Today I had the pleasure to translate an interesting article that resonates so much with my own pursuits within the last few years. You can find the article here: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.
It is about a man, who survived the holocaust, saved very many lives and inspired even more.
I have been looking for happiness but despite my continuous efforts I still find that happiness is fleeting and I am constantly restless, trying to see, what is missing. The question that I have been asking over and over again, is “what I want to be, when I grow up”. Apparently it is the one question to ask, in search of happiness. Because searching for happiness itself is not enough and not permanent. In order to find happiness you have to find the way how you can serve others, using your talents. And you have to let go of the idea of always striving for personal satisfaction. Happiness that comes from following your desires is fleeting. Satisfaction that comes from a meaningful life is long-term.
When you have kids and they are little, it is fairly easy – they need you so much, your meaning in life is to help them grow. But the more the grow up, the more you start to feel that there must be more that you can do and offer. But what is it? What is the thing that makes you unique and irreplaceable? For some people motherhood is the meaning and purpose in their life. And that is just as good as any job. Others need to find their meaning in something else. It’s no better or worse – it’s just different.
Too many people settle for “doing their job” instead of looking for the meaning, that they have in this life. And they are most of the time a little anxious, unsatisfied, irritated and restless. They try to fill the gap by satisfying their desires.
With the job comes the salary.
Money helps to buy pretty things. Things make them happy for a while.
They go to theatre and cinema. That helps to forget their unhappiness for a while.
Money helps them to travel. Travelling makes them happy for a while.
And then like junkies they look for the next dose of things, entertainment or travels. They get a fleeting satisfaction from filling those desires and then go back to the “job” to be miserable, while earning money for the next doses. But this is not life! This is not enough!
I’m not saying that pretty things, entertainment and travelling is essentially “wrong” or “bad”. Everything has it’s time and place. And when you have spent your days doing the job that leaves you satisfied, happy and fulfilled each day, then why not use your well-earned salary on something beautiful or interesting. And there are so many people who find their personal meaning and fulfilment in offering you those things – there are countless ways and professions where people can find their meaning and purpose. It becomes a problem when shopping, entertainment or travelling become the means to distract us from the cold hard reality that we are doing nothing to fulfil our potential and reach for our dreams.
This summer I did the same thing. I did my job. I was not incredibly happy or satisfied doing it, but it was a job with a salary. I found myself asking several times a day “what am I doing here?” “Why?” I guess it was necessary as a learning experience. As people we learn through contrast. By seeing what we are not, we get closer to what we are. So I hope that I have come one step closer again to realizing what I want to be, when I grow up. Frankl wrote “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” Being bored and frustrated serves a purpose too – it directs you away from things that are not supporting your unique meaning in life. So I continue looking for my own meaning and purpose. And what I take with me from that article about Viktor Frankl’s life is that we find meaning by stopping looking for happiness. Happiness comes naturally when you have found your purpose. But “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”
Meaningful life is not necessarily happier every moment of the day. Meaningful life may mean that you give up your personal happiness in service of someone or something else. But meaningful life gives us hope and happiness in the long term instead of fleeting moments of pleasure.