Happiness and the True Meaning of Life – ‘My Perspective’

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Each of us has one shot of life and making the most of this journey is critical. Imagine…you’re at the top of your organization, reached the pinnacle of success and most people would give anything to walk in your shoes. You own a luxurious house, take lavish vacations, and socialize with the rich and famous. The paradox is ‘When does one find happiness’?

The truth is, we place artificial demands on ourselves that undermine our happiness. These demands force us to work harder and harder to cross a finish line that keeps moving. Contrast this lifestyle with a life that’s rich in purpose and in making a difference in others’ lives. The bottom line: Happiness is a byproduct of a life well lived. Smile a lot, laugh out loud, try something new, if you don’t like where you’re heading, change course, pursue your dreams and passion out of love and not obligation, don’t waste precious time worrying, complaining, or running from your shadow. If you don’t have the time, find it. Remember to shoot for the stars; don’t settle for second best; and never, never, never quit. It’s that simple. And if you dislike what you see, don’t blame the mirror.

Take the time to smell the roses, notice and appreciate the simple things in life — a sunny day, a walk in the park, and the belly laugh of a baby. Make a difference in someone’s life, share your success, celebrate small wins along the way. Go full speed ahead. Most important – align with your God. You’ll reach the sunset of your journey with no regrets.

If you don’t commit to your priorities, you won’t achieve them. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Let’s explore a few aspects of a life well – lived.

1. The Power of One

When something comes up that requires action, we think, “I’m only one person. What can I do anyway?” The result is that we sit back and wait for others to make the first move. As Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Your deed can be as simple as making someone feel special, reaching out to a lonely person, helping a troubled kid find the right path, or comforting a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on. Believe in yourself, act on the opportunities around you, lead the change you desire and transform the world.

2. Is a Frantic Lifestyle as a Badge of Honor?

Did you ever stop…and ask yourself if living a really busy lifestyle is making you more productive, helping you to establish stronger relationships, or improving your quality of life? Do you spend more time looking at your watch than living in the moment? Slow down. Relax. Happiness is a result of balance rather than intensity.

• Enjoy the moment rather than worrying about your next commitment.

• Organize activities in an efficient way rather than doing things haphazardly.

• Spend quality time with folks rather than being physically present but mentally absent.

• Determine the best way to do something rather than acting first –– thinking later.

• Build deep, trusting relationships rather than superficial ones.

• Tackle priorities rather than addressing easy items on your to-do list.

• Address the root cause of a problem rather than applying a band-aid solution.• Show gratitude rather than worrying about wasting precious seconds.

• Do things right the first time rather than doing them over and over.

3. Build and guard your reputation

In today’s world where time is a precious resource, we often draw conclusions on basis of someone’s reputation, to simplify the process. We place tremendous value on credible sources to help us make decisions every day. So, what are people saying about you?Your reputation is like a shadow, it will follow you for life. You can’t disguise it, hide or run from it. It serves as your stand-in whenever you’re not around. It can open doors to marvelous opportunities or ensure that every door is slammed right in your face. If you were tasked with writing your obituary today, what three things best describe you? If you don’t like what you see, don’t blame the mirror.Be a good-reputation ambassador – help others build and sustain their reputations, acknowledge their good works, mode good behaviors yourself, and don’t engage in reputation assassination.

4. Transform from ‘Notworking’ to Networking

Networking is not like a game of bumper cars in which progress is measured by the number of people that you run into rather than the quality of the underlying relationships created. Simply put, handing out more business cards at a meeting, spreading word about yourself and needs or adding more friends to Facebook or Linkedin is “notworking.” The “me-first thinking” not only will not work but is actually counterproductive.

Successful networking occurs when people come together based on mutual respect and common interests, then voluntarily provide support for others with no strings attached. They believe that by helping others, they’ll eventually end up helping themselves. Don’t wait until you desperately need a network to begin developing one. Join a social network or an industry or professional association to add structure to your professional relationships while expanding your network. Know your personal strengths and the strengths of each member of your network. If you join a network, get involved rather than sitting on the sidelines. Keep in touch with members of your network on a regular basis or you’ll drift apart. This require only a few minutes of your time and will be remembered. Networking can change your life!

5. Doing Nothing Is Time Well Spent

So when was the last time you did nothing, simply because you thought doing nothing was time well spent? As Lao Tzu said, “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.

”Forget your aspirations for a moment. Take a walk to clear your head. Get lost within yourself. Who knows what you’ll find. Great ideas manifest while driving, in the shower, or running on the treadmill because you’re relaxed allowing ideas to percolate in the back of your brain. Have lunch off the desk. Some managers look at an employee staring out the window and think she’s goofing off; others look at the same person and think, “Good she’s in deep thought.” We spend vacations enjoying the simple life – relaxing on a beach, hiking through the woods, watching a beautiful sunset. Why wait? Take some time to rejuvenate. Quiet your mind. Unplug. Meditate. Nap. Learn how to take a five-minute vacation.

6. The Magic of Giving

You be the judge as to whether or not taking the high road leads to success . . . Would you consider an egotist to be your role model? Would you choose a self-centered person as a good friend? Would you form a partnership with a greedy person? Would you recruit a selfish person for your team? Would you marry and spend your lifetime with a greedy person? I thought not.

Remember . . . give because you want to, not because you must. That way, it’s from your heart. Believe me, it will come back to you in ways you’d never imagine — but don’t give because you’re expecting something in return. Your kindness will go toward building trust, strengthening your relationships, developing teamwork and camaraderie, enhancing your reputation and sense of self-worth— not to mention, adding to your karma.As Patti Thor says, “It’s not that successful people are givers; it is that givers are successful people.”

7. Uninstall Stress

We live in a stressful world, filled with increasing demands, added responsibilities, and choices between our professional and personal commitments. Make every moment matter, live within your means, be open to feedback, take calculated risks, spend your time where it matters most, Reserve “me” time, learn to say “no.”,  work smart, plan ahead, don’t wait until the last minute, shoot for excellence not perfection, Protect your downside and be realistic. Life is filled with “ups and downs,” so make the most of the “in-betweens.”, save for a rainy day, let  go of hate, envy, and revenge – they are destructive and unproductive. Actions have consequences. Be prepared to accept them. Follow your conscience. Sleep well.

Promise yourself to live every day to the max; To dream big and see every glass as half full; To get things done rather than talking about them; To say you’ll try rather than complaining why you can’t; To lead by example rather than through control; To win with integrity rather than at all costs; To make work fun rather than a chore;  To face challenges head-on rather than surrendering your dreams to fear; To raise your hand rather than pointing fingers; and to learn from mistakes rather than covering them up. During your journey, promise yourself to make people feel good about themselves and proud of their accomplishments; and to be as excited about the success of others as you are about your own. If you promise yourself anything less, you’ll be letting yourself down. After all, a promise is a promise.

8. Make a Life While You Make a Living

Too often, we get so caught up in the day-to-day minutiae that we lose sight of the big picture. And when we finally take time to catch our breath, we look back in retrospect, and want a do-over for the bad choices that we’ve made. Unfortunately, there are no dress rehearsals in life.

One day you may reminisce about your life and ask yourself: “How did I do?” Here are clues to the answer: Did you follow your passion or try to please others? Did you focus on the things that matter most or just tackle your to-do list in random order? Were you grateful for what you had or was the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? Did you enrich your life or make a difference in the lives of others? If someone asks you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you say? While career accomplishments are definitely something, they’re certainly not everything.

9. What Do Tough Times Say About You?

It’s one thing to have a bad day and another to fall on tough times. These are the days when it’s hard to get out of bed, not knowing how you’re going to make it through the day. It feels like the world is crumbling around you and you’ve been hit by a two-by-four by the time you go to bed at night. Yet, these are the times that shape character and show what you’re made of. Unfortunately, for most of us, there comes a time when we will experience a major setback. Whether we’re confronted by a personal tragedy, faced with a serious financial crisis, or struck by an uncontrollable event, these are the times that test our will and our spirit.

Everyone reacts to these situations differently. The fact is, the way you respond to these situations in the short term can impact your long-term success and happiness. As George S. Patton said, “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” Believe in yourself. This too shall pass. You survived the last time you faced a crisis, and you will this time as well. Remember, it’s not going to get better by sitting around. In fact, left unattended, small problems often become bigger ones.

There is great wisdom in Friedrich Nietzsche’s truism, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The key is to get through tough times with dignity and grace.

10. The Best Advice You’ll Ever Get

Advice fails to work out if we get it from the wrong people, misjudge the quality of the advice, or because we follow it blindly. And still others seek advice for the wrong reasons — to dodge responsibility or to avoid the time-consuming task of figuring out an answer by themselves.

While seeking advice, know what you know and what you don’t know. Just because you’re an expert in one thing doesn’t make you an expert in everything. Seek input when variables lie outside your comfort zone. Before seeking advice, know exactly what you need and identify the most qualified person to ask. I know that seems obvious, but some folks seek advice without forethought, while others seek advice from people based on convenience or proximity or ask the same people again and again — because it’s easy.

If you ask several people with different traits for advice, it will give you different ways to view your situation. Before acting on any recommendation, know the rationale. It’s important that advice not be taken as all or nothing — feel free to cherry-pick good points. Last, but not least, listen only to those you know and trust. In the end, it’s never wise to seek advice merely to avoid making decisions yourself. Consider the advice of others, but trust yourself in the end.

Ruth Mutebe is a Certified Public Accountant of Uganda and a member of ICPAU in good standing. She is a Council Member of ICPAU, and the Head of Internal Audit, Barclays Bank Uganda

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