The pursuit of happiness

April 19th, 2012

During my junior year of high school, a teacher of mine asked the class a common question, but of underestimated difficulty. “What is your goal in life? What will make your life successful?” Long answers could be given, with specific details and 10 year plans. Though I didn’t take a count, my guess is that 85 percent of the class just said their goal was happiness. The only way that answer could be more general is if they had said, “I would like to become something.” Really? I would have never guessed. Even homeless people  (those perceived to be the least successful) are something — homeless. The generality is insignificant, though. You mustn’t know what you want to do to know what you want.

If happiness is what one desires, then the options are limitless. However, not every choice will bring you what you want. When most people are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, they consult an older, wiser, more respected person for advice. Depending on this person’s background they could tell you a variety of things. In my experience, those who most sincerely have my best interest in mind have told me to do something I love and am passionate about. With the world at our finger tips, and innumerable options, how does one begin to find the thing he or she is passionate about?

I’m not a true believer in destiny in the way that one’s path is pre-deteremined and unavoidable. However, I do find that things have a way of coming together for the better in the end. Though the accessibility of the vastness of the world is overwhelming, it is advantageous to our generation. The likelihood that we come across the thing we are passionate about is much greater without the confines that restricted past generations. It’s a matter of mathematics; things in the world are now separated by fewer degrees, therefore one thing of interest will be linked to another thing of interest and somewhere down the line our passion will lie. If the path of interest is followed, we will be led to our passion.

The marvelousness of a passion is far greater than an interest and determining the difference is quite difficult. In the bucket of options one will collect on a passion-seeking odyssey, undoubtedly there will be things interesting enough to actually practice rather than just learn about. For example, if one finds economics and finance interesting enough, perhaps they will try investing in the stock market. Or, if one is enraptured by penetrating power of literature, possibly he or she will try writing some poetry or short fiction. Still, knowing when the line between interest and passion is crossed can be uncertain.

If one is enthralled by the idea of becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist or businessperson then it is likely the path of pursuing that passion will be filled with encouragement, especially from parents. These careers are practical and secure to subscribers of conventional thought. However, successfully completing all of the education and preparation required to become a professional in whatever field you choose is arduous.

For the more independently (Indie) minded people, like myself, conventional careers aren’t that appealing. For some, money might not even be that appealing. Our interests like art, writing, farming, adventure or extended bipedal travel seem like fairly insecure passions which may not even have jobs to accompany them. While this might appear to make life more difficult, it actually makes finding a passion easier.

In that difficulty that comes with working and preparing to get a job and the disapproval of our choices from people we are close to lies the indicator of passion. A passion is the thing that one is continually motivated to pursue, no matter how difficult the journey or how much denouncement is faced.

Finding a passion is an extensive process. It could take a lot of time and be filled with failure and disappointment. Succumbing to this difficulty is tempting and taking an easier, more conventional route. According to Larry Smith, professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, “Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent.” Passion can make or break your life. This isn’t something to give up on. It will require courage and fortitude. But, ultimately, all facets of our life will be more successful if we are happy and without regret.

If our passions are neglected, then who will we be to encourage our children to pursue theirs?