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Do something that matters: Thoughts on unhappy lives

A common occurrence that happens all over the country in counseling offices every day is people wanting to be "happier." Almost every counselor asks the client, "How will you know when our time is done? What are your goals for counseling? A very common answer is that the client wants to be happier. Many of the couples sessions that end in divorce are because the client(s) wanted to be happier. Families get in trouble because "no one's happy."

But what does this mean? Where does happiness come from? Is happiness dependent upon outward events or inward choices? I think the answer is probably complicated but I strongly lean toward the side of inward choices. I'll discuss and debate that another day.

Today I want to discuss what I believe is one of the biggest single contributors to unhappiness. People are unhappy because they are wasting their lives. I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean this as literally as I can possibly be.

People are literally spending their life on things that not only don't matter but that have no meaning. Don't believe me? Consider that fantasy football is a two billion dollar a year industry. TWO BILLION DOLLARS!!! The average person spends 9 hours a week at work on his/her fantasy football team. But that's almost too easy.

The truth is we have made an idol of ourselves. Most of my clients who are “unhappy” with their lives are unhappy because they have pursuing their own happiness to the exclusion of almost everything else. Many of them have achieved what they set out to do and it turns out it wasn’t all that satisfying. They buy themselves whatever they want. They spend hours playing video games and fantasy sports. It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to pursue things that matter and that require sacrifice. What amazes me is all of the things we’ll sacrifice for sports or video games, or hobbies.

This really isn’t about the hobbies though. I like video games. I like hunting. I like sports. I like reading. This is about what is ultimately fulfilling. What actually makes a life worth living? I think that most of the time people struggle with life because they’ve spent their life on things that just don’t matter. Think about things that you value in your life. They cost you or someone something. Maybe not money, but time; they cost someone something. Too often we pursue easy. We chase comfortable. The problem is when we get it, we find it doesn’t satisfy.

Which brings up the really good question of what does satisfy? What brings meaning to life? The short version that I would argue for is that we find meaning in life by doing for others.

Value comes from pursuing things that will outlive us. What do you think? What is it that brings meaning to life?