What makes you happy? I still don’t know what makes me happy. Probably never will. At the risk of sounding awfully pessimistic, I believe that the pursuit of happiness is a never-ending quest. Why? Read on…

If it’s not one thing, it’s the other

learn to be happy
Today’s hyper-consumptive and competitive society has everyone with one eye on the neighbor and the other on the colleague. What do you get? Some cross-eyed idiot who’s too busy to enjoy what’s around, ultimately losing perspective and jeopardizing everything that is good in life.

Finding happiness when one has to juggle a professional and a personal life is the eternal test of time-management. Properly managing one’s time is key to any successful career. My main advice is simple: don’t waste time, act quickly, and react even faster. Things move quickly, awfully quickly for most. If you can become a sharp, intuitive master of execution, then your career will be a memorable and industrious one.

Can you handle it?

I believe that the more complementary activities you take on, the easier the execution. Recently, I was speaking to a gentleman regarding a certain business venture that we were involved in together, one thing led to another, and I discovered that he was an ex-employee of a popular TV station. This surprise chat helped me knock down some walls with another venture that I am involved with.

Instead of having to make a handful of calls to some clueless people, I can call the man in charge of the department and get my message out. Efficient. All this over gin and juice, mind you. How does this help my quest for happiness? Did I mention the gin? Actually, increasing one’s network makes it possible to accomplish more. Blending business with pleasure and getting things done can also be a nice tonic.

Value what you have

As hard as this might be, just enjoy everything you have and appreciate everything you don’t have, because the only thing preventing you from realizing your goals is a negative attitude: a lack of ambition and focus.

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone . Cinderella (the group, not the rags-to-riches princess) put it best in the 1980s with their uber-ballad about realizing how good something is only after it has slipped through their fingers. While those rockers were probably thinking more about groupies, it shows how agonizing it is to let something precious slip away.

The secret to happiness…

You want what you don’t have

Chilling with the boys? Probably thinking about the girl. Relaxing with the girlfriend? Then you’re probably dreaming about joining your friends at the bar.

Whether it’s brainstorming with colleagues, picking a hot stock in a cool market, or just working out at the gym, we all strive to do different activities that make us happy and relaxed. That is human nature.

What’s also human nature are conspicuous consumption and an insatiable thirst for pleasure. And once you have a vice, you start thinking about other things that tickle your fancy. Am I wrong? I think not. And believe me, I am no different. I have a great job, but I ask, what more can I do (for reasons of security, we will not encroach the girlfriend example)?

Learn from mistakes

I receive much e-mail from readers telling me that they do not want to end their ten-year relationship despite having been miserable for the last five. Isn’t that sweet?

No, just do the math! That is 5 years of joy followed by 5 years of misery. What will he do on their 25th anniversary when those five long-gone years of pleasure have been overshadowed by twenty miserable, gut-wrenching years?

Learn to leave and start fresh with a clean slate. When things are not working and you are unhappy, walk away, especially when the problem is recurring and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Whose happiness counts?

Many people think that time heals all wounds. These are the reactive people who never find happiness. Be pro-active; acknowledge that only you can remedy things. No one will take his or her time to make sure that you are content. Cut all ties if they are cancerous, before they spread and you find yourself completely miserable.

People these days seem confused about who they are trying to satisfy. Many do things that their mothers would love. It’s a shame their mother is dead. Others do things for their bosses; what a shame that s/he is busy trying to find a nice way to lay you off. Even better is when you bend backwards to satisfy your lover, when she is busy bending backwards for other people.

Do what makes you happy. Admittedly, I do not practice what I preach. I am getting there, but it is far, far away as I do things for my family, friends, lover, and colleagues. Given that these people appreciate this, I do it because it makes them happy, and in turn, it makes me happy. Am I a hypocrite? I think not. Why? This takes us to my next point.

What are your priorities?

Everyone’s list of priorities takes on endless changes throughout their lives. What usually remains constant is the Big Idea that drives an individual. In other words, family, love, friends, and career could alternate rankings in terms of importance throughout my life. What will remain constant is my desire to help others and improve people’s lives.

People strive to seek a happy medium between family, friends, love (whatever that means to the individual), health, and career. Clearly, the presence of a serious girlfriend, children and elderly parents throws a curveball in every young person’s plans. What you value most comes down to personal choice. Nonetheless, subconsciously ranking priorities is important as this is what will determine how you will allocate your resources on any given day.

Personally, I currently put a big emphasis on my career. Not because the other factors are secondary, but because my family will remain close to me, and my relationship with my girlfriend is positively correlated with how content I am with my overall lifestyle, which includes everything else. My friends will be there through thick and thin, sick and sin.

My career, however, is the most uncertain variable as the professional relationships and experiences I get in the next few years will ultimately determine how successful I will be in the long run. And I do not kid myself, the more I accomplish today, the more relaxed I will be tomorrow.

The tradeoff seems like fair game: log in quality (not quantity, we are not in the 1800s) hours early on to get ahead, and allow yourself a break when your priorities shift to family and love. Shouldn’t these two factors go hand in hand anyway? Another story, another time.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.