Today, with a heavy heart, I learned of the passing of another colleague and friend. In the past year alone, too many people that you may know - colleagues, friends, family, loved ones – have gone too soon. You hear cases of relatively young people suffering from sudden heart attacks with no earlier signs of illness. You hear of people retiring after several years of service to their communities and suddenly meeting their end without fully enjoying the fruits of their labor. This is not only shocking but it is cause for concern.
We live in a world where there is constant pressure to make meaningful contributions to society while achieving more and creating better lives for ourselves, our families and loved ones. The expectations are high and the demands are huge. In this world of wanting the best for ourselves and our loved ones – for today and the future – life becomes full of stress. The desperation to achieve more and the pressure from family, friends and society makes it difficult for people to be satisfied with their achievement and gain full happiness. Without happiness, life is empty - devoid of good health and quality.
The demands from society are high. People constantly expect more, especially if one is viewed as holding a privileged position of power or better income. There is the failure to recognize that while some jobs may make you live a rich and decent life, they may not necessarily make you rich as a person. Some people from the developing world are blessed with jobs in global corporations, in government and in the diplomatic service, and they become a part of the “global middle-class”. While these jobs may guarantee a quality of life that is above average (when compared with their places of origin) they do not necessarily make them rich. But, oftentimes society and even family does not recognize the difference. The demand to do more and acquire more is all too real often leading to forced competition and the desire to acquire more and do more beyond their natural means. You often hear statements like “So-and-so has built or own several houses, they’ve done so and so for their families, they’re running a successful business, etc. What are you waiting for?”. But, when you hear that so-and-so has passed away nobody says “So-and-so was such a good man / woman, he/she had achieved a lot, but sadly, he/she died suddenly. What are you waiting for?”. Are we prepared to part with our loved ones in the pursuit of more? I believe that the answer is “No”. So, next time when we add society’s pressures on our loved ones, we should stop to think what effects its having on them. Are we prepared to lose them simply because we want more and more from them?
If the purpose of life is happiness, then we should be able to define what “happiness” means for ourselves. We should be able to define the “finish line” and celebrate our achievements. Above all, we should be grateful for those achievements however modest they may seem when compared to others. Without knowing the “finish line” it is impossible to know when you’ve got there. So, how can you stop and celebrate when you don’t have an end goal? Don’t let society keep moving your goal posts.
Amid the noise of the demands, we should set ourselves realistic targets. It is also through setting our targets that we can tell when we’ve achieved something to celebrate. Otherwise, we will constantly be on the move to acquire more and do more - happiness then becomes even more elusive.
Give more to the less fortunate and expect to receive less. But, above all, be grateful for what you have. That is where true happiness resides. Enjoy the moment!