If you have young kids – or listen to the radio – you’ve probably heard “Happy” by Pharrell Williams from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. And you’ve probably had it stuck in your head ever since. If not, YouTube it at your own risk! He sings: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.” Tapping my foot to the rhythm, this made me think of our perception of happiness. What is happiness to me? To you? Why does it so often take a back seat in life? And what makes happiness so darn elusive?
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of … Achievement?
“Happy” is typically an under-valued goal for life. We get so caught up in achievement that we tend to forget that, since we’re here on this earth for a short time, it’s a good idea to pay attention to happiness. In the U.S., our ancestors understood this fundamental truth and guaranteed our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But we seem to have lost sight of it as we seek to achieve more and more.
We don’t go to college to “be happy.” We go to earn a degree. We don’t get a job to “be happy.” We go to earn money. So often, we delay happiness – as if there is a limit on the amount we can have in life! When I have this job, I can finally be happy. When I have saved this much money, I can be happy. When I have kids, I can be happy. When I can fit into my pre-kid skinny jeans, I can be happy. We collect achievements as if they are deposits on happiness.
If you know what happiness is to you…
Focusing our life goals on happiness rather than achievement means we don’t have to put off being happy until all our “whens” line up perfectly – because that’s not exactly likely, right?
Now I don’t mean to say that achievement is negative. I’m proud of my achievements! I mean, I think ImpactADHD.com is absolutely awesome, and I’m so thrilled with what Diane and I have created. But I’ve also really enjoyed the journey to build this support community, and it makes the feedback we get from parents that much more sweet! Enjoying the ride gives you greater perspective into what is really important in your life.
So, what makes you happy? No, there is no right answer. It’s going to be different for everyone, and it may change from day to day. But put some effort into getting clearer on what brings you joy. Here are a few exercises to help:
- Start a list of things that make you happy, the little and big, the simple and complex. Add to it over time and see what changes and what stays the same.
- Start a designated “happiness” journal.
- Ask your kids every day, “What made you happy today?”
Whatever you decide, play with it and enjoy it – make sure that it doesn’t become one more thing on your to-do list. Unless, of course, checking off things on your to-do list makes you happy!
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