Happiness for me was always a goal. it was something to attain and achieve. At an early age, through competitive sports, I was tied up in winning. My high school football coach told all of us, on a daily basis, ‘you can wipe your ass with your press clippings.’ The message: never be satisfied, never stop working for more, never be happy. We all bought in, we won the state football championship my senior year and after that, I was happy for a few days.
Following high school, I had to figure out what was my next goal, what was I working towards, what was going to make me happy? I wasn’t going to end up a high school hero sitting around and talking about the good old days, with a bunch of kids I was buying beer for, but I couldn’t figure out what was going to make me happy next.
I married and amazing woman, moved to California and had a high paying job. Sure, I had a ton of fun, learned a lot and could have taken a bunch of amazing selfie’s, if that was a thing ten years ago, but I rarely took five minutes out of a day to just be happy. I wanted to be rich, live in a better house, start my own company, I needed more success for others to see, just so I could be happy.
A funny thing happened on the road to more, I got arrogant and took too big of a risk at the wrong time. Between twenty eight and thirty, my new company failed, I lost the majority of my savings, I got fired from a job I hated and I ended up in the hospital without health insurance. At that point, happiness was a distant memory.
The road back to respectability was long and filled with mistakes, but after being so far down, my perspective on a lot of things changed. The major shift was realizing that happiness must come from within, and the journey is much more fulfilling than the goal. I found that my passion was the process of building something, not the result.
Regardless of what I have, what I do, where I live, the ability to be present and enjoy what I’m doing is all completely in my control. Longing for the past, worrying about the future, caring about what other people think, these are all internal thoughts, not external expectations and pressures. Based on this premise and my need for efficiency I’ve developed an equation for happiness:
How much time do you spend longing for the past?
How much time do you spend worrying about the future?
How much time you spend appreciating today?
If you spend more time thinking about the past and future than you do appreciating what you’re doing today, chances are you don’t feel happy. When I catch myself slipping into deep thought or emotion about yesterday or tomorrow, I try to pull myself back into today. While today may just be going to the grocery store with my kids, or finding out that costs for our products have gone up by 20% or watching a movie with my wife, I think about how lucky I am to have what I have. That’s what makes me happy.