Misunderstandings are often the result of a lack of definition of terms. When two people define a term differently without realizing it, they can argue for hours without ever moving closer to resolution. I'll bet you've seen it happen. Bystanders exclaim, “But they're both saying basically the same thing!” Yet as long as the debaters hold to slightly different definitions for a key word in their discussion, there can be no resolution through debate.
I used to believe the world's most unfair question to be, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – like a nine year-old is supposed to know something that very few grown-ups know.
But today I believe the world's most unfair question is “Are you happy?”
During my adolescent years, my recently divorced mother worried a lot about whether I was happy, and of course I always gave her the assurance that I was. But one day the real answer popped like a flashbulb behind my eyes and stopped me in my tracks. Setting down what I was carrying, I looked at her with complete and utter sincerity and said, “Mom, I've been happy before… and I'm sure that I'll be happy again – maybe even very soon. But right this minute I'm taking out the trash.”
Believe it or not, I wasn't being sarcastic. I had simply realized that happiness is an ocean and that you and I are starfish on its beach. The ocean of happiness is always at hand. Sometimes a wave of it washes up over us and then recedes back into the depths. At low tide, when the ocean seems far away, we get dry, hard and brittle. But at high tide, when the water covers us completely, we hover weightlessly in its depths.
What is the definition of happiness? Is it a consistent, ongoing state that one can hope to attain? If so, I don't think I've ever met a “happy” person. Yet we ask “Are you happy?” as though happiness be defined as “the total absence of anxiety, frustration and boredom in one's life.”
Ask yourself the insane question, “Am I happy? Am I truly happy?” and after a long, dark look inside yourself you will probably answer “No.” Then, probing the reasons for your lack of happiness, you will likely decide that you were born into the 'wrong' family, got the 'wrong' education, chose the 'wrong' career or married the 'wrong' person. Happiness is thereby safely externalized and made impossible to attain; in essence, “I'm unhappy, but it's not my fault.”You haven't been thinking this way, have you?
If so, let me change the question – ask, “Am I satisfied with my life?” If the honest answer is “no,” then ask, “What are the actions that make me happy?” And then spend more time doing those things.
Writing the Monday Morning Memo is one of the things that makes me happy, and so for me, right now is high tide. You've probably noticed that on some days the temperature of my ocean is warm and friendly. On other days, it's admittedly colder, but hopefully stimulating.
In any event, thanks for taking these moments each week to go wading with me.
I appreciate your coming along.
Roy H. Williams
PS – If you're willing to invest 30 seconds in a smile, go to http://muttcats.com/starfish.htm