“Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man” (Viktor Frankl 1992)
The title could have been, “What I gained in pursuit of happiness” but for me, the essence lies in the shedding and pruning process. Not in gaining and collecting.
According to Psychology Today, the pursuit of happiness is a universal human desire. Researchers around the world have discovered that happiness rates higher than obtaining wealth, acquiring material goods, or getting into heaven. Here is how they frame Happiness:
“Happiness is an electrifying and elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have long sought to define it. More than simply a positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment”.
From a young age, I was encouraged to read. My parents and siblings made reading fun by regularly reading to me and teaching me as we read. Being able to read is arguably the best method of taking in information. It was through reading that I was able to learn. Learning became fun because of the excitement of gaining new knowledge.
I grew up in a middle-class “white” South African suburb in the 60s. My Mom was a night-shift nursing sister, and my Dad was a technical instructor at South African Airways. My parents worked hard to provide a comfortable life that had few extravagances. Through their example, I learned that working hard and being loyal to your employer, is a worthy value.
From the time I graduated from high school, I believed the pursuit of gaining “stuff” is the route to happiness. First, it was a new motorbike. Then it was a new car. I tried hard to keep up with wearing the latest sneakers and clothing. I tried to be “in fashion” and follow all the new trends. I frequented the “hottest” nightclubs, sometimes three or four times a week.
From the time I entered the working world, I was hooked on the idea of climbing the corporate ladder, of being a successful businessperson. Everything I did, I did with a desire to impress. To impress my boss, other employees, my family, or anyone that would give me praise. I worked hard and diligently at all my jobs and through my desire to impress, I quickly climbed the ranks into management.
Once I was in management, my pursuit of happiness still not sated, I fell into the trap of addiction. With my work life on track, my search for “more” took on a sinister guise. My personal relationships started to suffer. My marriage became strained and I fell deeper into a downward spiral. By the time I came out of rehabilitation, my marriage was over, and my children were living with my ex-wife.
My time in rehab was transformative for me. I was determined to be sober and clean and to make amends with my children. Although taken down a couple of notches in arrogance and ambition, somewhat humbler than before, I still believed happiness could be found in material possessions – stuff. I mean after all; society measures us on how much “stuff” we have or could have.
Sadly, I still hadn’t realised that until I gave up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it would never be where I am.
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏