During my many years in Africa, often my African friends asked a pondering question, "With all that Americans enjoy in their country how can anyone be unhappy in the USA?" Quite a question, don't you think?
In fact, studies and statistics show that multitudes of people living here are indeed very very unhappy. During my short eight years back in the United States, I too notice unhappiness seemingly dominating many people's lives. And, here's the thing, I too, sometimes find that deep within me dissatisfaction also pops up from time to time. Is this just our American way? Is happiness in this bountiful country in which we live just an allusive pursuit of what might be around the next corner, the next opportunity, or the next lottery ticket? I offer just a few thoughts and observations of perhaps where we search in the wrong places for happiness.
Over and over again people share, "If I just had more money, I could be happy." Yes, more money does provide one with more options, but it also brings many more variables. As most desire enough money to meet one's needs, quite often focus upon one's needs turns more into a drive just to acquire more money. The few people I know who are worth millions of dollars all share the same thoughts, "Money isn't everything, it brings as many difficulties as it brings opportunities, and life is more than money." My wonderful mother until her dying day believed that if she could just win the lottery, happiness might wait just around the corner. Now, I am not saying wealthy people are unhappy, but some of the happiest people I've known possess the least amount of money. And, they appear wealthy in so many other ways.
I know this guy who loves his fishing boat. I mean he loves his fishing boat, his fishing time, and his fishing! In fact, fishing is the first priority in his life. Everyone knows it including his family. Fishing comes before relationships, marriage, children, and well, for the matter, just about anything else. By far his greatest financial investments lean towards fishing. Now, fishing guy while surrounded with more gear and wealth than the average Bass Pro Shop, is just about the most crabby, unhappy, grumpy guy anyone has ever known!
We are a nation of Stuff-Acquirers! Americans own more stuff than any people on the planet! The problem with stuff is that it provides momentary happiness, puts us in debt, is soon forgotten, and needs to be continually replenished with more new stuff to replace our old stuff; if stuff is the stuff that truly gives life meaning. Here's another thought, in gaining all this stuff, Americans are now the most overworked group of workers in the Industrialize world.
During my first internship in Dallas, Texas back in 1981, a church member drove up in a brand new expensive luxury car. No one was allowed to touch it, sit in it, let alone drink a beverage upon its palatial leather seats! Six months later while he pulled into the parking lot I noticed there where two bales of hay in the back seat of that same automobile. Everything shiny loses it sparkle, every new thing becomes old, and everything we acquire fades into insignificance; eventually.
A number of years ago, an extremely successful businessman of just forty-two years of age shared his personal startling revelation with me. "Don," he said, "I made up my mind that by the time I turned forty years old I'd reach the top of the mountain. I am rich, successful, and highly envied by many in the business world. But, you know what Don? As I look out from this mountain top at what it has cost me in relationships and happiness, I am just now realizing that I've spent my entire life climbing the wrong mountain. I wanted to be over there!"
Kenneth GoodPastor, professor at University of Saint Thomas, developed at term for Goal-fixation or Target-fixation in his book, Conscience and Corporate Culture. He called this phenomenon "teleopathy." "Teleopathy is a mindset that reflects imbalance; in particular, it reflects imbalance in the pursuit of goals to the detriment of other ends that may have instrumental or moral significance." Simply put, Goal-fixation is being so focused on an end result, an end desire, or success in a specific area that it becomes the sole reason a person lives to the neglect and detriment of everything else in life.
Many people searching for happiness seemly never find their allusive goal. Is it possible that simply looking for happiness in itself for self-pursuit is a dead end? If one's goal is simply attaining happiness for one's self, than is not that happiness which is so deeply desired dependent just upon one's self? I mean, if I am the standard of what I define and determine happiness to be, than perhaps the end of my happiness can be no greater than myself.
Just My Thoughts,