Walking the Tightrope

bicycle boxes

This week Bill Stories’ Retirement Happiness blog post asked everyone to estimate where they stood on the happiness line and the more I looked at this line, the more I started to conjure up images of a tightrope in my mind.

If your happiness level is the sum factor of all the things that go on in your life (home, family, work, people you commute on the bus with, etc.) the how exactly do you increase your level of happiness in one area without completely throwing every other aspect of your life out of balance?

Now here’s the really bad news: I am not sure have the answer for you, but I have a couple of ideas and maybe we can toss them around together and see what we learn.

If we think about the tightrope again for a minute, I think quite a few of us (those still juggling a full time job, retirement planning and family) would agree that our lives are actually more like trying to walk a tightrope without a support bar while carrying an armload of randomly sized boxes. However, for some of the rest of us who are fully retired, the image might be quite different; it might be like trying to walk a tightrope up a steep hill (you can stand in place with relative ease, but taking even one step forward seems nearly impossible).

So what is wrong with these images? Nearly everything I suspect.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” If that is the case, then the secret to achieving more happiness in our lives would be to change our thinking and get off the tightrope altogether.

So how can we begin to do this?

I have a feeling it might be to stop focusing on our lives in the black and white terms of whether we are happy or unhappy. Instead, I submit that it might be better to think of the various aspects of our lives in terms of contentment. In other words, ask yourself what areas of your life are you content with, and what areas are you not content with. If you write this down in two columns on a piece of paper not only is your list likely to look different than your happiness list, some of your answers might even surprise you.

Now take a look at the “not content” column and pick one item to focus on (just one!). What could you do to become more content with this one aspect of your life? Would your idea of what to change make you less content with other aspects of your life? If your answer is “yes” think again; but if your answer is “no” then give it a try and let us know what happens.

So what has this got to do with Winston Churchill? If he is right (and I think he is) you will discover that if you are not content, you are not giving enough attention to the things that you really need, but you are focusing too much on things you don’t really need.


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