Happiness, Love, Heroes, & Success

happyA friend of my mine recently sent me some interview questions for a project he’s working on.  I likes these questions because they’re really broad and writing the answers reminded me just how much my thinking has changed.  You should think about your answers to these questions too.  You may have changed more than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Are you happy?
I’ve been “happy” since I first accepted that what I’m really after is satisfaction, and that I can be satisfied and failing at the same time.  Follow me here!  I find satisfaction in routine and progress.  My commitment to living a whole life, and sharing that life with those I love brings me great satisfaction.  But there are days I stumble, fall, fail, and feel doubt. I have learned to be satisfied on those days.  I find satisfaction in my commitment to change, to being more like me every day, and for learning to get out of my own way.  But honestly? Happiness is overrated.  Find satisfaction.  Seek out joy.  Happy is a temporary high that can be brought to the floor by sadness and setbacks.  Joy is a state you can still be in while experiencing all of the emotions that come as you react to your day.  If you’re living every moment at that base, emotional, reactionary level you’re giving far too much power to things outside your control. Reach for joy, and let everything else just happen.

Is it more important to love or be loved?
Being loved is random.  It’s completely out of my control.  I can’t make someone love me any more than I can make the sun shine at midnight. I can buy it all the dinner and drinks in the world, I can sing and dance, and fully commit myself to its happiness  – but that sun won’t shine at midnight.  You can’t make it happen.  To love? It takes conscious courage to take the risk. Even in the heartbreak that comes from complete rejection, there is joy in feeling something that deep.  Some people go their whole life without that kind of passion.  Even unrequited love reminds us of our emotional capacity and our desire for that connection.   But even in a loving relationship there is always one who loves more.  A shared life is a 50/50 split, but love rarely is.  It shouldn’t be measured or compared.  It’s not important that you love me like I love you.  The whole thing will be much better if you love me like only you can.    So, I will simply say that love is important to give and receive, but since I’m only in control of what I put out in the world, I choose love.  Everyone should always be falling in love.  Quickly, slowly, off a cliff or down a gradual hill – I think romance makes the whole world glow.  So love.

Who is your hero?
I could say my parents for the incredible way they built our family and provided for me and my brother.  I could say just my dad for showing me that a man just does what he has to do to provide for those he loves.  I could easily say my mother for her strength – building a new life alone after my father passed away, and for the unimaginable amount of pain and frustration she lives with every day as rheumatism turns her own body in to her greatest challenge.  I could say my brother for being the kind of brother every little boy should be lucky enough to have, and for being the kind of friend that every man should have in his corner.  I could say any number of family members who have battled cancer and were forced in to a fight they didn’t sign up for.  I could say my cousin Jimmy, who I didn’t know well, but whose life of service brought him to breathe his last breath on a dusty road in Afghanistan.  But I don’t believe in heroes.  I believe in people.  We hold heroes up for their successes and feel bad for our own shortcomings.  The truth is even our heroes have flaws and failures that stand to teach us just as much as their successes.  I believe in finding those lessons even if they’re packaged in the most unheroic of people.  Heroes make for good stories.  Mentors are who create lasting change, and I have incredible mentors in every aspect of my life.

What defines having a successful live?
We all just want to be missed.  When you leave the room, when you leave a relationship, a job, or this life – we just want our absence to be felt because it’s proof we mattered.  A successful life, in my opinion, is one that has touched other people in a way they will miss when you’re gone. They will know their experience was larger because you were a part of it.   When all that’s left is the memories and the words I  leave behind – will people choose to keep some small part of me alive with their thoughts after I’m gone? The successful life is one that is lived with joy and generosity because people never forget how you make them feel. The unsuccessful life, then, must the one most easily forgotten.  How selfish a life must you have lived to be missed by no one? 

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