COLUMN: Lori Q. McGavin — June 13, 2014

Lori Q.
Lori Q. McGavin
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Lori Q. McGavin

What really makes you happy?

Years ago, I invited a newcomer from a different part of the world into our home for supper and an evening of interesting conversations.

During the evening, he asked the question, “What will your children be when they grow up?”

I remember replying to him, “Whatever they want to be as long as they are happy and can support themselves and a family, if they choose to have one.”  

Our guest responded with surprise. He explained that, in his country, parents place extreme pressure on children to choose from a certain set of professional careers with the highest earning potential; sometimes the field of study is chosen for them.

He said a greater amount of importance is placed on having a well-respected profession that would earn lots of money than on an individual’s happiness. He also said that, although his parents may not have considered his everyday happiness, they may have believed that having greater opportunities due to wealth and having a career in a well-respected profession might contribute to his happiness.

Our guest couldn’t believe that we weren’t choosing what profession our children would pursue.

While, I would encourage my children to pursue secondary education and even push them at times to consider it, I would never disregard their happiness to have them pursue something that might not take their happiness into account.  

Some people think that happiness cannot happen without wealth; I am not one of them.

Happiness -- have you ever taken inventory of what it is that really makes you happy? And why is it so important?

Just this week I watched the documentary, “Happy” on Netflix. It takes viewers on a journey in search of what really makes people happy.

It has so many interesting stories of people all over the world. I really enjoyed seeing the many instances of people talking about happiness with the people in their lives: their families, their friends, and their communities.

One story, in particular, was very interesting to me. In Bhutan, prosperity is measured by a concept called Gross National Happiness rather than on Gross National Product. Gross National Happiness is based on the premise that true development occurs when material and spiritual development complement each other and places importance on both the health of its citizens and the health of its environment. It is recognized that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness to people.

Of course, I am not an expert on this but it sure sounds interesting to me.

In my own life, there was a time when I thought that accomplishing so many things would make me happy: that my busy life was something to be proud of.  I thought that I would be happier if I earned more. I also started to feel like I would be happier if I attained more possessions. I kept a mental tally in my head of the possessions I was proud of.

Actually, I started to feel trapped by wanting more. What I had was never enough and I usually felt overwhelmed. I also felt attached to my possessions.

Instead of actually gaining more and feeling happier, I lost moments with loved ones: moments that will never be recovered. I missed out on being there for people in my life.  

Thankfully, that part of my life has been replaced by regularly taking inventory of what it is that makes me happy. I think about what and whom I am grateful for. I also meditate to try to lessen my attachment to ideas and material possessions. I am a work in progress!

When I take inventory of the moments of pure happiness in my lifetime it includes time spent with family and friends, simple moments of play, laughter and joy, and gratitude for just being able to enjoy nature and the beautiful sights the natural world has to offer. In those moments, I don’t recall how much money I had in my bank account or in my pocket. But I did have my basic needs met.

Of course, it is not always as easy as taking inventory to bring me back to happiness. But one of the things that will always bring me back to happiness is my resolve to overcome and my intent to be grateful for what still is.

Inevitably, we all experience terrible circumstances that are a part of life: death, loss, grief, sadness, anger, and despair. Sometimes these circumstances cloud over us a bit longer than others. But the human spirit is remarkable. We can still laugh, we can still remember, we can still live with vitality, and we can still be happy.

And why is it so important to be happy? Happier people are healthier, they function better, they’re more productive, they love more, and they live longer.

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to myself to spend more time doing things that brings me happiness: trying one new thing each week, going on adventures, and spending more time with the people I love.

Who’s with me?

I would love to hear about your happiness adventures!

 

Lori Q. McGavin is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Sharon Thomas and Kevin Joseph. You can reach her at lorimcgavin@gmail.com

Geographic location: Bhutan, Saskatoon

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