interested us as children and rediscover what we used to love.

When we love what we do, we can feel it throughout our body. I believe it is a sign from the body and the mind that it is something you need to explore further. Your body can tell you something that you cannot conceptualize in speech or thought — you just know.

I try to carefully watch for specific moments of clarity, small pockets of joy, where I catch myself losing track of time and feeling extremely present in the moment. I get that whenever I write something that I feel is meaningful and truthful to me. So I try to chase that feeling every time and write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll have no ideas, and other times I won’t even think to open up my laptop to write anything.

But the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t always be trying to feel that initial jolt again. Maybe it comes once in a while to get you started, to help you on your feet. The rest is up to you to show up every day and throw everything you have at the things you are passionate about. I think the feeling is there to guide you toward the right path, the path of finding out and becoming who you are.

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William Cho

William Cho


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