Do. Be. Do. Be. Do.
Just like everyone else on the planet, my life is a study in the search for happiness. More than just an idle goal, happiness is now a science, and thus I have had many resources to draw on in my quest.
My search for happiness ran into a little problem around my fortieth birthday, though.
I achieved it.
A careful review of Eastern philosophy (which, along with the science had helped me get into this mess - achieving happiness and all) wasn’t too helpful once the goal was reached. Most of Eastern philosophy -- and more and more Western philosophy as well -- advises a state of BEING to attain and maintain happiness. Granted, having attained it, BEING happy does take continual practice, year by year, month by month, day by day and even moment by moment. I may never perfect it and that's not really the point. I don't have to perfect being happy to BE happy.
But simply BEING happy is not the same, I've found, as being fulfilled.
And now that I'm in post-happy (or happy-plus?) territory, what is my goal, anyway? For me, and I suspect for many people, it is to achieve success.
Isn't success necessary for happiness? Well, frankly, no. BEING happy for me is simply BEING me. As I am. In this moment. Changing or unchanging doesn't matter. BEING successful, by contrast, implies that something outside me has to change.
Let me address this issue of BEING vs. DOING (i.e., individual accomplishments, efforts and events). This is a little abstract, but try to bear with me. Successful accomplishments -- like getting an A on a paper, or a promotion at work -- can be a helpful contributor to a successful state of being, but just like a moment of happiness does not lead to a sustainable and happy state of being, I have found that individual accomplishments do not lead to a successful state of being. Accomplishments are experienced in the moment and then are gone. A bunch of them certainly add up to more positivity than negativity, but let's face it; life can't just be all roses all the time. So I came to the conclusion that achieving moments of anything -- happiness, success etc. -- don't achieve states of happiness and success that persist through the tough times, the inevitability of sadness, and the necessary lessons of failure.
In short, if I don't achieve a happy or successful state of being, I just end up yo-yoing between moments of happiness and sadness, success and failure. So by concentrating on states of BEING, I'm working to get off the merry-go-round and escaping the yo-yo.
I am writing this on a plane flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. while planning a trip to New York City. Said another way, I’m leaving a land where physical beauty is power, going to a land where influence is power, and headed to yet another land where the all mighty dollar gets you just about anything you want. Basically, our culture defines success as power, in all its various forms. Beauty. Influence. Money. And all of the things these forms of power can acquire for you. You know what I mean. I don't need to remind you of what you see on every billboard, TV screen and supermarket tabloid. Turns out this stuff wasn't very important when I attained a happy state of being – in some ways quite the opposite. So I've already screened this kind of power out of my definition of success just to get to the point where I can ask the question, What is Success? So Power can't be the answer. Or can it?
As I sit in my happy place and ponder what a successful state of being might feel like, I realize that power is important to me, but not the kind our culture splashes us with. When I imagine BEING successful, I imagine that the world I occupy -- the people, beings and organizations I touch -- are better because I touch them. This means my existence in their midst changes them in some important way, or causes something to be created that wouldn't have existed without my involvement. I guess it's as simple as "making a difference," which implies you can do stuff to change the current state of affairs and yet it's not that simple. In becoming happy, I learned that simply doing things that create happiness doesn't necessarily always make me happy. To stay in my happy place, I have to spend a certain amount of time simply BEING happy, regardless of any individual event. I'm sure it will work the same way with success.
This seems like an absurd question (echoes of my inner critic whispering "of course not, silly") until I stop and remember a fundraising committee meeting where I said very little but got credit for the "big idea" which helped raise over $10,000 with little effort. Granted, I did DO something by having the idea and voicing it. But compared to lots of other things I do that take hours of time, and bucket loads of energy, that idea was a lot closer to BEING than most of the things I do that have much less impact.
So it is possible to change the world by being in it. Being in the right place at the right time and doing the one right thing the world needs from me. Cool!
Now it's easy for my brain to run away with a ton of "why nots" as to why just being a brain and a mouth isn't quite enough to be successful, but I'm going to let those doubts go and allow myself to want this. Why? Because I realize how efficient being successful in this way could be for me and my world. How much good in the world might come of my allowing myself to simply BE successful in this way? How much better might the world BE if I stopped unproductive doing and just WAS what the world needed me to be? How much more good could I create if I believed that I had more $10,000 dollar ideas -- and $25,000 ideas and million dollar ideas -- living inside me just waiting for me to stop doing so that I could pay attention to them? And it's not all about money. When I give myself room to BE successful, I connect people who develop meaningful relationships, I create beauty, I give more hugs and use my magical eyes more.
And bit by bit, my world gets better.
We can't change the world without BEING in it. And if we don't DO some things, we become a burden on those around us, or let our bodies fall apart, making it tough to maintain any state of being. But as I keep discovering, there is a fair amount of DOING that I can do without. And when I let the stuff go that doesn't really make a difference, I find that the stuff left over does matter. In the new time I have to BE, I can use my time and energy to do the few things that bring change to my life and the lives of those I touch. In BEING successful, I change the world.
When was the last time you just WERE? How do happiness and success play out in your life? How do you change the world around you by simply being in it? My wish for us all is that some of our energy is spent DOING and BEING in ways that bring happiness and success into the world every day. Of course there's other "stuff" going on that demands our attention, but that's no excuse not to put a little BEING energy out there. Try it and let me know how it goes.
Photocredit: My husband, in a small plane above Mt. Everest
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