In 2006 a movie was released starring Will Smith, called ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. It’s based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner; a down-on-his-luck salesman, who (while living rough on the streets with his son) struggles to make ends meet and at the same time takes on an unpaid internship as a stockbroker.
11 years later I remember the film for two specific reasons: first; at one point in the movie the main character solves a Rubiks Cube, which inspired me to buy my own Rubiks cube and spend weeks watching YouTube clips on how to solve it. I subsequently had my own ‘Pursuit of Happyness Rubiks Cube Moment’ a few years later when I spotted one in my boss’s office and casually solved it during a staff meeting – to everyone’s astonishment. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that was quite possibly the highlight of my life up to that point…**
And second; it really bothered me (and still does) that ‘happyness’ was spelt with a Y and not an I – and I wish I could let that go, but I can’t.
But whether it be with a Y or an I (although one’s wrong and the other isn’t) – happIness is something that everyone wants isn’t it? Everyone pursues it. Everyone wants to be happy.
The irony is though, that the more we pursue happiness; the less likely we are to find it.
In her book “The Power of Meaning.” author Emily Smith cites a 2013 study done by psychologists in the U.S which found that the pursuit of happiness actually results in a lack of fulfillment. Why? Because it encourages me to focus on me, and people who live life trying to make themselves as happy as possible actually end up more and more UNhappy.
At the other end of the spectrum, pursuing a life of meaning brings satisfaction, significance, fulfillment and yes; happiness. The group summarized their findings by saying: “Meaning lies in others”.
If we want happiness – we have to understand that it doesn’t come from serving ourselves; it’s a byproduct of serving others. It’s a paradox; this idea that I have to become LESS focused on myself to receive what I really want in life – but it’s true.
On a practical level – there’s huge amounts of research on the personal health benefits of helping others. A group in the UK compiled the results of around 40 studies over 20 years, and they discovered that people who have a pattern of regularly serving others have less depression, less stress and less heart disease. In teens – less drug use and less unplanned pregnancy, even if the serving is quote: “less than voluntary”! (hello parents!)
They said: “People that serve are healthier mentally AND physically. They have better immune systems, they live longer, they have a higher self esteem and ultimately – a higher quality of life.”
If you want to be truly happy, stop focusing on your needs, your wants, your desires – and look for ways to make a difference in the life of others.
** Still in my top five…