An Entrepreneur's Perspective on Happiness
This article was originally published on Forbes.com. It can be accessed on the Forbes site here.
Are you happy? I’m not always. I’m driven, focused, ambitious and have a deep sense of purpose, but I can’t honestly say I’m happier than the guy or gal next to me. As entrepreneurs, we live for the future, and we cultivate the discipline of delayed gratification. Accomplishment is often our driving force, but what happens while we’re waiting to be accomplished?
It was on a trip to Israel 2 years ago when I started asking myself the following questions: “If I accomplished everything I wanted in life, how would I feel? And could I let myself feel that now, while I’m still striving for my goals?” Discovering these questions was profound for me, albeit I’m still struggling to apply the answers.
Anyone chasing something big in his or her life can relate. We simultaneously feel special but alone in our sense of purpose. And we sometimes complicate feeling the simple emotion of happiness. So one night at dinner with my then girlfriend (now fiancée), I made a list of all the things that make me happy. I called it “My 6 Happinesses”; the list has grown since then, and I’m going to share it in its original and amended form.
Here are the Original 6:
1. Growing Towards My Destiny
I’m driven at least in part by fear, the fear of wasting my potential. Every moment I take the opportunity to be the person I truly want to be, and those moments are accompanied by a deep sense of satisfaction and peace in knowing that I’m growing one step closer to my destiny. It’s often an uncomfortable, unnerving and uncompromising process. But pleasure and happiness are not the same.
2. Feeling of Empathy
Most of the time, I really don’t enjoy talking about my own life; sometimes it feels as if it drains the very energy from my body. But when I’m talking to someone who deeply understands me, my thoughts come pouring out like a babbling high school teenager. I’m happiest when I spend enough time with the small set of people who truly get my fantastical imaginations and machinations.
One of my deepest joys is making others laugh; a close second is teaching something that fundamentally improves others’ lives. Whether it’s “Mastering Public Speaking” or “How to Persuade People,” I feel the most alive when “edu-taining” others, and I know I need to spend the rest of my life in this endeavor.
4. Being Loved
Most of us want to go through life with a partner to share it with. Knowing that at least one special person in this world will always be supporting you at your worse and cheering you on at your best may be the most special happiness of all.
5. In Workflow/Creating
Flow is where you lose track of time doing something you’re fully engaged in. It’s all the more potent when you create something that didn’t exist but a moment before. From an outsider’s perspective, this may not seem like happiness. However, the joy of creation is only punctuated by completion: it’s fueled by concentration.
6. Ego/Female (or Male) Energy
We’re all driven by the needs of our ego to validate our own importance relative to others and our surroundings.
For a lot of men, this manifests itself as a constant need for female affection, and the physicality may be even less coveted than the desire for validation. I won’t presume to speak on behalf of women (ahem, comment section below…), but for a guy or girl, learning to harness (appropriately) our complimentary sexual energy and feed our ego makes us feel alive. (TIP: read the book “Way of the Superior Man”)
Some Secondary Thoughts…
Camaraderie: been most happy in my life striving for a common goal with brothers in arms.
Physical Discipline: hard for me to feel completely happy these days without physical health and rigor (TIP: read “The Unintended Consequences of Startups).
Children: don’t have any yet, but I’m sure this will be at the top of my list
As entrepreneurs, we may be shaping the future, but we’re living in the present. The things that make us happy don’t have to be tied to the goals we’re trying to reach. Take happiness off your goal list and add it to your daily to-do list. Perhaps, like you, I’m still trying to figure out how to be happy while in pursuit of accomplishment. Recommendations are welcomed…