I have always wondered – “What makes people happy ?”. After a lot of thought and reflection, I have evolved a simple hypothesis to be happy in life. Many of us spend our life time living everyday by comparing ourselves with people around us. It even starts in our childhood. Our parents tend to compare us with other children in academics and other activities and thereby rate our performance. Our teachers do the same and hence our society judges us by comparison only.
We grow up that way and tend to live life by comparison. We start with our student days and look at how have we done vis a vis our siblings or friends or relatives. We then worry why our career is slower than our friends and relatives. We lose our sleep if our neighbour gets a new car and we cannot afford one.
Life goes on this way. At work, life is no different. Our performance is assessed in relation to our peers. Even performance management systems are designed to assess performance in relative terms. So we end up as a point of reference in a bell curve. Some doing better than us and some worse.
In my view, the foundation of unhappiness is our living by comparisons. The day we realise that if we live in an “Absolute” way without comparing ourselves with anyone around us, life would be fun and we would discover the formula for joy. This may not be easy as it is ingrained in all of us to live in “relativity”. It starts with family, friends, relatives and society at large. Even countries do not prosper because they live and die with comparisons.
Let us look at why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world although they may not be the wealthiest. This is because the rulers as well the countrymen live in “absolute” terms. The people of Bhutan consider happiness as the means to the end as well the end in itself. They do not compare their GDP or wealth or development with other countries in any other way.
So, it is time for us to sit back and think about it. If we start living for ourselves and our happiness we will not worry about what others do or have. We will be happy with what we have and not die for what others have and we don’t. We need to be content with what we have. This does not mean we should not aspire for higher things in life. Of course we should but not because others have it but because we can work towards achieving it for ourselves.
Every parent should look at the innate talent of each child and let her or him prosper, grow and realise their potential. Every manager should look at each employee as a talent and provide the necessary environment for him or her to grow based on their potential and not their performance in relation to other colleagues.
I am convinced that if I live life on my own terms, there will be less and less reasons to be unhappy. I have tried to be content with what I have right from the day I started my career. With the active support of my partner and my kids, I have been happy most of the time in life. So, this hypothesis is not based on any management theory but personal belief and practise.
We can best learn from children of how to enjoy life in absolute rather than suffer in relativity by comparisons, as in the photo above.
You have a right to have a alternate opinion and I have a right to differ with you.
Let us exchange our views on this issue so that together we make everyone happier every day.
Together we can.
S Ramesh Shankar
10th August 2019