Two Types of Happiness

When I was a kid, my family couldn't afford much. Brand-label clothes for school? Not for me and my sister. My mom was good with a sewing machine, she actually made our clothes even into jr high. Nike shoes? Nope, we had some off-brand. Even though these clothes didn't have the logos on them, I was proud of what I had. It was the best we could afford.

I just wanted to fit in, to be like the other kids. When you come from less, you strive to be average. I felt I finally caught up to being average in high school, because I had a job at McDonalds through most of it, and could actually buy my own stuff by then. I had a car, played sports, and a girlfriend. I never really did things to make myself stand out, having worked so hard just to feel accepted within the crowd.

In my 20's, I struggled with college and finances. I'm pretty sure I was broke for at least 10 years. I knew the right path to take with my engineering degree, but that didn't make it easier. It was a slow, arduous process. I finally graduated, while working full-time to pay for it all myself. I did find time in between to gain more social confidence, largely from working in the restaurant industry on weekends.

In my 30's, I focused on my career, and building income. I was sick of my trajectory of becoming average. I spent many months per year working offshore, or away from home. The oil industry has a way of doing that to you. The lure of large paychecks can keep us on the ocean, or in remote areas of the world that most would deem undesirable. I started building companies in my spare time, teaching myself new skills that could also be monetized. I became very, very driven in my 30s. I began to dream bigger, to set crazier goals, and take more action. It worked. I've achieved far more already, than I ever thought would be possible.

Now in my 40's, I've had more time to reflect on things. I've had the fancy cars, big house, international travel lifestyle. Those are great goals to motivate you. But, I've also learned that these things never keep you happy. You always want more, you always want something new, something better. The buzz of happiness that you feel when you achieve something, or hit a financial goal is great - but it is short-lived. It might last a few days. Maybe a week. I've never had any buzz last longer than a month. Seriously. This isn't about being ungrateful, it is just admitting reality. These things are what I now consider a temporary dose of happiness. Nothing wrong with it, but trust me - you will find no end to that chase. It doesn't sustain.

What truly makes me happy, then? I enjoy helping other people achieve their own goals. I enjoy teaching others. I enjoy sharing the knowledge that I continuously come across, if it will help someone. I celebrate their accomplishments, as if they were my own. I enjoy being the connector of people, and someone that people ask advice from. This is what makes me the happiest. I've done this my entire life, but I always thought it would be the material things and personal goals that would bring me the most happiness. I'm finding that incorrect, in recent years.

By all means, certainly pursue those luxuries that make you happy. It is great to set goals throughout your life. It is wonderful to celebrate accomplishments, and reward yourself. Chase those without guilt or regret. Just be aware of the temporary happiness that they provide. Learn the distinction between these spikes of happiness, vs permanent sources of happiness. But do both.

Your happiness, and your life will not be measured by the material things you attain. It will be measured by the number of people that you positively touch. Always remember this.