Thursday, March 19, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Two strong voices are crying across the land, perfect anti-rhythms, counter-pulses to each other. Each is loud and profoundly affecting our daily lives as we struggle to envision what lies ahead. These voices are neither new nor unknown to us. At times singly dominant, at others inseparably inter-twined, they have been growing louder for years, becoming impossible to ignore in this time of crisis which many believe is about the economy, but others, looking deeper, know is about so much more.

In many ways, fear holds the more forceful grip on our hearts, requiring an immense effort to pry loose. For several generations, in this culture, we have become accustomed to having things, envying and celebrating opulence as a measure of success. Imagining life without the comforts we have come to love so well buckles our knees. Fear creates an immobilizing anxiety, an inability to see the options for change.

For many, the concept of abundance is usually interpreted as a list of these things that signify wealth and success: a big house, high-salaried job, nice cars, and the newest gadgets. Growing numbers, however, are learning to speak of abundance in a more spiritual vein, measured by unquantifiable ideas such as Love, happiness, and Well-being.

How much of a good thing there has to be to be counted is irrelevant so long as one loves, is happy, and is well. This is more about being than having, so therefore is less susceptible to the vagaries of fear because there is nothing specific that can be taken away. It is up to each and every one of us to hold on or relinquish. We have the power in any and every moment to shape our lives.

This kind of abundance comes from doing, not getting. It is about attitude, living with integrity of heart, not worrying about the thickness of our wallet. Who we are, how we spend our time, what we feel changes from moment to moment, but is always reliant upon our beliefs as much as our actions.

In this life, we can be rich in as much as we feel. From the loftiest mansion, one can live in shame while a Mother Theresa can thrive beatifically amidst squalor. Equally, there are those whose addictive behaviors have invited ruin as others happily manage well-earned estates. Circumstances matter less.

When living with integrity, there is a wealth of happiness to follow, even if one is impoverished physically. One can attain riches without integrity, but if any honest effort of introspection is allowed, true happiness of heart might likely be difficult to find.

No matter how well-intentioned were my actions to run my business over many years, my efforts did not support that vision with integrity. Looking deeply within, I can see now where fear played a large role in determining the outcome of marriage and business.

When we want to find happiness, and we look toward things such as homes, vacations and cars to lead the way, we stumble and falter. We live in fear that what we gain will be diminished. And worse, afraid of not attaining it at all, we convince ourselves we are less than worthy, and then self-fulfilling action makes it so.

My fear, combined with over-zealous optimism—a compulsion to feel deserving—made me rush ahead of myself to enjoy the profits of my labor. So convinced was I that my contracts would be successfully accomplished, I accumulated the rewards before the prizes were properly won. Using a deposit to pay off the last job, I took a needed vacation before beginning the next, confident there would always be another job. Instead of happiness, I suffered immensely from the stress of trying to hold on to the bucking horse from the cart in front, creating a chaos in my daily life that could only end in disaster.

When complaining recently to my men’s group that I felt dizzy and disoriented, sluggishly unproductive, a friend who knows my details well reminded me of the changes I have managed in this past year. Most importantly, he pointed out, although I am living in far more modest and pedestrian circumstances—unfinished tiny apartment and old redster with mag wheels—I am learning the long-delayed lesson to live within my means, to buy things—even necessities—only with cash in hand, not on promises of future success.

Out of this simple discipline, I am discovering, from deep within, an abundance of happiness.

Please share with your friends


Laurie said...

It's amazing how we learn that what makes us truly happy are not tangle assets but those things difficult to hold. Now, since starting my business this year, my income has dropped from 60K to 15K. While I am pinching every penny flat, I have never been in a better place. The work I am doing is extremely fulfilling, my relationships are moving forward without the need of oil for the squeaks, and I feel God's hand on my back. I would much rather live in this income bracket with the joys I have than return to hell I was in.

Wonderful post Kip. You really bring the important things to light. I'm glad you are finding happiness. You deserve it. You are such a wonderful person.

Hayden Tompkins said...

"When living with integrity, there is a wealth of happiness to follow, even if one is impoverished physically."

I love this, I absolutely love this.