It’s a question we think AROUND all the time. I say around because we don’t actually think about THIS question. We think a lot about similar questions.
What would make me happy?
How can I get that thing that makes that person happy?
Have you ever heard of a story called The Monkey’s Paw? It’s a really fantastic short story where a man wishes on a monkey’s paw for a series of wishes but things don’t go as planned.
He begins by wishing for a large sum of money, which he receives…
…as compensation for his son dying in an accident at work.
He then wishes that his son was back, which happens…
…but his son is a zombie.
Hmmm.. That’s not quite right.
Finally, he wishes that his son was at peace, which he is….
…because he is once again dead.
The story is a retelling of the classic “be careful what you wish for” with some interesting twists.
But the real problem, in my mind, is not that the man makes these wishes but rather WHY he makes these wishes. He doesn’t think, “what would it look like if I were happy?”
Instead he asks, “what would make me happy?”
Money. My son.
These don’t work out well.
I like to think that the story is not about the negative impacts of wishing but rather about intention and purpose. I like to think that it would be a very different story if the man had begun by thinking, “what would it look like if I were happy?”
When I think about what it would look like if I were happy, it wouldn’t be me asking for a large sum of money. Studies suggest that after a certain number (which is lower than one might imagine) money doesn’t make us happy. Up to that point, it means less stress and a generally easier life but after that point, it doesn’t do much.
My happiness would involve my wife being happy and healthy, my children being happy and healthy and myself being healthy and pursuing things that I love. Now, if you want to throw a couple of grand on top of that, who am I to argue…
But my happiness is not defined by the THINGS that I wish for. Rather, it’s the state of my life.
Today I have a wife that is very healthy and pretty happy (though tired). I have children that are very healthy and quite happy (outside of some general child/toddler drama). I’m very happy, I’m getting healthier and I’m pursuing things that I love.
You can hold on to that monkey’s paw.