I originally posted something similar on Facebook, but thought I’d put here as well.
I believe we need to fundamentally change what people believe is success in this country (most of the world for that matter). The way I see it now is that you’ve made it if you have money. Or if you have power. Or if you have fame. The fundamental problem is that we teach children from, well birth basically, that if you are “successful” (as described above) then you will be happy, but these are far from the ingredients necessary for happiness
More below the fancy thing.
What if instead, starting in preschool all the way through high school (not to mention outside of school) we not only taught students how to be successful in the workforce, but how to be happy? What if instead of just teaching academics we taught how to be of service to others and how to live in the present (and by this I mainly mean some form of meditation). I don’t mean a class or two here and there. Or a requirement of a certain amount of hours of community service to graduate. I mean giving these equal measure 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3. A third of the time you are doing academics, a third of time you are helping others and developing empathy and a third of the time you are learning to be present. What if these kids were taught to love one another and help one another instead of compete? What if they were taught that they could be happy, truly happy, right now? That it doesn’t depend on the clothes, or the cliques, or the stuff, or making the team, or making the grade. I think these kids would change the world and be full of joy in the process.
We teach kids, and we are taught, from so early on that money, power and fame equals happiness and that in turn is what is worked for. Then when we get a taste of one of these (sure we may be “happy” for a minute) it quickly fades. And so we believe that we need just a little more. We need that promotion, that raise, that car or that relationship. We need to try just a little bit harder, after all everyone else that has this stuff is happy, right? On and on and on it goes. And God forbid you make it to the very tip top, because then you’re really in trouble, because there is nothing to work for, and you’re still not happy, and then you’re like holy crap what now? The misery of success.
I think the key here is that we are trying to solve a spiritual problem with material things (this is a mangling of someone else’s quote, but not sure who). I don’t believe that we were put here with a deficiency in our ability to be happy. I don’t think we were built needing to add something in order to be happy. I think if you were to ask anyone that is truly happy (and by truly happy I mean full-on joy regardless of external circumstances) they will tell you that you can be happy right now. Right this very moment. No matter what. In fact they’ll tell you, that’s the only way you can be happy. But good luck finding one of these people because they are rare.
Not that this hasn’t been said before, and much more eloquently by others, and sorry if I sound like I’m preaching, but as my oldest gets close to elementary school I feel like he is heading into years of receiving lost of useless information (from school, media, authority figures, leaders, you name it) that he is going to have to forget if he ever has a chance at happiness. I also say this b/c I volunteer for a suicide prevention crisis line and it breaks my heart hearing the anguish and despair these people are in. And a good portion of the time it is because they have been taught to value the wrong things. Either they’ve got some of the things that are supposed to make them/us happy and are still distraught and desperate or they don’t have some of those things and they are distraught and desperate. They have been driven to a point of wanting to kill themselves because they were taught the wrong way to happiness. They’re just doing what they were told to do and it’s not working. And by they I mean me. I’ve been there.
To continue a little longer this already way too long diary. I’m going to do my best (progress not perfection) to change the definition of success with my children and in my relationships and hopefully others are doing this, or will do this, as well. Maybe this all sounds a little Pollyanna, well OK, but I think we are going to be here again and again repeating this cycle until we get it and it’s just going to be a bummer for all of us if we don't change.