Labor Day and The Pursuit of Happiness

Ahh, Labor Day, the day where we do as little as possible. Grilling food, drinking beer, playing frisbee, hanging out…

Is that all we strive for the other 250-260 working days per year? As the decades pass, do we comfort ourselves with the vision of retirement, when presumably every day will be like Labor Day?

I consider myself a pretty big risk taker in life, but one risk I’ve never been willing to take is to spend 40 hours a week for 40+ years, doing something I detest or that bores me silly in the hope that by the time I reach age 65 I’ll still have the urge and capabilities to pursue my real dreams.

Not only am I afraid that boredom and frustration will have broken my health and sapped my creativity by then, as Veruka Salt said, “I want it NOW!”

But how?

I think the founding fathers had it right when they said everyone should have the right to pursue happiness. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that they meant white dudes should pursue happiness while stealing land from Native people, owning African Americans, and oppressing women. Let’s just take that simple sentiment at face value as it applies to us today: everybody has the right to pursue happiness.

But I Want to be a Good Person

We all have the right to choose how we labor. But it’s easy to get caught up in thinking we have to do certain things in order to be a good provider, a good neighbor, a good citizen, a good           .

But are those truly our own, deeply held spiritual values, or values that we’ve adopted without quite thinking them through?

Sometimes we have to reorder our priorities, or change our habits and ways of looking at things before we can see (or admit) what would truly make us happy.

So, could this turn you into a perpetual adolescent who takes no responsibility? Yes, I suppose it could, but I doubt it. If you were one of those people, you would already be doing exactly as you please and you wouldn’t need to spend your precious time reading this article about how to pursue happiness.

The Joys of Laboring in Obscurity

I remember once bemoaning to my father the difficulty of struggling for years to achieve my creative goals. Forget success. I would have settled for any acknowledgement of my existence from the world at large. My father answered that his years of obscurity, before he became famous in his field, were the happiest of his life.

Say what?

He explained that it was actually more fun coming up with his ideas and developing them in the relative peace and tranquility of being unknown, than it was (after decades of work) to become a superstar and go all over the world to give lectures about the theories he had already developed.

It took awhile but eventually I wrapped my head around this concept. With fame and/or money comes a whole new level of responsibility that most people never expect. Turns out, success isn’t one long Labor Day cookout; it’s hard work.

Of course, most of us would say, bring it on! I’ll take that burden of fame and fortune (I’m with you there); but I think it’s important to realize that when we solve one set of creative challenges we don’t get nirvana, we just graduate to a whole other level of creative challenges!

Welcome to planet Earth

I guess this is why so many people crash and burn after they get famous, why so many big lottery winners find themselves broke again after a few years. When they found that fame and/or money failed to make them instantly happy, it must have been like losing a religion. Where to turn next? Drugs? Sex? Shopping? Plastic Surgery?

So if fame and fortune doesn’t make us happy, what does? Could it be the pursuit itself, after all?

If we are already doing something that gives us satisfaction on emotional, spiritual, and creative levels (even before we become successful), happiness just might sneak in like a wild tropical bird, flitting around the edges of consciousness,  perching in a high corner of the room, dropping brightly colored feathers around the house.

I’m thinking the pursuit happiness may just be true wealth. If you’re already blissed out, doing the work you love every day, fame and fortune would just be icing. And furthermore, if success does come, you won’t have to hold onto it with a death grip. If you were happy before, then you know you can be happy again, even without the world jumping up and down, throwing roses and panties at your feet.

So, ask yourself – What labor brings me happiness (NOT for whatever results you may achieve, but purely for the love of doing it), and how can I do more of it in the coming year? If you start now, you might have something really great to celebrate next Labor Day.

Now go play!


One Response to “Labor Day and The Pursuit of Happiness”

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  1. Shine, I have found the same to be true, and you said that beautifully!

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