Monday, September 11, 2006

Easily Happy

If you were given a choice: happy or money, which would you pick? I'd guess many would answer both. And that's fine. I have nothing against money (heck, I like money); I just think it's over-rated. But think again: do we really need money to be happy?

Here's an anecdote my friend once told me:
A Western, white man finds a brown, indigeous Indonesian lying around on the beach, somewhere on the shores of Java. "Why aren't you working?" asked the white.
"Why should I?" asked the brown.
"So you can have money."
"What for?"
"So one day you can lie around on the beach, and enjoy life without worrying about anything."
"But I'm already doing that."

In Harry Potter #1, there's a story about a mirror. When one looks into this mirror, he will see himself in the form of what he desires most. For example, one sees himself receiving an award. Harry Potter sees himself besides his two deceased parents whom he never met. The happiest person just sees himself as he is.

Imagine you're looking into this mirror, and figure how much money is related to what you see. No, please really think about it. You want self-esteem? Then treat people respectfully. You want a new experience? Go interact with people you'd never thought you would. You want to feel good? Give something that you value to a nice person who needs it more than you do. Then forget about what you've done.

Paradoxically, happiness is easiest to achieve by giving something away. So go ahead: make dinner for your wife. Recite a poem for your partner. Win a basketball game for your boyfriend. Give her a massage. Do it wholeheartedly. Now you see what I'm talking about.

One of my mentors, Kang Didi, has a really cool catch-phrase: "gampang senang" (easily happy). And he's right: happiness is easy to find. It's all in our minds. Money sure is valuable. Just don't forget to be happy while you pursue it.

Previous posts on happiness: 1, 2, 3, 4

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  1. I suppose some people just find it too difficult to figure out happiness by looking inside, and instead find it by comparing him/herself with others. Which often becomes the root of perpetual unhappiness.

    BTW, you should read Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness (if you promise you're not one of Gus Dur's followers with regards to borrowed books, you can borrow mine! ;-)).

  2. Halo Hilal. Apa kabar?
    Yup. Lagu lama. Tapi orang suka lupa :)

    You always have something from your box of resources. Thanks! Well, I guess in this case my comparison is between "the money being pursued" (to be happy in the future) and "the opportunity cost of pursuing that money" (lost opportunity to be happy now). Does this make sense at all? :) I guess the happiest person is one who is making money by doing the things he/she likes best.

    Thanks for the book offer! Maybe we should get together sometime with some friends, and see if you'd still want to lend me the book. Haha..