Example: Most people are aware of the power of reciprocity, which is why they are so eager to give you a cookie when you go into a furniture store or buy you a free coke at the car dealership. Once we say yes, we owe them. The fact that we don’t OWE them enough to buy a 30k car is besides the point, there is nothing else we can give them to repay the favor when we are in their offices. So a free coke and a free cookie really do increase sales.
“Those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities who create the vast stage for illusion. They are the puppet masters. No one achieves celebrity status, no cultural illusion is swallowed as reality, without these armies of cultural enablers and intermediaries. The sole object is to hold attention and satisfy an audience.”
Several friends of mine over the last few years have talked a lot about “seeking happiness” and the goal of “being happy”. Some even have “happiness projects.”Â I am reminded that America’s liberties include the right to “the pursuit of happiness.”
Yet there is something about the pursuit of happiness as an end goal that bothers me. I find the pursuit of happiness alone to be shallow — I don’t think it makes you happy long term.
Money doesn’t bring happiness.Â Tiger Woods is worth close to a billion dollars, is married to a Scandinavian swimsuit model, and yet he still felt the need to sleep with an assortment of cocktail waitresses so that he could feel better about himself.
Yes we all need money. We are capitalists as a country. We earn money. Is money the motivator? Not for me beyond a certain point. It’s this internal drive. I don’t think I will ever show upÂ at work without a fire in my belly and a drive to accomplish MORE. You take risks so you sometimes fail. When you fail you are unhappy. You get back up. That’s how it works.
I can’t be described as walking around in “a state of happiness.” I am much more wound up than that. But my life has meaning because I take care of my family, which in turn makes me feel happy. I have surrounded myself with intriguing people who I deeply care about. My relationship with God is conflicted, but that is hardly surprising for aÂ CatholicArmy Brat. My relationship with my kids could be better, but in my defense they areÂ called teenagers for a reason. I am approaching my 20th wedding anniversary which we willÂ celebrate in style. I could work out more, but I do work out. I am working on all of those things. They are meaningful and they require hard work. I have a damn good life, but what I am not is running around completely happy all of the time.
My real issue is that I believe “the pursuit of happiness” isÂ misguided and superficial as an goal.
How many marriagesÂ fail because someone says “I am just not happy” as if marriage is supposed to be 100% happy? And are these folks reading interesting books, talking about them, and seeking the meaning in life?
It turns out I am not alone that meaning is more important than happiness alone. Sunday’s Chronicle has a post titledÂ Seeking happiness? Think big thoughts by Robert Zaretsky. It begins:
A recent study finds what we all once knew before our hectic lives made us forget: that like good barbecue or prime crude, the making ofÂ happiness takes time. Time enough, and world enough with others.
According to Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona,Â individuals who spend more of their time wondering about big questions, and doing so in the company of others, are happierthan those who wonder about the weather or John Edwards’ love child.
“When one is acting under the rule of dissociated impulses, everybody except the individual himself knows and perceives what is happening. The individual who is stingy and mean in certain relationships will persist in perceiving himself as generous and kind. Similarly the individual who has trouble getting close to people may compensate for this deficiency with a pseudo friendliness and overt joviality (a common cultural trait, characteristic of many Americans, that is recognized all over the world).”