My fiancee’s sister is in town, along with her five-year-old niece, which means I’ve been temporarily set aside for long bouts of playing “house” and discussions about the new baby on the way in May.
Rather than become upset about my relocation to the periphery of attention, I’m enjoying some extra time to think.
One of the most striking observations I had over the weekend was that many people go out in search of “happiness.”
We really look for happiness in three things: the people around us, the work we do, and our current situation.
This would be fine, if any of these things actually make us happy. They don’t.
Here are three truths most people never realize until they travel the world, do what they love, and achieve an impossible goal:
1) No matter where you live, people will be pretty much the same
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes
I’ve lived in three different countries now and have traveled to 9 (I think), and I’ve found this to be absolutely true. Once you peel back some of the strange ways people do things, you really see that people are the same everywhere. In Afghanistan, I met slick salesmen and devoted husbands. In Turkey, I have known noisy neighbors and horrible gossips. Lately, in Turkey, there’s a huge surge in Justin Bieber fanaticism. Some people work hard and are happy; some people are very lazy and bored. Some are happy; some are not.
When I lived in America, I saw much the same habits from the people around me. Some were happy while others complained. Some were honorable while others cheated in an attempt to get ahead. There really is no difference in people on a human level, and once you’ve lived in a foreign country for a few months, you realize this.
I’m not saying there are no differences in culture or thoughts; just that the strange people you find so fascinating are available in your own neighbor hoods, if you care to notice them.
2) Everybody, even people who love their jobs, sometimes hate getting up and going to work
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs
Okay, okay, we’re probably using Steve Jobs’ quotes a little too often, but the man had a good philosophy on work. I’m told he was horrible to wait on in a restaurant, but that’s neither here nor there.
Steve Jobs was a strong believer in doing what you love every day. He refused to work on something which didn’t fill him with passion. I believe this led to much of his success.
If you read the quote carefully, you will notice he says “too many days in a row.” Not “today” but “too many.” There’s a great message there. He didn’t wake up every day excited to go to work. Most days, yes, but not every day.
I do what I love for a living. I get to spend my working hours helping people, answering questions, writing blogs and books, and generally getting to nerd out. It’s a dream job I worked hard to create for myself.
Even so, some days I want to stay in bed and watch Lord of the Rings.
Every person I know, whether they work for a company or themselves, has days they don’t “feel it.” Pushing through these days and getting the job done is essential if you want to succeed.
That being said, if EVERY day over the course of season feels like this, you should move on to something else.
Understand, we all have days we don’t want to work, even those of us living our dreams.
3) Whatever you’re going through, it will pass soon, for better or worse
“This too shall pass…” –mistakenly attributed to The Bible
Full disclaimer: I’m a Christian and for years I believed this was part of a Bible Verse. Imagine my surprise when I learned this is nowhere in the Bible.
Regardless if this came from the Bible or not, it’s still a great truth for all of us to remember.
Think back on your happiest memory, that single moment in time when everything was going right. Got it? Are you still every bit as excited as you were then? I’m betting (unless reading this post is the happiest moment of your life, which if that’s the case, I’m very flattered) you have lost some of that excitement.
Now, think back on the lowest moment of your life, when everything seemed hopeless and you saw no relief on the horizon. Got it? Are you still as depressed and scared as you were then? If you are, please don’t blame my writing style. Leave your suggestions in the comments section below and I will furiously work to be less depressing (I promise).
Either way, the ups and the downs have passed and will pass you again. This is the natural way our lives work.
We all have rough times and good times; great successes and failures; deep love and crushing heartache. Life does this to us, and it’s the best part of life. If we didn’t experience the down times, we wouldn’t appreciate the great moments. If we didn’t have the great moments, we wouldn’t understand when things weren’t going well.
As I write these closing words, I think on them once again and I’m smiling. I realize that even though I live in a foreign country, do work I enjoy every day, and understand how fleeting life’s moments are, I could easily be just as happy back in Nashville, working at Dell.
I’ll close with Abraham Lincoln as he said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Wise words for all of us to remember.
P.S. There is actually very little evidence Abraham Lincoln said this. Dr. Frank Crane first published this in a newspaper in 1914, attributing the quote to President Lincoln. There has been nothing to suggest this quote ever surfaced before then. Fun fact. :)
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