Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The dangerous pursuit of happiness

Bob once said this:

"Our country is dedicated to the 'Pursuit of Happiness.' The problem with that is that if we're constantly pursuing happiness... we're never actually happy. It's always in front of us. We should be dedicated instead to Happiness. Or just being happy."

Wise words, no? (I love that man) I believe that is a HUGE distinction. Pursuing happiness is plain dangerous to one's mental state. And perhaps the explanation to why life can feel like one big treadmill. The carrot in front of us is our happiness. Taunting us:

Ha ha. You'll never catch me! Feel free to pursue me until your legs fall off. But you'll never catch me!
 So what do we do about it?

Well, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. Many of those I shared in a post titled "How to be happy. Now." I wrote that in the midst of fighting foreclosure. In the face of lots of stress I was committed to happiness. No matter what. In the moment. That's key. Not when we're out of this foreclosure mess, but now.

Get in action
I also believe that being in action helps. Ever notice how when you're super busy doing something that inspires you, you're not sitting around wondering whether or not you're happy? Yeah. I like how that works.

Bob turned me on to this reality show called Shark Tank. On the show, inventors and business people have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a group of "Sharks" or investors who may or may not choose to become an angel investor. On the surface it doesn't sound very interesting.

It's the people and their stories that make it worth watching. One story in particular really inspired me.

The Mod Mom
Kiersten Hathcock of Mod Mom Furniture describes herself like this:

I'm an ex-marketing exec mom turned freelancer turned web designer turned nanny turned furniture designer and builder. I opted for the straight and narrow career path as you can see. :)

As she said on The Shark Tank, she left her job to stay at home with her kids and then her husband lost his job. So she taught herself carpentry and began a furniture company to support her family.

It all began with a toy box. Apparently they were looking to buy one but couldn't find any they liked, so she decided to learn how to make her own and the business grew from there. She now can't keep up with the demand as she can only physically make three toy boxes herself in one week.
The Noah Owl Box from Mod Mom Furniture

I love this story because it illustrates how resilient people can be. So often it's not until our backs are up against the wall that we really get creative. Opportunity exists even in the most dire times. But it's not going to just fall into your lap. You have to get in action.

Many times I've said to Bob, "I wish I could make furniture." Well, I'm not going to just wake up one morning suddenly able to wield a jigsaw with the grace of a seasoned carpenter. But there's no reason why I can't teach myself like Kiersten did. Sometimes I just really want that overnight thing to really happen. You know? But it won't. It never will.

By the way, I really love that toy box.

How to Steal like an Artist
Have you seen this? It's a blog post by an artist named Austin Kleon that's been making the rounds on Facebook. As Austin describes it, it's a simple list of ten things he wishes he'd heard when he was in college. And it's great. I wish I'd heard these things earlier as well.

But given the fact that I thought I had it all figured out back then I probably wouldn't have really listened anyway. Now that I know that I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm a much better student.

I found the list to be inspirational and a good reminder for the best route to happiness in life.

Here's an excerpt:

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

Speaking of play — one thing I’ve learned in my brief tenure as an artist: it’s the side projects that blow up.
By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.

Magic happens when you're not trying to force it to happen. When you're just playing. When you're being self-expressed, living in the moment and trying something with no particular agenda. Experimentation for the sake of experimentation. Losing yourself in the moment.  Not only is that where the magic happens. It's also where the happiness lives.

I highly recommend you read Austin's entire post.
Then come back here and tell me what you thought of it.

So, those are my thoughts on happiness for the day. My greatest reminder is Malcolm. He's happiness personified. Already a little more than 8 months old. Already crawling and pulling himself up to standing. That's all he wants to do all day long. Pull himself up to standing. That and put things in his mouth.

When I'm laughing with Malcolm for absolutely no reason, I am happy. I'm not pursuing happiness. I'm being happy. Automatically. And without thinking about it.

Worth noting: Malcolm has a huge smile on his face right now. Know why? He just pooped.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Long time, ahem, stalker of your blog. I also read Austin Kleon's post and it sort of made my week. "Fake it Til You Make It" is one of my favorites.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I seem to recall my high school History teacher telling me that, by "the Pursuit of Happiness," the Founding Fathers actually meant "the ability to buy and own property." I just googled it and turned up a ton of journal articles on the subject. Don't have the time to peruse them now, but wanted to turn you onto the concept as it seems like a topic up your makes this excellent post all the more relevant.

Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...

Hey Stalker! Thank you so much for pointing out the intended meaning of "pursuit of happiness". I really had no idea (shows my ignorance.) But you're right... it's so relevant. I'm going to dig into this.


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