Last week I talked about procrastination and that the answer is often to arrive at the point where you just do it – you take action and take some positive step forward. This week I’ve been thinking about happiness. A friend of my third cousin Barbara Nell shared that there were three things necessary to be happy: (1) work – something to do and feel successful accomplishing, (2) love – someone to love you and be loved by you, (3) hope – something to look forward to.
I believe that the second item, love, is more in tune with the modern idea of happiness, not only because of the differences in the modern and the ancient concept of love, but similar differences in the concept of happiness. Ancient happiness, for the Greeks, was something measured at the end of one’s life and had to do with both an abundance of virtuous activity and the manner in which you died – such as a brave warrior in battle.
In ancient times happiness was something objective, as opposed to today’s subjective satisfaction, contentment, or pleasure. Even as recently as when the founding fathers included a right to “the pursuit of happiness” in our Declaration of Independence, their intended meaning had more to do with the good of the overall community than personal satisfaction. The ancients thought that happiness, or virtuous action, was the main purpose in life. The ancient Greek word for happiness would perhaps be better translated “blessedness.”
The importance of family and work can be related to both modern and ancient happiness. Even in modern times, joy in one’s work is essential to satisfaction and contentment. And studies have shown that modern happiness is more dependent on quality relationships than on riches. But what interests me most this week is the role of hope in our modern happiness. We need to see the potential for change, for things to get even better and to improve to be able to have hope.
We all struggle or suffer with pain and other symptoms, often the result of hurts from childhood, maybe decades ago. And while last week I was thinking of what to do to overcome my procrastination, this week I am thinking of what to do to persevere in those same tasks I was procrastinating on, then decided to “just do it.” I have hope because I can see through perseverance coming change and improvement, I can visualize the accomplishment of goals.
Nietzsche said that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. When Spaniards find something foreign in their food, they say what doesn’t kill them makes them fatter. But Romans 5:3, 4 takes it a step further: “…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” When pain or suffering brings us to the point of coming to our senses and realizing something has to change, we have to take action and persevere in that action to realize the change for the better. This builds our character and gives us hope, which helps make us happier. That in turn gives us more energy to persevere and success gives us hope for further future change. The process is self reinforcing.
What about you? Have you found something to stop procrastinating about? Can you persevere and continue the action, finding more hope for the future? What are you waiting for?
thanks to quote of the day, here, for quote above