Monday, July 8, 2013

How to be Happy and Great

Lately, I've been thinking about this article that I read, on whether value lies in pursuing happiness, or greatness. Like the author, my father has always been a strong proponent of doing the best you can to be happy, whereas my mother has always urged me to put all of my effort into being someone great. I felt that I could relate, and his conclusion was something that I had always sought after: a balance between happiness and greatness. Let's rewind.

9/2012. Freshman year college motto: Work hard, play hard (and sleep hard- health matters). I started off the semester right, able to balance all that came with enjoying college: making new friends, trying new activities, etc. with the intense workload that came with going to a competitive school like Michigan. I loved it. I noticed a different attitude towards the school in a friend of mine. She, being the incredible hardworker that she is, worked her butt off for an impeccable GPA that semester, but took a hit on her health/happiness. It was hard to see someone just as happy-go-lucky face such stressful times.

1/2013. Second semester rolls around. The balance wasn't working for me. My grades were slipping, and I was sleeping less. Classes were harder, I felt the pressure to make up for my slip from the previous semester. I started worrying that I wasn't good enough to do what I wanted to do. I started rethinking just what it was that I supposedly wanted to do. Was I in these classes because I loved them, or did I just feel like I needed to prove myself of some status among every overachiever around me (Honors College, *eye-roll*)? Was it also because of the pressure to conform to a certain "path" already laid out for me? I noticed this flaw in the system: If you want to become, then you must do. If you want to become a doctor, you must be pre-med. If you want to do business in life, you must get into Ross. Etc. Etc. I noticed that most people I talked to didn't know why they wanted to do what they were trying to pursue. They thought they "liked business," but why? What in business exactly? No clue! I was the same. I noticed that until I took a step back, I had just as narrow of a mindset as everyone around me.

To be great, you need to know what it is that makes you happy. They go hand-in-hand, and you can't achieve one without the other. To be happy, you need to have a set (and achievable) target of what it will mean for you to be great. If you're an athlete, you know that nothing beats the sweet sweet feeling of scoring for your team. Similarly, if happiness is so derived from achievement, setting personal goals is the key to fulfillment. What's interesting is that greatness is incredibly subjective, so it's important to worry only about goals through your own eyes, and put aside anyone else's judgements. Struggles come and go to help you realize what happiness is, and what you should avoid. Career paths are made by people for people who need guidance, but no one should ever feel like they are not good enough to achieve what they want. Hard work is a necessity, but hard work is only worthwhile if the process and end result BOTH are something you can thrive from. When greatness and happiness intertwine, a passion is born.

It's also important to be intrusive to the point where you question your own intentions. If you want to become a doctor, and the reason is that you want to help people, start by helping yourself and practicing day-to-day kindness. If you want to become a great artist, start by being curious and appreciative of the beauty that surrounds you. If you want to study law, start by using your judgement to solve issues around you. If you want to teach, start by disseminating knowledge wherever you go. If you want to be a good person, start today.

I noticed that some people have it easier than others. Some have more focus; others are quicker. Some find their passion early on, whereas others (myself included) are still searching. All I'm proposing is that it's a search worth investing time and thought into. Life moves too fast sometimes, let's take a step back. At work, I like to ask my coworkers a simple question: "Is this the career you've always dreamed of, or if not, does it at least make you happy?" Most have answered with a "No, but the hours are flexible and the pay is great." The best answer I've gotten has been, "I've worked at every dream job of mine. Disney, Sony, Tommy Hilfiger, even as an event planner. I just like managing projects, and now I'm here." She never had it figured out, but I guess that's what helped her figure it out.

What I'm trying to say is that when you find that either your happiness or greatness will be sacrificed by whatever you're doing (or plan on doing), then something's off. It's as simple as "do what you love, and love what you do." Everyone is meant to be happy, and everyone is meant to be great. Some people are just luckier than others.

I'm still searching.

P.S. If you're interested, 9 College Majors, and What They Say About the Bros Who "Study" Them- made me laugh. 

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