“Don’t worry,” says a friend who has left college. “I won’t be a failure.”
I wasn’t worrying.
“Don’t worry,” says a friend who realized the military life she thought she wanted wasn’t right for her after all. “I’m going to do great things.”
I wasn’t worrying.
You see, we get so wrapped up in what others think of our choices, we forget to live for ourselves, to choose for ourselves. I have spent a great deal of my life concerned with what others think of decisions I make, directions I take, what I think others want from my life.
Turns out? They (family and friends) only want my happiness, and they don’t expect my happiness relies on what they think I should do. And the others? Why do they even get a vote? Why are we so afraid of what they think of us if we make choices that are contrary to their ideas?
Why does life have to be grandstanding, financial success in order to measure up? And with whose yardstick should we be trying to measure up to?
When the pursuit of happiness is measured by how big your house is, how new your car is, how well known you are, or what others think of you, you’ve missed the target. (AGK: Missing the target since 1975.) Happiness will always elude you. You will be tricked into thinking you are happy by fleeting moments of temporary satisfaction, such moments that never last. The longterm is not found in the spits and spurts of supposed goodness.
Happiness is not lurking in the extra legroom model of next year’s car. It is not stored away on the shelves in the bonus living room of a 6-bedroom home. It’s not found on the highest rung of the ladder at work, nor is it on Facebook or Twitter.
Where is it, then?
For me, it’s in the small and often overlooked moments. The forever-long conversations on the phone. The coffee date that goes on for hours. While out delivering pizza, noticing my daughter and her team practicing (color guard) and stopping the car at a stop sign to watch for a glorious 30 seconds. Conversations (the deep and the shallow) with my sons. Laughing about and at my dogs. Sunrises. Sunsets. Clouds. Clear skies. Rain. Birds. Etc., etc., etc.
We expect we need to live up to all the other people – what they want, what they do, what they own – in order to be happy. And we think the only way to measure success is to be known (guilty!), make lots of money (guilty!), to have thousands of followers on Twitter (not guilty…because I could barely get 100, and that made me sad, which is … say it with me … RIDICULOUS!), hundreds of friends on Facebook (yeah…), big houses, new cars (guilty of envy), fancy job titles (why else have we changed such job titles as janitor to Custodial Engineer? So what if you clean for a living. Are you taking care of your family? Good for you, then! Someone has to do it, to clean up after others, and we thank you for doing so.), and on and on.
In each of these cases, we are putting our worth into the hands of others. We need others to follow us, to friend us, to pay us, to promote us, to fulfill our need for fame, to be seen. We hang our hats on the idea that without the acknowledgment and approval of others, what we do is of no value. So we puff ourselves up with what others can give us, and we think that makes us awesome and amazing…but rarely are we happy.
Let us remove those expectations – the ones we have of others, and the ones we put on ourselves to perform, to be, to live for anyone but ourselves. Happiness should be defined by you, and whatever it turns out to be, I’m not worried.
(But even if I am, that is of no concern to you, because what I think of you shouldn’t matter. Let’s practice that.)
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”