“Don’t Worry. Be Happy” is a great theoretical idea. You can almost hear Bobby McFarrin delivering the idea. But, the implementation is uneven for most of us. Should it be better?
Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence includes the phrase,
“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Important ideas; now more symbol than real.
Equal has lost meaning and so has liberty. It is near impossible to be independent in society today. Preservation of life seems a standard, yet assisted suicide may temper that.
Laws, regulations, rules and political correctness are a poor substitute for these simple ideas.
The pursuit of happiness remains untouched.
Notice that it is the pursuit of happiness. Even Jefferson says nothing about the right to happiness. There are some social scientist who would quibble about his mistake. Personally, I think Jefferson has the better idea. Happiness is not a place, it is the journey.
What exactly should that journey look like. There is no road map. There may be guides but they are unreliable and often missing at key times. As well as being the traveler, we must become our own guide.
To be the guide you will need an overarching idea. A strategic vision. A reference template with which to judge emerging options. Most of us don’t get that template until we have made many bad decisions. You’ve heard good decisions are the result of experience and experience is the result of bad decisions.
Some bad decisions can be avoided with fundamental strategic ideas.
- Happiness is the pursuit.
- There are personal and external limits
- You must make a living
- Only some things give you pleasure.
- Do more of what you enjoy and less of the rest.
A blog piece entitled “Stealing Ideas” sums it up. Shawn Coyne makes this observation in respect to Malcolm Gladwell,
“The thing about Gladwell is that I think he understood a fundamental life truth much earlier than most of us do. Finding something interesting to do and practically applying it to feed yourself and put a roof over your head while you take every opportunity to push yourself to get better at it…is the recipe for a happy life.”
The fact that I was able to steal the idea from an article titled “Stealing Ideas” is delicious irony and makes me happy.
To be your own guide, assess choices against your template. If it is interesting, enhances your ability to provide food, shelter and other necessities, and challenges you to be better, it is almost certainly a good life choice.
You might want to start by assessing what you do now.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.