What We Really Need to Be Happy

by Sasha Peakall

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” ~Unknown

Standing, getting crushed on the metro at peak hour, I look around and my heart sinks. I’m surrounded by sullen faces, their eyes focused intently on games on their iPads and smart phones.

These are the sullen faces representing a world of people dreading going to work, dreading grinding away at a job they hate.

The gadgets they use as distractions during their morning commute are constant reminders of why they must put themselves through this daily hell. They feel they need these things (among others), and their job allows them to have them.

Throughout history humans have always strived to have better “things,” to have more than their neighbours or at the very least be equal to them.

First it was outdoing the neighbour who just upgraded from horse and carriage to a car. Later it was getting a black a white TV, then the cassette player, and years later a CD player.

But in today’s modern world where trends change as soon as they begin, where the next version of the latest gadget comes out seemingly straight away, people are driven to work longer hours to afford to be at the forefront of the trends—the latest gadget, the latest car, the latest fashion.

But lurking behind the lives of shiny new cars, flat screen TV’s and iPhones is a void, is a huge deficit, and it’s not a budget one.

Our world is experiencing a passion and purpose deficit. 

Recently I asked some friends the simple question, “Are you doing what you love; do you have passion for your work?”

The most common answer “No.”

“I hate my job. I have no passion for it, no motivation.”

I can’t count the times my best friend has made this statement, frustrated in her situation, frustrated at being stuck in a job purely because of the money.

She has a passion, she has a dream, but she has two big things holding her back from pursuing it: the courage to take the leap from her secure job and the fear of not having enough money to buy those 10 pairs of shoes she doesn’t need.

More often when people explain why they’re doing something they’re not passionate about, they say it’s because they need the money.

Now in a perfect world we wouldn’t need money and we could all be on our merry life’s journey striving to chase down our passions. But unfortunately our world is not a utopia and money is something we do need.

We need it to pay for a roof over our heads, we need it to pay for the food on our table, and we may need it to support our families.

While I agree that money is a necessity, I look at people who seem unhappy, playing on their gadgets on the metro and pose this question:

“Did you really need that?”

Here’s the thing about “need.” As a society we tell ourselves we “need” possessions, we “need” to fit in.  While in the short term these things make us happy, in the long run there are only two things we really “need” to be happy: passion and purpose.

Think about it, if you ask any parent what the most fulfilling part of their life is, they most likely will say raising their children. If you ask them what the most frustrating part of their life is the answer will most likely be the same.

This demonstrates one fundamental quality of the human character: having purpose, however frustrating it may be at times, is what gives us the most fulfillment. It’s what gives us the most happiness.

At 21 I was not content with following the path I was on—a path toward a career where I would be helping someone fulfill their dream, their endeavors, and their passion while mine were left on the back burner.

I took the leap.

I turned down high paying ESL teaching jobs for a lower paying job with half the work hours.

I turned down the security of having a steady higher income where I didn’t have to think so hard about where I was spending my money.

I turned it all down so I would have the time to pursue my passion, to explore and discover my purpose.

And despite the many material sacrifices I had to make—the expensive nights out with my friends, that cute dress, the nice hotel with the swimming pool—what I discovered was that I never “needed” those things in the first place.

I could survive without them, I could be happy without them, and I was resourceful enough to come up with alternative options.

I swapped expensive nights out for nights in with my friends, I worked with whatever clothes I already had, and I stayed at a hostel where, in the end, I had more fun meeting new people then I would have had alone at a hotel.

But the most important lesson out of this was not how to be happily frugal. It was that pursuing your passion, however frustrating, however challenging, is ultimately the key to happiness.

Muster up the courage, take the leap, and be prepared to throw all those things you don’t really “need” away.

It’s time we start looking at our entire lives as purposeful, passion-filled journeys—not opportunities to collect as many possessions as we can to distract ourselves.

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