I'm delighted to share the third instalment to the trio of pieces that began with my column What floats your boat and was continued last week with Jan's pursuit of happiness. It has been fascinating to see how three people have taken such different interpretations of what for most of us, is arguably an underlying life's goal. I'm grateful that Jan and Trev took their time to put their views down and allowed me to share them. Thanks guys!

Thanks also to Trev for reminding me that it's Monday! The fiancé took me for lunch at The Daffodil where a fabulous Passion-tini cocktail kicked off a meal where gluttonously we took up the offer of a second bread basket and I had a couple of glasses of wonderful Syrah. As a result I've been languorously feeling there was something I was meant to do today but lacking inclination to try to remember!  

The pursuit of happiness
by Trev

In this, the third and final essay on happiness I can categorically state that the answer is, beyond any shadow of a doubt... forty two. *

I jest of course.

In truth the answer to happiness is just as difficult and unfathomable as the answer to life, the universe and everything. Part of this is because the question is so undefined. What is happiness? Are we talking satisfaction? Contentment? Do we want to be happy now? Some time in the future? All the time? Is it even desirable to be happy all of the time? 

Recent studies have shown that people that are happy are more inward looking, careless and selfish! Other studies have shown that guys that look happy are less attractive (though the opposite is true for women). It is a very modern western phenomenon that we even seek happiness. You could say that it is a luxury, afforded to us by our convenience driven lifestyle...

For now I’m going to assume that happiness is something that is desirable. Something that we all want. And I’m going to tell you how I have managed to find my own happiness in life. 

Part of the answer is just to have a life path. Having goals, no matter how simple they are, are a good way to get rid of the ennui that many people habitually fall in to. In that sense Kathryn, Jan and myself were all on the right track. We all had paths in life that were taking us somewhere. They may have seemed very different from the outside, but they gave us all a direction in life so we knew what was coming next. In my case it was my world travels (I have now replaced that with “getting a real life”); For Jan it was the career that she was pursuing, and for Kathryn it was the new life with a new guy, and her dissertation, and becoming the leading socialite on the Kuala Lumpur scene (Kathryn likes to keep busy!).

Another part of the answer is to remember that “This too will pass”. You can’t cling onto happiness. To try to do so will just destroy the thing that caused it. Likewise you shouldn’t cling onto depression. That will just ruin your life. It may sound stupid to cling to depression, but I have seen so many people do it... myself included! I have also seen people cling onto happiness, normally with pretty bad results. You know those people that you see that are dressed in a way that makes you think they have been wearing exactly the same clothes for 20 years? Normally those people had a few good years, and ever since then they have been clinging onto everything that reminds them of those years... 

The third and final part (for now) is people. People are where your true happiness lies. I consider myself to be an introvert. Often I don’t want anyone’s company. I can seclude myself in my room for days on end, reading, or watching films, or even surfing the internet. But even I need human contact sometimes. It is important to have a good network of people in your life. People that you can trust. People that you can rely on. When you have that then no matter what the world throws at you, you always know you can take it!

Ok... I lied. There is one more thing I would like to say. It is just this. What you did in the past defines your reality now. What you do now will define your reality in the future. So if you want to be happy in the future, always do the right thing now. 

Thats all I have to say about that...

* To any of you that haven’t read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy; You probably haven’t lived! Go out and read it now!


If you'd like to read more by Trev, he writes The Real Man Project which we discussed in my column, A better man. a real man last August. Trev also blogs about his adventures on the road and on the subject of salsa (the dance not the food) in Trev's Salsa Travels and finally on the subject of food at Trev's Cookbook.
 
In last week's column, What floats your boat, I wrote about a friendship in time where three of us were trying to decide our life's direction. For the first Monday Guest column, Jan has written her side of things. I love Jan's writing and the way she sees the world in such a different way to me but often seems completely right! She makes me think and I hope you enjoy her contribution.

The pursuit of happiness
by Jan
Kathryn has asked me to write a column about the pursuit of happiness. I think it is an interesting subject as happiness is such a difficult word to define that till this day I still cannot fully explain what it is. I do however remember when I was a child and being asked what I want when I grow up, I said I wanted to be happy.

Such a simple answer. And yet as I grew older, staying happy seems to be a more complicated task than I thought some twenty years ago. Things happen and life can throw you a few curve balls, and try as I might, I couldn't at all times, "be happy".

Anyway I digress.

I guess what I consider to be happiness does not come with an easy answer. If I had to pin it down to something, my happiness comes mostly from people and companionship. With the right company, I am happy doing anything, anytime, anywhere. Life is without fun if not for each little moment that brings a smile to your face and more importantly, the people that you share those moments with. But it is by no means considered a "life goal" for me. Don't get me wrong, it does not come without effort nor is it to be taken granted of, but I don't think it has to be in conflict with what I want to do with my life.

I guess I am what one might call a "driven" person, whatever that means. I like what I do and want to be good at it. And if I am good at it, I want to go somewhere with it. I enjoy being productive and making a difference in my own ways. And when I said if I must choose between "money, power, fame, pleasure", I would have chosen power, it was said in the same spirit.

It was indeed an interesting discussion between Trev, Kathryn and me. Of course I think no one is wrong, or can be wrong, it was simply a matter of personal choice. Trev's choice to backpack around the world was an interesting contrast to me and of course is something I would never do. I think the need for a sense of security and stability has a lot to do with that. But for him, it works.

All being said, I am a firm believer in "work hard, play hard". To me, holiday is not as fun without work; and work is not as enjoyable without holiday. I can't see myself perpetually being on holiday, assuming money is not an issue. I will find myself without direction and don't know what I am doing with my life.

But direction is merely where you are headed. You could speed down the road to get to the final destination or you could slow down and enjoy the scenery while you get there. And I will say that I am not in great hurry so much so that I will give up the other important things in life.

At the end of the day, I guess, the pursuit of happiness to me is trying my best to strike that perfect balance of having (half of) my cake and eat it (the other half) too. I may end up with more of one or the other, willingly or not. But I have to at least try.

And of course as they always say - it is not about the destination, it's about the journey.


    The Monday Guest

    The Thursday Column has become an institution; mostly just for me but there are a few people whose feedback suggests that my desire to publish something near the end of the week has resulted in a product that fills a pre-weekend Thursday muse or a Friday morning coffee break. Well, I'd like to start each week in a similar way and have asked my many brilliant friends to support this goal. If you would like to contribute, please contact me.

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