Slightly cliche title, I know, but bear with me.
Much like Gretchen Rubin did for her book, I’m exploring the idea of happiness and change through other books and articles. One of my “leadership personality traits” is apparently that I dive into research, absorbing and observing all that I can before I make a decision. Basically it means I’m indecisive until I have all the facts, but then I go on my intuition.
In my quest to learn and be inspired, I’ve been checking out a lot of books about happiness and self-improvement (I can only imagine what the librarian thinks as I’m checking all of these books out…). My current book is Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar. He teaches a happiness course at Harvard and since it’s relatively short compared to the other books in my stack, I thought I’d start with this.
One of the quotes that already stands out to me is what I’m guilty of:
“The reason why we see so many rat racers around is that our culture reinforces this belief. If we get an A at the end of the semester, we get a gift from our parents; if we meet certain quotas on the job, we get a bonus at the end of the year. We learn to focus on the next goal rather than our present experience and chase the ever-elusive future our entire lives. We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of a journey. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.”
In the book he describes a typical rat racer. When in school, this person looks forward to the end of each day and “is only sustained by the thought of the upcoming holiday, when he will no longer have to think about work and grades.” I don’t even know how many years I operated like that. Don’t get me wrong – I loved learning and enjoyed my graduate programs a lot. But by the third week of each semester, the thought of winter or summer break is what carried me through.
That’s what I’m trying to change now that I’m in the “real world.” I’m tired of chasing the “ever-elusive future” and never really being in the present. It’s all about what I can be doing now to ensure a better future, and I often feel like I need something to look forward to. Why?
Right now I’ve got a great job, great friends and tons of opportunities to try new things and see new places. I think it’s high time I started enjoying my life as it is now instead of forever being like the woman Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat Pray Love:
“The other problem with all this swinging though the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment. It’s something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who–whenever she sees a beautiful place–exclaims in near panic, ‘It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!’ and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here.”