By Curt Fowler
VALDOSTA – “Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.”
-William E. Gladstone
I originally wrote this post when my wife was 36 weeks pregnant and on bed rest with our 3rd child. We have four beautiful kiddos now and I wanted to share with you what I learned during this very overwhelming period of our lives!
As a deliberate battle against the overwhelm of undone tasks one experiences with two young children and a wife on bedrest, I decided Jill and I should watch movies while the girls nap on Saturdays.
So far, the only complete movie we’ve watched is The Nutty Professor – it was a worthy choice (kudos to Jill).
But, as we were perusing the list of free Amazon Prime movies this past weekend, I stumbled upon this movie – and I can’t stop recommending it to people!
(Disclosure: Jill and I have not actually watched this film together, but plan to. We ended up watching multiple episodes of the Big Bang Theory instead – who knew that TV show plays almost continuously on weekends? I had to get up at 5 am and watch “Happy” from the bike trainer!)
Here is what I learned from this great film.
I love the positive psychology movement and this movie is a documentary that explores the findings of the movement to find out who the happiest people in the world are and why.
I learned a lot from this very entertaining film, but here are my top 4 takeaways.
- What Not To Do– According to the film, the folks in Japan are not very happy. In fact, they are dying from overwork. Death from stress and overwork even has a name there – karōshi. Karōshi is when people die unexpectedly from stress and overwork. Karōjisatsu is when people commit suicide due to overwhelming workplace stress. The examples in the movie are scary, mostly because I can see a little of myself in each of them. How often have I put a work deadline over my kids or my wife? How often am I mentally absent even when physically present with my family, because my mind is on my work? Watching overblown examples of my poor behavior were a wakeup call.
- Stuff Brings No Happiness– The movie cites a study showing that after you make enough money to cover your basic needs, that more money does not improve happiness. Why? Because we can’t keep our standards in one place. As soon as we reach one plateau of wealth, we move our eyes to the next level up. As humans, we seem destined to never be satisfied with what we have. This causes several problems. One is living beyond our means with debt. We end up working too many hours to make payments on the stuff that never brings us happiness. The overwork and lack of time for relationships diminishes our happiness even more. Our focus is more and more on paying for our lifestyle (focus on self) rather than how we can do good for others – which is where real happiness is found.
- Happiness is Community– or family, but most likely both. Community and family are love and love is what we are all seeking.
There are several great examples in the movie. One was of a man in India who made his living pulling other people to their destinations in a hand-pulled rickshaw. He admitted that his feet hurt during the day and that it did get very hot, but that he had a good life. He always looked forward to coming home and having his children run out to greet him. He loved his neighbors in the little shack village he lived in. They loved one another and looked out for each other. He said that his house does let in a good bit of rain during the monsoon season, but that life was good. He was happy. The communal living spaces in Denmark were another great example. In these spaces multiple families played together, had dinners together and lived lives together. Again, it was a community that was looking after each other. How rare has living in a real community become in America? Our houses may be only 10 feet from each other, but we are so busy going to and from work, to kids’ activities that we rarely get to know our neighbors.
- Happiness is Giving– Whether it is giving your complete attention to your spouse and kids or grander gestures like taking care of the dying at Mother Teresa’s Home in India, serving is where true happiness if found. Yet we continue to pack our schedules so tight that the slightest delay sets us in a tailspin. How can we make time to serve when we barely have time to get from one meeting or appointment to the next?
Serving, relationships and happiness happens in the margins of life. When we have those moments to relax, to breath and to be totally present in what we are doing.
In America, we have an amazing amount of freedom in our schedules. We can pack them tight from dusk to dawn and barely leave room for sleep, or we can schedule in margin. We can do the same in our financial lives by living a life fueled by debt or one with margin to give, to rest.
It’s all up to us. This movie helped me realize that. Take some time and watch Happy with your loved ones. Use it as a catalyst to point your life a little more in the direction of Happy.
Are you ready to bring happiness to your workplace? Get started with free tools from our Resource Page or give us a call at 229.244.1559.
Curt Fowler is President of Fowler & Company (http://valuesdrivenresults.com/) and Director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey (http://valdostacpa.com/). He is dedicated to helping leaders create and achieve a compelling vision for their organizations. Curt is a syndicated business writer and keynote speaker. He has an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA, and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.
Image courtesy of Happy – The Movie.