Today is International Day of Happiness. Yes, there’s a holiday for that too. And why the hell not, right? I was happy enough to participate in a Q&A session sponsored by Wes at The Pursuit of Happiness. I had a lot of fun with it. It forced me to think about some things that I don’t often think about. I’ve included my own responses down below, but what do I know, I’m just a monkey! If you want to read thoughts from some more enlightened folks, check out Wes’ mashup from dozens of bloggers over at thePursuitofHappiness.me. Here’ an intro from Wes:
Hey there! My name is Wes, creator of thePursuitofHappiness.me. I won’t bore you with the full details of the inspiration for the site. To share a little bit though; growing up in America, I had always been taught about this nation’s founding documents and I heard all the time about the Declaration of Independence and the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” but frankly, did not appreciate it until I was in my late twenties.
I mean seriously, our founding fathers named the Pursuit of Happiness as an unalienable right for all in the Declaration of Independence, but how many people do you know that are truly happy? If your experiences are anywhere near similar to mine, not very many. What an incredible opportunity we are squandering!
So this is what thepursuitofhappiness.me is about really, a collection of content hopefully designed to help each and everyone one of us fulfill our own pursuit of Happiness. This is done in an increasing number of formats as we continue to expand our internet footprint. For the ENTIRE month of March, we are celebrating the Days of Happiness (inspired by the International Day of Happiness on March 20th). I hope to see you around social and on the site – don’t be afraid to leave a comment!
Thank you for your time, after all – it is the most valuable thing we have.
Corporate Monkey CPA’s responses about what happiness means:
Happiness means different things to different people, what does Happiness mean to you?
Jojo Bobo: I generally think of two separate types of happiness: a short-term happiness and a long-term happiness. You get short-term happiness when you have a nice conversation, hang out with friends, or buy something you really want. While short-term happiness is real and valid, it also is very fleeting, often lasting only a few minutes or less than a day. Some people pursue it like a drug, and may get into financial or other trouble because of it.
Long-term happiness is more dependent on your personality and your situation in life. If you have solid long-term relationships, a loving family, a good job, and the basics: shelter, food, health – you can achieve long-term happiness.
Two things I find very interesting about the two types of happiness: First, the short-term happiness is very relative to your own past experiences and the people you surround yourself with – while the long-term happiness is less relative, and more absolute to the human condition. Second, the short-term happiness sometimes comes at the cost of the long-term happiness.
Do you believe happiness is an emotion or more of a state of mind?
Jojo Bobo: The short-term happiness is an emotion, almost by definition. While the long-term happiness is a state of mind or personality, a more permanent condition.
Do you consider being happy important to you? Why?
Jojo Bobo: I view the long-term happiness as critically important to me. I believe everything we do to work hard and succeed in life ultimately should be so that we can achieve and maintain long-term happiness. We should pursue this above all else.
The short-term happiness is a more complicated matter. It is definitely something we all enjoy and should pursue in moderation, but it can also be harmful in excess. If you pursue short-term emotional happiness at all costs, you may actually sacrifice your long-term happiness. For example, someone who enjoys BMWs, and buys a new model every couple of years, may indulge in the temporary joy of a new car (short-term happiness), but would likely be sacrificing their future financial stability. This can result in future sacrifices that impair your long-term happiness.
So the trick about short-term happiness is finding a balance. Everyone needs to find their own balance between indulging in short-term pleasure, which often requires spending money, and pursuing their long-term happiness goals – which I believe requires saving money.
What do you consider a fundamental barrier to Happiness in your life?
Jojo Bobo: What a great question! I’m a little afraid of what my answer will be.
Again referring to the two types of happiness: short-term and long-term, I think I’ve really achieved the long-term happiness. I have everything that I can really want or need – my health, a loving family, community, purpose, etc. But, with respect to the short-term happiness, I’m certainly not always in a happy mood.
What prevents me from achieving more short-term happiness? For one, I am often afraid to indulge. I would always rather save money – thus I don’t use it for short-term pleasures. My wife thinks this is a bad thing. I am too focused on the future and not on the present. If I could indulge more, without worrying about spending money, I could have more pleasures in life, and achieve more short-term happiness.
How important is wealth and money to your own happiness?
Jojo Bobo: Wealth is a fundamental tool for achieving long-term happiness, but only because it allows you to have and maintain the things that really matter. You do not have to be “wealthy”, but you do need some money.
Here’s what I consider necessary to achieving long-term happiness:
1. Good Health
2. A Reliable Source of Good Food
4. A Purpose
5. A Few Close Relationships
6. Be A Valued Part Of A Community
7. Access to the Great Outdoors
8. Some Physical Activity
While you can have most of these things without much money at all, having some degree of wealth provides us with more of an assurance that we can keep and maintain these things. Wealth is thus a tool that can be used to achieve and maintain happiness.
How important is health and wellness to happiness?
Good health is unique because it is critical to both short-term and long-term happiness. If you’re temporarily sick, you definitely sacrifice your short-term happiness. If you have a more chronic health condition, you sacrifice your long-term happiness.
People who are young and healthy don’t often realize how difficult things become when your health declines. If you are healthy, you should be very happy about it.
Like money, good health is often sacrificed in pursuit of short-term emotional happiness. For example, people may indulge in a donut because it makes them feel good for a few minutes. Another example is exercise: it is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even painful for a lot of people, and so they avoid exercise. Yet, a poor diet and lack of exercise lead to chronic health problems in the future, which will inevitably impair your long-term happiness.
So, again, excessive pursuit of short-term emotional happiness may sacrifice your long-term happiness.
What has been the happiest moment in your life?
That’s a tough one. It’s funny because I can easily think of the saddest or most tragic moments of my life, but the happiest ones don’t really stand out for me. It’s easy to say something like my wedding day, or the day my first son was born, but those days don’t really feel like major achievements for me – they are just events – significant events, yes, but not something I really struggled to achieve.
I think working hard toward a goal and achieving something difficult results in a much happier moment. One example of this I can think of was passing the CPA exam. I had studied for a couple of years on the bus every day while commuting to work, and passing the exam was really meaningful to me.
Do you have any specific goals or resolutions for 2017? If so, would your share your top two that directly relate to your own Pursuit of Happiness?
Yes, big time. My goals are: 1) Quit my job 2) Kick ass!… I’m taking the family on a “Family Gap Year” to South America. It’s going to be a big year. This has everything to do with our pursuit of happiness. It’s a chance to spend time with our kids while they still think I’m cool. It’s a chance to explore the world, and act like I’m 20 again. It’s a chance to make some memories that will really last, both for me and for my kids.
Do you consider giving to others or charity work an important part of your own Pursuit and why?
Another fascinating question. Actually, my wife and I are very turned off by charities or other organizations that seek donations. We’ve seen too much corruption and ulterior motives that we cannot trust charities. On the other hand, we do give to family and friends in need – if we know them personally, and we see a true need. My wife is from Bolivia, and this is how giving & donations generally work in Latin America – through direct personal relationships. We see it as our responsibility to support our community.
I suppose this does have something to do with our pursuit of happiness because it is an insurance policy of sorts against future problems. We give to our community today because someday the tables may be turned, and we may need help ourselves. So we pay it forward.
What 2 things have you learned in your own pursuit that you would like to share with others?
How about just one thing. It’s probably the biggest idea that guides my own pursuit of happiness: I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in South America in the late 1990s. I lived in a small village in the Andes mountains – about 1,000 people in a farming community in the middle of nowhere. There was one telephone in the village that worked for a few hours a day. Electricity had only been installed a few years earlier, but it often wasn’t working. Running water only happened at night. There was no TV (worth watching), no radio, very few cars. Life had really not changed much there in the last couple thousand years.
After living there for a few years, I came to the realization that these people were no less happy (on average) than people I knew in the United States. Most of them had the “necessities” covered – health, food, shelter, a community, a purpose, etc. I learned that once you have those things, whether or not you are happy depends on who you are as an individual. Everything else is fluff.
Even now, twenty years later, whenever I start feeling sorry for myself that I don’t have something that someone else has – perhaps a neighbor, a colleague – I think of the people in that village…. and I ask someone to slap me straight.
Go check out what all the other bloggers had to say over at The Pursuit of Happiness