I think as we delve further into the Happiness Series, it’s important to touch on an important dynamic that so often is forgotten in the greater happiness discussion.
I am a people watcher. I always have been, and probably always will be. I remember in High School, I really wanted to be a sociologist, at least until I found out there aren’t a lot of jobs for people who just want to sit around watching other people all day. But people do fascinate me. The ways they interact. The ways they react. The ways they act when they’re alone versus when they’re with other people. The ways they love. The ways they hate. The ways they express their emotions. The ways they try to make meaning of life. The ways they find happiness.
And in the end, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Find our own little slice of happiness?
As I watch the people around me, it seems to me that when we boil it down there are two groups of people, both of whom are searching for happiness. There is group A, the people who are told and believe that x+y+z=happiness. And there is group B, the people who go out and try and create their own equations for happiness.
Group A likes structure in their plan for happiness. They like to be told what will make them happy and they like to work towards it. For many in this group, the definition of happiness will be laid out by their religions, their family members, their friends, their lovers, or their communities.
At church, they will be told that to be “truly happy,” they must serve others in specific ways. They must keep God’s commandments. They must do certain things and not do certain things. They must confess to their clergy when they do wrong. They must attend services on specific schedules. They must give a portion of their income. They must open their mouths and preach their truth to others. This is happiness, they say.
Family members will tell them that to be happy they must remain in certain religions or stay out of certain religions. Family members will tell them that they must keep certain people in their lives or push certain people out of their lives. They will preach that happiness is doing certain things as a family, acting certain ways toward other family members, or even sweeping problematic things under the rug. This is happiness, they say.
Their lovers will tell them that to be happy, they must be spoken to in certain ways. They must attend certain events. They must respond how they’d like them to respond. They must act how they’d like them to act. They must prove their love in defined ways. They must do certain things. They must not do certain things. This is happiness, they say.
Their communities and their neighbors, they’ll tell them that to be happy they must keep their yard looking a certain way. They must attend certain social gatherings. They must own certain toys. They must enjoy certain hobbies. They must drive this and such car. They must work for a specific level of income. This is happiness, they say.
And then there are those in Group B. These are they who go out and try and create their own equations for happiness.
Those in Group B really question the belief sets that they were born into. They question how happy their church’s mandates will actually make them. They experiment the breaking of certain religious rules while they test the place that they think the lines should be. This is happiness, they say.
They often are considered the rebels in their families. They are considered strong-willed. They are termed loose cannons. They will keep the people that they want to keep in their lives, and they’ll distance themselves from those who they feel will hurt them. They aren’t satisfied sweeping much under the rug with anybody. This is happiness, they say.
They love the way they feel they should love. They say to their lovers what they believe needs to be said. They respond the way they feel is best to respond. They often do what they want to do most. They live the lives they want to live. And they look at their lives as their own. This is happiness, they say.
They mow their lawns when they want to mow their lawns. They paint their fences when and if they want to paint their fences. They make the income they make and they don’t feel a push to make as much as those who surround them. They do their own thing, and are often detached from those who live near them. This is happiness, they say.
I don’t know that there is a wrong group to be a part of. Members of both groups will look at the other group and see heaps of potential for problems and unhappiness. Both groups have their upsides and both groups have their downsides. Both groups have their risks, and both groups have their rewards.
As I look at those in my life who live in Group A, I notice that they often lack one crucial ability. They lack the ability to let go of the rules and have a little fun sometimes. They lack the ability to be okay with stupid mistakes made by themselves or by those that they love, and they lack the ability to actually find the humor in those mistakes. They lack the ability to see in shades of gray, and to appreciate that the most beautiful areas of life often exist in the gray areas. They have a harder time adapting to the twists and turns of life, and they often get discouraged when things don’t go as planned.
They also tend to make fewer mistakes. They don’t push boundaries and they stay on a fairly straight and narrow path. They associate with like-minded people and so they find a social network that supports them in their ways of doing things.
Those in Group B usually take things more in stride and are quicker to forgive the mistakes and imperfections of those that surround them, and of their own. They find humor in the moments when life throws them curveballs. They more easily adapt to whatever life thrusts at them. And they don’t get discouraged nearly as often.
Those in Group B also usually make a lot more mistakes. They experiment with happiness and often they take short or long paths that simply won’t work. They sometimes become closely associated with unhealthy people. They sometimes struggle in their relationships. They occasionally find themselves distanced from those they love because their search for happiness naturally causes it. It is my experience that Group A people and Group B people often clash.
But when I zoom out from all of that for a moment, There is an even greater difference I have noticed between those in Group A and those in Group B.
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