Ever since I started delving into the world of self development, around the same time I started this blog nine years ago, the topic of happiness has fascinated me.
What makes people happy? Why are some people happier than others? What part does money play in happiness? And the biggest question of all, how can I be happy?
As humans our main purpose is survival, but with most daily risks to our survival now taken care of, this gives way to a new purpose. The pursuit of happiness. If you ask most people what they want it will either be happiness, or something they perceive will bring them happiness, usually money.
I’ve been so busy recently I haven’t had much chance to ponder things let alone blog about them, but today I stumbled across the idea of the ‘medium chill’. It reminded me of some of the books I read a few (nine is a few as you get older) years ago. Medium chill reminded me of The Fulfillment Curve, the idea of ‘enough’.
Medium Chill is the idea that we should all stop striving to own the latest car or the bigger house, although when it comes to size I think TVs are the new way to prove who is the bigger man (or woman)? Medium Chill is about deciding what’s enough and sticking to it, and spending the rest of your time building relationships and enjoying your ‘free’ time. It also suggests we shouldn’t look to further our careers or take the ‘next step’.
This is all instead of the Big Chill which is all about “doing today what others won’t, so you can do tomorrow what others can’t” (this is a quote that has been requoted so many times I don’t know who started it, but a lot of entrepreneurs buy into this idea. In short, you work like a dog until you’re about 40 and then you retire on a beach somewhere. It’s a nice idea but I’ve never met any entrepreneur type that could actually lay on a beach for eight hours a day and suppress the urge to create.
So if the Big Chill is just a fantasy, is Medium Chill the answer? Would we be happy if we all just slowed down a bit and stopped our striving?
I think there are two issues here that need to be addressed.
1. Work makes people unhappy
2. Money makes people happy
Money doesn’t make people happy. Ok, that’s not entirely true. Money does make people happy but not as much as we think. If you’re incredibly poor then a bit more money will obviously improve your lifestyle which may lead to increased happiness. In general though it has been proven that whether good or bad things happen in your life, you eventually swing back to you usual level of happiness. We all end up about the same amount of happy, regardless of what we own. The amount of happy we are comes from how happy we decide to be. Happiness isn’t related to things so much as it is simply a decision. Most of the time you can just ‘decide’ to be happy (some life events will obviously affect this).
Work doesn’t make people unhappy. The type and amount of work people feel pressured into doing is what makes them unhappy. If your job was to watch TV all day, eventually you would begin to resent it if you had to do it for 10 hours a day straight. If you have a job as a chocolate taster and you had to eat 10 boxes of chocolates a day, it would soon become a chore. You’d be unhappy. To be happy, we need to find work that has variety, that is fulfilling, that allows us the space to do other things if we want to. If you find the right work, something you are passionate about, it doesn’t feel like a chore to do it for long hours.
The key to happiness in my opinion, is simply to refuse to race. The rat race is a race that none of us can win. There will always be someone who has more. Always.
Rather than refusing to strive and going Medium Chill, which I find the idea of a bit boring, I think the answer is to create a new race. A race with yourself. Humans naturally want to develop and achieve. If we focus on being more, rather than having more, that could be really fulfilling? Nobody can be more you than you, but you can be more than you have been. It’s a race we can all win. You don’t have to always rely on stuff for status. When you set personal goals and reach them, people respect you, respect brings status. When you help others achieve, this also brings respect, which brings status. It’s not all about what you own, it’s the effect you can have on people too.
I’ve come to the conclusion that neither the Big Chill or the the Medium Chill is for me. I’m going to continue running in my own race, and I’m going to encourage other people to run alongside me (in their own race). They will cheer me on, and I will cheer them on. And all that matters is that we beat our own times and create a life’s work that we can be proud of.